Restraining Orders: What You Need to Know

woman and man having argument

Are you concerned about your safety? Is your domestic partner hurting you or a member of your household? If you’re in an abusive relationship, you may consider filing for a temporary restraining order.

One thing to consider: A restraining order does not guarantee your physical safety. The downside of having a restraining order is that it does not necessarily protect you. People can violate their restraining orders. They are used to discourage harassment and domestic violence and are effective when you tell the police that he/she is violating the order. A restraining order can still benefit your situation.

The process requires 4 steps. You can obtain the paperwork at the court at no cost. You will need a judge’s signature and approval for the temporary restraining order to be issued. Then you will have to attend a hearing, in person, with the person to be restrained.

Qualifications: In order to obtain a domestic violence restraining order, your situation has to meet these characteristics.

  • There must be a domestic relationship between you and the person to be restrained (if the relationship is not a domestic one, the appropriate type of retraining order is a civil harassment restraining order).
  • Must be presently or previous married.
  • Must be presently or previously dating each other or presently or previously engaged to each other.
  • Must be presently or previously living together in an intimate relationship (if solely roommates, the proper restraining order is a civil harassment restraining order)
  • Must have a child or children in common with each other.
  • Are related to each other by blood within the second degree (i.e., parent, sibling, grandparent).
  • Are related by marriage(i.e., mother-in-law, brother-in-law).

To file for the domestic violence restraining order, there must be recent physical violence (generally within the past 30 days) OR a threat of imminent physical violence before the court will issue a temporary restraining order (TRO).

Behaviors: The person to be restrained must have committed at least one of the following:

  • Physically assaulted or attempt to physically assault you or a member of your household (including sexual assault).
  • Caused, threatened, or attempted bodily injury to you or a member of your household.
  • Made you or a member of your household afraid of bodily harm.
  • Harassed you.

The judge in these cases has broad discretion to decide what behaviors constitute a legitimate threat. To make the determination, the judge can consider a series of behaviors that may constitute severe emotional distress. In a recent case, a restraining order was issued after the defendant sent emails to his partner's employer, family and friends about an alleged affair with supporting evidence of the indiscretions.

The defendant also traumatized his partner's kids by warning them they could contract a sexually transmitted disease because of their mother's alleged sexual activity after he gave explicit details about the sexual acts to the children. The defendant continued to traumatize the children by dismantling their bedroom furniture leading to one of the kids checking into a mental health facility. This example helps to illustrate that behaviors that support a restraining order can span beyond someone who is suffering from physical abuse. Temporary restraining orders may also be issued if there is a significant history of stalking.

If you move to another state, your restraining order will still be valid, although it’s recommended that you register the restraining order in the that state.

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