A restraining order restraining order is a court order placed against an individual. This requires the individual to either do, or not do a specific act. These court orders are typically used in domestic violence, harassment, stalking, or sexual assault cases. Restraining orders can last for several days to several years, and can include criminal penalties if violated.

What Is Included in a Restraining Order?

Restraining orders can contain a variety of provisions. The following examples use “Al” and “Beth” to illustrate each type of provision:

  • Stay Away: Al is required to stay away from Beth, her home, her workplace, or her school.
  • No Contact: Al is not allowed to contact Beth. No contact means by phone, mail, fax, notes, or gifts. Current restraining orders also include online contact, such as Facebook or Twitter.
  • Cease Abuse: Al is required to stop threatening or harassing Beth.
  • Support: Al is required to make payments to Beth, such as mortgages or child support.
  • Restitution: Al is required to pay for damages to Beth. This includes medical bills and damaged property.
  • Exclusive Use: If a married couple owns property, such as a home or car, the court may order that only one partner be allowed to use the property.
  • Other Provisions: A court can also include requirements, such as drug counseling, therapy, or the surrender of firearms in a restraining order.

*Restraining orders can include and protect other family members, friends, and children.

How Long Do Restraining Orders Last?

There are three types of restraining orders:

  • Emergency Protective Order (EPO): These orders go into effect immediately and usually expire in less than a week. Police use EPOs when a violent domestic dispute occurs.
  • Temporary Restraining Order (TRO): TROs are normal restraining orders, but for a limited duration. A TRO expires within a few weeks, or until a full restraining order hearing can be held.
  • Permanent Restraining Order: Permanent restraining orders are meant to last for a set number of years. They can be renewed or extended if the threatening behavior has not stopped.

Enforcing Restraining Orders

Restraining orders typically involve civil disputes (non-criminal) and can only be enforced through a civil proceeding. The police are the enforcers of court orders, but the level of enforcement can vary depending on the police department. The best way to enforce a restraining order is to file a request with the Court to find the other party in contempt or in violation of the restraining order

Additional Information about Restraining Orders

Many advocacy groups, such as battered women’s clinics, can help an individual fill out the restraining order forms for little to no cost.

After a restraining order is granted, report any and all violations to the court. The restrained person could be held in contempt of court if the violations reflect a pattern.

Make sure the restraining order does not conflict or violate existing child custody or visitation orders. Also make sure the court modifies child custody or visitation orderswhen a restraining order is issued.

Do I Need an Attorney to Get or Contest a Restraining Order?

Yes. Restraining orders are of a sensitive and serious nature, and speaking with an experience family law attorney can be helpful. The right attorney can inform you about your rights and preserve any possible remedies you may have.