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 What is a Restraining Order?

Restraining orders (which may also be known as “protective orders”) are orders issued by a court to protect people, businesses, or the general public from harm in situations where there is an allegation of domestic violence, stalking, harassment, assault, or sexual assault.

The restraining orders give the court the power to order a person to stay a certain distance away from another home, person, group of people (such as all of the other members of a family in a domestic violence situation), or business. The restraining order might include a “no contact” provision, ordering the person to refrain from making any contact via phone, email, letter, delivery, etc.

Are There Different Types of Restraining Orders?

There are several different types of restraining orders that a court might use.

Temporary Restraining Order (TRO): this is a restraining order that is in effect until the court can hold a hearing to review the facts surrounding the need for the order. A TRO will usually have a set expiration date, or will last until the court hearing. At the hearing the court will decide if there is a need for a long term restraining order and if so, how long it should last.

Emergency Protective Order (EPO): An emergency protective order is a restraining order issued by the police after responding to the scene of a domestic violence case. An EPO is effective immediately and usually lasts no longer that a week. In that time the person can file for a long term order.

Permanent Restraining Order (PRO): Permanent restraining orders are put into effect after a court case is finalized will last for years, if not forever. Some specific examples of PROs include:

  • Domestic Violence Restraining Order: These are specifically ordered after a domestic violence case. These orders can last for years, or in some cases, for the abuser’s lifetime. The order can protect children, other family members, roommates, and/or the domestic violence victim’s current romantic partners.
  • Civil Harassment Order: When victims need protection from people who are not family members, the type of restraining order is a civil harassment order. In these cases the abuser is usually a friend, acquaintance, or stranger.
  • Workplace Violence Protection Order: Several states allow an employer to ask the court for a restraining order to protect their employees from harassment, violence, or threats of violence in the workplace.
  • Juvenile Restraining Order: a juvenile restraining order is similar to a civil harassment order, but is intended to protect a juvenile (person under the age of 18) from harassment or threats of violence by a non-family member. The order can be issued against another juvenile or an adult.
  • Dependent Adult or Elder Abuse Order: Some adults, because of age and/or mental or physical incapacity, might be at risk of abuse. A restraining order can be obtained on their behalf to protect them against potential abusers.

How Long Do Restraining Orders Last?

How long a restraining order lasts depends on the type of order and the specific facts of the case. Restraining orders that are issued before the court has the opportunity to review the facts will only last for a few days or weeks. Generally the order will not expire until the court has a hearing.

At the hearing the court will hear from both sides and make a decision regarding whether a permanent restraining order is necessary and appropriate. A permanent order may not expire for years.

Some states limit how long a restraining order can last, but allow the court to issue a longer order depending on the circumstances. For example, in Texas, a domestic violence restraining order can only last for two years.

However the court can issue an order for longer if certain facts exist. Such as the abuser caused bodily injury or committed a felony against the victim or another member of the family or household. Either party can also ask the court for a hearing to modify, extend, or remove a restraining order.

How are Restraining Orders Enforced?

It is important to always have a copy of your restraining order with you at all times. Everyone protected by the order should have copies of the order. A copy should be kept in a safe place and on file with your local police department.

If the restraining order is violated, then the first step is to call the police. When the police arrive, show them the restraining order. It is a crime to disobey any court order and the police can arrest the abuser for violating the order.

There will be a court hearing to determine whether the order was violated, and if so, what the punishment will be. The court may impose civil and/or criminal penalties.

Violating a restraining order in place to protect a business or building may result in civil penalties, like a monetary fine. Violating a restraining order that protects a person or people from violence, stalking, or harassment can lead to civil and/or criminal penalties. The abuser may also face additional criminal charges if they committed a crime in addition to violating the restraining order.

Can You Contest a Restraining Order?

If you are served with a temporary restraining order it is important to comply with the order. You will have the opportunity to contest a permanent order at the hearing. Gather evidence related to the incident or incidents that led to the order. Contact witnesses that might have relevant information.

If the information used to obtain a restraining order against you is not accurate, then you will need to bring evidence to the hearing to show that the allegations are false.

If there are children involved, or a restraining order affects access to your home or your workplace, then the court might consider those factors and address them in the final restraining order. However, a restraining order can still be issued even if it means forcing someone to move out of their home or prevents them from going to work.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Am Dealing with a Restraining Order?

Restraining orders can have serious consequences and it is important to consult with an experienced attorney. If you think you need to obtain a restraining order, or have been served with a temporary restraining order, you should reach out to a criminal attorney or family law attorney.

You should have legal representation at the hearing where the court will decide whether or not to issue a permanent restraining order. An attorney can also advise you on other ways of protecting yourself, your family, and your assets.


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