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How Do I Get a Restraining Order?

Jan 30

I have received a lot of questions recently about how to get a restraining order. Contrary to popular belief, a restraining order is generally not something you can just walk up to the courthouse, Sheriff’s office, or lawyer’s office and pick up. In fact, in most cases you can’t get a restraining order unless there is underlying case filed in court.

Of course, most requests for restraining orders come from a victim who has been abused by someone else in some way. Depending on the type abuse, the situation is handled differently. If law enforcement has charged the abuser with a crime like assault or domestic violence, then the matter is handled in criminal court. If not, then the victim must seek to bring the matter before the civil court in some way.

In criminal cases dealing with violent crimes, the court will usually automatically impose a type of restraining order on the defendant. In most cases, the defendant is ordered to stay away from the victim and have no contact with them while the case is pending. This order is usually not as specific as most people think. For example, the defendant will probably not be specifically ordered to stay a certain distance away from the victim, and may not have to leave the Wal-Mart if you both are in there at the same time. If the defendant does make contact, especially to harass or intimidate or to abuse the victim in some way, his bond may be revoked and he may have to sit in jail awaiting a hearing on the matter.

In civil court, you have to have an underlying case, like a divorce or a suit for damages related to an assault to request a restraining order. A civil restraining order from a divorce, for example, usually involves the court ordering that both parties not annoy, bother, harass, or otherwise disturb the other party. These orders come in various forms and depend greatly on the situation. Some even order that parties can’t use social media like Facebook to talk bad about the other party (believe it or not, people usually can’t resist doing this kind of thing).

The exception to the rule is a protection from abuse order, which contains provisions most people associate with a bona fide restraining order. A protection from abuse order (PFA) is a civil order that protects you from abuse by a current or former intimate partner. There are very specific rules regarding obtaining a protection order and keeping one. Next week, we will look more closely at how to obtain a protection from abuse order.