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What is a Restraining Order and How do You Get One?

I’m sure you’ve heard of a restraining order, but do you actually know how to get one, or what it truly is?  While it is true that a restraining order is a state court order requiring one person to stay a certain distance away from another person under fear of legal consequences, a restraining order is more than that.  A restraining order is a way of protecting people in many ways, especially in cases of domestic violence, stalking or harassment.  A civil restraining order can

  • give you custody of your children,
  • order visitation and child support,
  • provide you with court orders regarding your property and pets and as well as
  • requires the abuser to move out of your home.

When a victim of domestic abuse receives a restraining order against their abuser, they should feel safe, perhaps for the first time in a long time.  It offers the possibility for the victim to rebuild their life and feel safe again.

Now, in order to get a restraining order you need to be either related or have a close relationship with that person.  A close relationship is someone that

  • you’ve dated or used to date;
  • are married, divorced or separated; and registered domestic partners.

Examples of relatives include a parent, child, brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather, or in-law.  You need to be at least 12 years of age in order to get a restraining order.

It can take two business days for a judge to decide whether to grant your request for protection.  You must initially fill out the necessary paperwork and then file it with the court.  If the judge grants the request, you will receive a TRO or a Temporary Restraining Order that lasts for up to three weeks, until it is time for your hearing.

It takes about one month to get the Final restraining order or FRO.

In order to have the order validated it must be served to the abuser where someone personally hands the papers to the abuser so that they know about the upcoming court hearing.  And it is at the hearing that the judge decides whether to make the order last longer (up to five years).

If police are called to the incident, they can issue an Emergency Protective Order, which will provide several days of protection giving you time to file for the temporary restraining order with the court.  You will still need the judge’s approval, and the abuser still will need to be served with an emergency protective order (EPO).  This is generally done when the abuser is in custody, but if the abuser flees the scene it then makes it more difficult to get an EPO.

It is important to remember that you do have to go to court to file for a domestic violence restraining order and you will also have to attend a hearing, in person, where the other person will also be present, in order for your request to be granted.

Equally important is to always show proof , by documenting with photographs, videos or witnesses any bruises or injuries that might have been inflicted on your persona, children or property.

The first step in determining how to get a restraining order depends on when you go.  If it is on a weekday during normal court hours (8:30-3:30), you have three choices:

  1. Go to the Family Court section of the Superior Court in your county and tell them you want to file for a restraining order
  2. Go to your local municipal court and tell them the same thing. (Only select municipal courts have this power however, and many may redirect you to the first option)
  3. Go to the police department and ask them to guide you through the process.

It’s important to mention that restraining orders “are not the be all, end all, they are just pieces of paper, but it does keep a paper trail on what is happening and if the abuser keeps getting involved, then at least the court can keep track of the situation.

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