Despite the Golden Rule of “do to others what you would like to be done to you,” people are still abused, harassed, and injured. If you ever find yourself in a situation where someone is harming you, it is important to know how to protect yourself by taking out a restraining order.
What is a restraining order?
A restraining order is a court order that is designed to protect an individual from someone who has caused them pain or injury, or from someone who has threatened to cause them pain or injury. Typically, restraining orders can be taken out on family members, domestic partners, stalkers, etc. It is important to note that in the case of domestic partners, you do not have to be married to someone to take out a restraining order on them.
How does a restraining order work?
It tells the person who has harmed you that they have to stop their behavior. A restraining order can also prevent someone from coming near you or your home, and even force someone to move out of your home. In some cases, a restraining order can also grant you temporary custody of your children. If the person whom you have taken the restraining order against does not comply with what is detailed in that order, then that person can be arrested.
Complete appropriate paperwork
If you are in an emergency situation and you are facing immediate physical danger, then you should contact the Court to request an ex parte order, a.k.a. temporary, emergency order. If the judge agrees that you are in immediate danger, then the judge will sign the ex parte order into effect, and you will have a restraining order from the point that the order is signed. Then, you will be assigned a hearing date to establish the need for a permanent order.
For non-emergency cases the paperwork needed to take out a restraining order can be found through domestic violence resources, the Court Clerk, and from legal aid. Forms must be signed in front of a Notary Public. You can also contact an attorney for assistance in completing paperwork, but hiring an attorney is not a requirement for filing a restraining order. It is important to remember that an attorney may be necessary to ensure your legal protection, especially where children are concerned.
File paperwork with the Court
After you complete your appropriate forms, file the documents with your Court Clerk. If you filed an ex parte motion the judge will typically want to ask you questions as to why you are in an emergency situation. The judge may determine that you do not need an ex parte order. You can still get a restraining order, but you will proceed through the typical route of a court hearing where your partner, or the person who has harmed you, or threatened to harm you is present.
Once you have your hearing date, you need to begin building your case. Typically you will need to show proof of two instances of harm or abuse occurring within six months. You can bring witnesses to the hearing, show photos of abuse, etc. You must also check additional requirements for filing restraining orders that are state-specific, as laws may vary.
For additional information on domestic violence, please visit domesticviolence.org and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.