A recent report revealed that an estimated 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives. Getting out of a dangerous relationship isn’t easy, especially for individuals with limited resources. Domestic violence is one of the most common reasons that Americans file restraining orders against other people. Filing a restraining order can give you the legal protection you need to protect yourself and your loved ones.
The question is, how do you file a restraining order? What steps are involved, and what evidence do you need to provide?
Read this concise but detailed guide to learn everything you need to know about filing a restraining order.
Table of Contents
What Is a Restraining Order?
A restraining order is sometimes referred to as a protective order, depending on where you live. They are designed to keep you safe from an individual who is threatening, harming, or harassing you. Restraining orders include information about how close the perpetrator can come to you and how long they are expected to keep their distance. Violation of a restraining order is grounds for arrest.
There are a few different types of restraining orders you can request from the court. Some people take out more than one kind of restraining order at once.
What Kinds of Restraining Orders Exist?
There are four primary types of restraining orders in US law, although others may exist in your state. The first is the emergency restraining order. The police can issue an emergency restraining order if you are in immediate danger. This will last a few days, giving you the distance you need to take more permanent action.
The second is a temporary restraining order. A judge must issue a temporary restraining order. The goal is to give you up to two weeks of protection while a longer-lasting restraining order is established in court.
The third is a no-contact order and this is the one we typically think of when we discuss restraining orders. A no-contact order is issued when the perpetrator has committed a crime against you and is legally required to leave you alone. Depending on your case, this may last for a few months to several years.
A domestic violence restraining is similar to a no-contact order but does not require your case to be tried in court. It is issued when the perpetrator is abusive and/or dangerous and can last a few months to several years.
How Do You Get a Restraining Order?
If you are in immediate danger, call the police. They will arrive on the scene, de-escalate the situation, and issue an emergency restraining order. Then, you can proceed with filing for a longer-term restraining order. In order to apply for a longer-term restraining order, you can go to a courthouse, women’s shelter, or lawyer’s office. You may be able to apply at your local police station, although this varies from county to county.
Most restraining order cases will take place in family court. This is different from criminal court, as you and the perpetrator’s words will be weighted equally. There are often two hearings involved in these cases. During the first hearing, you will be given the opportunity to discuss your case with a judge privately. This may occur in the courthouse or it may occur over the phone.
If the judge grants your request, they will then issue a temporary restraining order and set a court date for your second hearing. The perpetrator will likely attend the second hearing.
Should You Hire a Lawyer?
It is advisable to hire a lawyer when filing a restraining order, no matter how clearcut your case may be. Taking anything to a court of law can present unexpected complications. If the perpetrator hires their own lawyer, you’ll want to make sure that you have someone knowledgeable in your corner.
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What Proof Do You Need to Successfully File a Restraining Order?
Unless your restraining order comes out of a criminal trial, you’re going to face a situation in which it is your word against the perpetrator’s. It is important that you can provide as much evidence as possible and provide detailed accounts of the perpetrator’s behavior. The first thing you will need to do is establish the relationship between you and the perpetrator. In many cases, they may be a current or former spouse or romantic partner. However, the perpetrator may also be, for example, a friend, former employer, or relative.
If you’ve filed a police report against the perpetrator in the past, this will greatly help your case. Police reports establish that the harmful or abusive behavior is not new or isolated and has required legal intervention already. If you don’t have any police reports on your side, don’t worry. There are other pieces of evidence that you can bring to build your case.
Some examples are emails, texts, social media posts, or voicemails that establish a pattern of verbal or emotional abuse. Pictures, videos, or medical reports can help to establish patterns of physical abuse. Witness testimony is also valuable when filing a restraining order. Friends, family members, or neighbors may be able to add legitimacy to your claims by testifying that they know your accounts to be true.
Get the Protection You Need
If you are the survivor of verbal or physical abuse, stalking, or harassment, you may want to consider filing a restraining order. However, doing so isn’t always easy. Make sure you know what to expect and work with a qualified attorney to ensure that your request is granted.
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