No one wants to file a restraining order. No one imagines that they will need a legal document that mandates someone else to stay away from them, but in many cases of domestic violence and harassment, a restraining order is an important step in keeping someone safe. Not only does it legally require the person who hurt them to physically stay away from them, but it can provide peace of mind surrounding the entire situation.
When should you get a restraining order?
The first step in filing for a restraining order is making sure that you are an appropriate candidate for one. If you have been domestically abused, you have the right to acquire a court mandate for your abuser to stay away from you. The terms of this vary from state to state, but the acts that are included in the broader "domestic abuse" are physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse, psychological abuse, threats, stalking, and cyberstalking. These terms cover physical boundaries and abuse, but they also include other points of contact — if your crazy ex-boyfriend is calling you every two minutes and threatening you, you are able to file a restraining order.
It's important to note that you don't have to wait until your abuser physically hurts you to file a restraining order. This is the common predicament many victims of abuse find themself in — you don't want to, or need to, wait until it's too late. Start asking for help before you aren't able to.
How do you obtain a restraining order?
In order to obtain a restraining order, you need to present your state with evidence of misconduct. This is often a lot to ask when individuals are being abused — but the court will not necessarily take a "your word against theirs" argument. To give yourself the best chance of success, have photographs, text messages, emails, medical files, and any other specific information that showcases your need for a restraining order, both for your physical and mental wellbeing.
Once you have gathered your information, visit your local courthouse to officially file your complaint. The office will provide you with forms to fill out and assign you a hearing date. If the judge believes you are in immediate physical danger, they may issue you temporary order of restraint that lasts up until your hearing date.
At your hearing, both you and your abuser will be allowed the chance to present your side of the case. If the judge sides with you, you will be granted a permanent protective restraining order.
What does a restraining order do?
Once you have your restraining order, you'll want to keep a copy with you at all times. This way, if your abuser defies what is set out in the order, you can call the police and present the restraining order to them.
A restraining order is very specific in what it mandates your abuser cannot do. Your abuser cannot have any contact with you, in person or by phone. The court can order your abuser to leave the house that you share with them (if that is the circumstance you are in). If children are involved, the court can grant you custody that belonged to the abuser. There is also the possibility of your abuser paying fees they may have cost you — legal fees if you decided to have a lawyer present at your court hearing, loss of property that was the abuser's fault, and child support.
Ultimately, the judge is able to order any measure that will help protect you, as long as you agree to it being added to the official order. If you have specifics in mind, it is totally appropriate to ask the judge to consider adding them to the order.
If you or someone you know has been abused or needs help leaving an abusive situation, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673).