Restraining Order: Keeping Yourself Safe from Domestic Violence

Restraining Order: Keeping Yourself Safe from Domestic Violence

A Restraining order is a form of legal injunction that is most commonly used in reference to domestic violence, harassment, stalking or sexual assault.

In the United States, each state has some form of domestic violence restraining order law, and many states also have specific laws for stalking and sexual assault.

Orders are issued by a state court and may also be referred to as:

  • Protection Order
  • Order of Protection
  • Protection from Abuse Order
  • Police Protection
  • Protective Order
  • Peace Bond

The laws establish who can file for an order, what protection or relief a person can get from such an order, and how the order will be enforced. While there are differences from state to state, all protective order statutes permit the court to order the abuser to stay away from someone, their home, their workplace or their school and to stop contacting them. Victims generally also can ask the court to order that all contact be prohibited, including such contact attempts as phone, notes, mail, fax, email or delivery of flowers or gifts, is prohibited. Courts can also order the abuser to stop hurting or threatening someone.

Some states also allow the court to order the abuser to:

  • Pay temporary support or continue to make mortgage payments on a home owned by both people
  • Award sole use of a home or car owned by both people
  • Pay for medical costs or property damage caused by the abuser

Some courts might also be able to order the abuser to turn over any firearms and ammunition he or she has, attend a batterers’ treatment program, appear for regular drug tests, or start alcohol or drug abuse counseling.

Many jurisdictions also allow the court to make decisions about the care and safety of the children. Courts can order the abuser to stay away from and have no contact with the children’s doctors, daycare, school or after-school job. Most courts can make temporary child custody decisions, although many courts are reluctant to do so. Some can issue visitation or child support orders. A victim can also ask the court to order supervised visitation, or to specify a safe arrangement for transferring the children back and forth (“custody, visitation and child support” provisions).

When the abuser does something that the court has ordered him or her not to do, or fails to do something the court has ordered him or her to do, that is a violation of the order. The victim can ask the police or the court, or both, depending on the violation, to enforce the order.

Restraining orders may also be enforced across state lines. This is called granting “full faith and credit” to a qualified restraining order.


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