Difference Between Order of Protection & Restraining Order

By Bernadette A. Safrath ; Updated June 16, 2017
Criminal waiting for courts ruling

Orders of protection and restraining orders are two options for people being threatened or physically abused. The two orders are similar in whom they protect, but are different in how long they are good for and the penalties for violation.

Orders of Protection

A court issues orders of protection to victims of domestic violence. Orders demand that an abuser stop threatening, stalking or physically assaulting the victim. Orders often demand that an abuser also stop contacting the victim in any form, including in person, by phone or by mail.

Restraining Orders

A restraining order is issued by a court to protect someone from threats or physical abuse. Restraining orders are different from orders of protection because restraining orders can also include provisions for property, child support, spousal maintenance and child custody when these are issues during a divorce or separation.


No filing fees are charged for orders of protection and restraining orders. Additionally, because these orders are important to victims’ safety, the states bear the cost for serving the orders on abusers.

How Long Orders are Good For

One difference between orders of protection and restraining orders is how long the orders last. Restraining orders are good for a period of time set by the court, determined on a case by case basis, usually at least six months, but sometimes for several years. Extensions are available, but must be requested and approved before the initial order expires. Orders of protection are in force for at least one year, but can be issued for longer durations as the court sees fit. Orders of protection can also be renewed upon request to the court.

Penalties for Violation

The main difference between restraining orders and orders of protection is the penalties for violation. If an abuser violates a restraining order, he or she will only face a contempt charge and be required to pay a fine. However, if an abuser violates a protective order, criminal charges can be filed, ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending upon the circumstances of the violation and the number of violations already against the abuser.

About the Author

Bernadette A. Safrath is an attorney who has been writing professionally since 2008. Safrath was published in Touro Law Center's law review and now writes legal articles for various websites. Safrath has a Bachelor of Arts in music from Long Island University at C.W. Post, as well as a Juris Doctor from Touro College.