Ways to Drop a Restraining Order

By Patrick Gleeson, Ph. D., Registered Investment Adv ; Updated April 09, 2017
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You can't simply "drop a restraining order." Because restraining orders are imposed by the court, only that court can remove it. Procedures for removing a restraining order vary from state to state, but as a general rule you file a motion to lift the order with the judge who issued it. In your motion, explain why you want it dropped. The judge will then decide to drop it or keep it in place.

Who Can Ask for a Restraining Order to Be Dropped?

Either party can ask the court to drop a restraining order by filing a motion to lift (or modify) the existing order. Almost always, the requesting party needs to convince the judge that dropping the order is in the best interests of both parties as well as the state. The restrained party, for example, may argue that he has undergone anti-violence counseling and has remained sober; the restraining party may argue that the current order harms the children, and that she no longer feels threatened.

How the Judge Responds to the Request

Sometimes both parties in a domestic dispute may come to court and support a request for removal of the order. This doesn't mean the judge will drop it. Once a restraining order is in place, the state has an interest in the order. If, for instance, the judge believes that one of the parties has been coerced into supporting removal, she will leave the order in place. If the judge believes that both parties are emotionally fragile or otherwise incapable of making good decisions, she may keep the current order in place even when both parties want it dropped, perhaps modifying it in response to specific issues that have arisen since the original order was issued.

When Criminal Charges Have Been Filed

Sometimes a restraining order may be in place in a situation in which criminal domestic violence charges have been filed. Although there is no categorical difference between a restraining order related to alleged non-criminal acts and criminal acts, restraining orders in criminal cases often occur as an Emergency Restraining Order. State courts generally respond quickly to ERO requests. In Virginia, for example, and often elsewhere, the court attempts to hear these requests within three days, keeping the order in place only until the matter has been heard.

If one of the parties opposes the ERO, that opposition will have been heard at the initial ERO hearing. There, the judge will either not grant the motion or will issue a longer-standing Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). Therefore, a separate request and hearing for removal of an emergency order is relatively rare. Any following request for removal will almost certainly be with respect to a TRO or a Permanent Restraining Order (PRO) that the judge may issue after all contested issues have been heard. PROs typically remain in place for up to two years and can be renewed at the court's discretion.

Another consideration when criminal charges have been filed against a party subject to a restraining order is that the jurisdiction's district attorney's office is now a party to the case. Often, the request for removal, even when both parties want it dropped, is opposed by the prosecutor. For this reason and in the interests of public safety, when criminal charges have been filed, judges tend to leave restraining orders in place longer and even to renew them when they expire.

About the Author

Patrick Gleeson received a doctorate in 18th century English literature at the University of Washington. He served as a professor of English at the University of Victoria and was head of freshman English at San Francisco State University. Gleeson is the director of technical publications for McClarie Group and manages an investment fund. He is a Registered Investment Advisor.