A restraining order is a court order telling someone to stay away from someone else or telling him to stop engaging in particular behavior. It is also called a protective order, since the intention is to protect a person from being harmed or harassed. Anyone feeling threatened can seek a restraining order from the court. This includes an order protecting a parent and a child from the other parent.
What Is a Restraining Order?
Courts issue restraining orders to limit the behavior of someone who may be threatening, abusing or harassing another person. This includes someone making threats to harm someone, whether the victim is a stranger, someone with whom they have a relationship or a family member. Both adults and children can be protected, as can pets and property.
Generally, the person who sought the restraining order is called the protected person. The person against whom the restraining order is issued is called the restrained person. The terms of the order can include additional protected persons like family or household members.
Situations Prompting a Restraining Order
State laws about restraining orders differ, as do procedures for obtaining protective orders. Some states, like California, have different kinds of protective orders that are used in different threatening situations. In California, depending on the circumstances, a threatened parent can apply for a:
- Domestic violence restraining order.
- An elder or dependent adult abuse restraining order.
- A civil harassment restraining order.
- A workplace violence restraining order.
California domestic violence restraining orders are intended for situations where an individual feels threatened by a spouse, former spouse, former partner or the mother or father of her child. The order can restrain the person from certain conduct, order him to stay away from the other person, or order him to move out of a premises. It goes by different names in different states. In New York, for example, it is called a family restraining order.
Obtaining an Emergency Restraining Order
In emergency situations that require immediate protection, an individual can seek an emergency restraining order, also called a temporary restraining order, or TRO. In many states, including California, emergency orders are available from the police department 24 hours a day.
The threatened person either calls the police to her home or goes to the police station to seek this order. It is issued by a judge at the request of a law enforcement officer to prevent domestic violence or injury, or abduction of a child. In fact, a police officer called to a person's residence for a domestic abuse matter can, on her own, contact the court to obtain an emergency order.
Emergency orders last a limited amount of time. Before that time expires, the protected person can seek a regular restraining order.
Getting a Restraining Order
While state procedures for obtaining a restraining order vary, they all start with a written petition, complaint or request from the threatened person. Many states offer a restraining order packet of forms that include the forms necessary for particular orders. In California, for example, a parent and child seeking protection would obtain a Domestic Violence Restraining Order for Parties With Common Minor Children Packet. In many states, including Georgia and Massachusetts, the forms are available online.
The threatened person fills out the forms and presents them to the court clerk to get a date for a hearing. Certain of the forms must be served on the other parent. In many areas, there is help available to fill out the forms correctly.
In California, one-day workshops are offered that walk an individual through form preparation, including some classes in Spanish. In New York, the court recommends that a victim go through a domestic violence protection agency that assists with the forms and offers battered women’s shelters for women and their children threatened with domestic violence.