A no-contact order prohibits somebody from being in physical or telephone contact with somebody else. In most cases, the court must specifically express the distance the restrained party must keep from the other. Usually the distance is a matter of feet or yards inasmuch as courts are limited as to restricting the physical freedom of non-detained individuals (those who are not in jail).
Why No-Contact Orders are Used
No-contact orders are utilized when one party fears for her personal safety or that of those around her. This can be due to actual or threatened domestic abuse issues in family law scenarios, or actual or threatened violence, in any other situation.
In most states, the aggrieved party (the person afraid for her safety) petitions the court for an emergency injunction or temporary restraining order. Courts will almost unanimously issue these emergency orders, to include no-contact, until a full hearing can be had on the matter.
Usually within 30 days, the court will have an evidentiary hearing concerning whether the no-contact order should remain in place, and, if so, for how long. In most states, the issuance of an emergency or permanent no-contact order will prohibit the offending party from being in possession of fire arms until the order is lifted.
How Long They Last
The length of a no-contact order differs based on state laws and the severity of the circumstances. Courts are generally reluctant to issue a permanent no-contact order, unless there exists a real and ongoing threat to somebody's safety. This will usually only arrive when the offending party is deemed mentally unstable or has committed crimes of violence in the past.
In family and divorce cases, most no-contact orders will last for the duration of the court proceedings, and, if warranted, for a specified period beyond. This is to allow a "cooling time" between the parties so that both can regather their thoughts and get on with their lives.
When the Order is Broken
A no-contact order has the effect of law. As such, if somebody violates a no-contact order, she may be guilty of a misdemeanor or felony (depending on the state), but--at the very least--she will be in contempt of court. Either way, it can mean a jail sentence for the offending party.
Order can be Lifted
Relief from a no-contact order can be made by petition to the court by the offending party, or by request of the aggrieved party. A court is under no obligation to lift the order if it deems a threat still exists. Barring an early termination of the order, a no-contact order is in place until specified by the court in the actual (i.e. 30 days, one year, permanent, etc.).