How Long Does a Restraining Order Last?

By Teo Spengler - Updated June 05, 2017
Restraining order

A court issues a restraining order to direct one person to stop harassing or harming another. Restraining orders are matters of state law, and each state defines in its statutes how long a restraining order can remain in effect, often between one year and five years.

Court Orders of Protection

If you are being abused by a partner, roommate or spouse, or if someone is harassing or harming you, a court can order that person to stop this abusive behavior. This kind of court order is termed a restraining order.

Restraining orders are created by state law and every state's statutes are somewhat different. Check your own state's law to determine the type of actions that can be the subject of a restraining order. Generally a court can order the person to do things like:

  • Leave your house, even if the person has lived there with you
  • Leave you alone and not approach or contact you, your kids or others close to you
  • Keep away from the places you go, like your house, your place of employment and your children's schools
  • Keep away from your pets
  • Give you back particular property
  • Follow child custody and visitation orders
  • Pay child, spousal or partner support
  • Complete a batterer intervention program

Temporary Restraining Orders

If you feel you or your children are in danger, ask the court for a temporary restraining order (TRO). You make this request ex parte, which means that the other person is not present at the hearing. You essentially ask the court to issue a restraining order that lasts only until the court can hold a hearing with all parties present.

If the court issues a TRO, it will also schedule a noticed hearing; both parties are given notice and are ordered to appear in court at a particular time and date where they can present their arguments.

How long do temporary restraining orders last? Although some states set time limits on how long TROs can last, a court will generally extend the TRO until the second hearing occurs.

Restraining Orders

If the other person doesn't show up at the noticed hearing, the court will issue a restraining order. If both of you appear, the court will issue the order if the judge is convinced that you are being harassed or abused.

How long do restraining orders last? That varies between states. In California, a restraining order can last up to five years, and, at the end of that period, you can ask the court to extend it for another five years. In Massachusetts, court guidelines say that the restraining order should extend the TRO for one year.

Check on the laws in your state by searching for them online. Alternatively, the WomensLaw.org Restraining Orders website pulls together many state laws on restraining orders. Simply select your state in the drop-down menu.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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