If you are being harassed or stalked, the court can help protect you. Restraining orders, which are known as protective orders or protection orders in some states, are civil remedies to forbid people from behaving in a certain way. Whether you are being abused, harassed or stalked, a restraining order can help you feel safe again.
While the grounds for filing a restraining order vary by state, in general you can apply for this type of legal protection if you are in a situation involving domestic violence (physical or psychological), harassment, stalking or sexual assault.
Types of Restraining Orders
Different types of restraining orders are available to protect against different types of abuse. The names of these vary by state. For example, a Domestic Violence Restraining Order in California helps protect a victim who has a close relationship with her abuser. In Texas, this type of restraining order is called a Domestic Violence Protective Order.
Other types of restraining orders are available to protect employees from workplace violence, to protect the elderly from abuse and to protect people in immediate danger of abuse.
When determining which type of restraining order is suitable, the relationship between the victim and the abuser is important. For example, in California, a Domestic Violence Restraining Order protects an individual from someone she has or had a close relationship with, such as a spouse, former spouse or anyone closely related to her by blood, marriage or adoption. Alternatively, a Civil Harassment Restraining Order in California protects an individual from someone she has not dated and does not have a close relationship with, such as a friend, neighbor or roommate.
Grounds for a Restraining Order
While restraining order names and procedures vary by state, the same general rules apply. Common reasons to get a restraining order include actual or threatened physical abuse, psychological abuse or depletion of assets.
Physical abuse: If you can prove actual recent or threatened violence against you or your children, you may be able to get a restraining order on the ground of physical abuse. This prohibits the abuser from abusing, contacting, threatening or harassing you or your children. If you or your children are in immediate danger, you may request an emergency restraining order, which is available 24 hours a day from an arresting officer.
Psychological abuse: Domestic violence doesn't always involve actual or threatened physical abuse. Restraining orders may also be obtained on the ground of psychological abuse, which can take many forms. Any behavior intended to control a person by making him feel frightened, intimidated, humiliated or isolated is considered to be abusive. The court may grant a restraining order if the behavior is so extensive that it interferes with the victim's daily life or his ability to do his job.
Depletion of assets: Restraining orders are sometimes granted during divorce proceedings to prevent depletion of assets. You have to prove that your estranged spouse is actively moving or hiding money or depleting or destroying assets to stop you getting your fair share. In some cases, a restraining order may be made against a third party, such as a bank, to prohibit it from helping a spouse to dispose of marital assets.
How to Get a Restraining Order
You can apply for a restraining order by filing the correct form (commonly called a petition) at your local district or family court. The clerk's office can give you all the information you need to make the application. On the form, you must provide as much detail as possible about each incident of physical or psychological abuse (including dates, times and places), and make specific requests to the court. For example, you may want the court to order your abuser to stay away from your home or workplace, or revoke her license to carry firearms.
If you are in immediate danger, you should call 911 to seek police assistance and advice on getting an emergency domestic violence restraining order.