Survivors of domestic violence have various options to protect themselves from being abused and threatened. Orders of protection and restraining orders both impose certain conditions on the alleged abuser and allow the court to intervene and impose punishment if the abuser violates those conditions. The two orders are similar in whom they protect, but are different in how long they last and the penalties for violation.
Orders of Protection
A court issues orders of protection to victims of domestic violence. Orders demand that an abuser stop threatening, stalking or physically assaulting the victim. They can impose all sorts of conditions, such as:
- Prohibiting the abuser from contacting the victim in any form, including in person, by phone or by mail
- Ordering the abuser to stay a certain distance from the victim's home
- Requiring the abuser to move out of a shared home
- Requiring the abuser to surrender any firearms he possesses
- Ordering the abuser to attend a counseling program.
You obtain a protection order by filing a petition with the local court and attending a hearing, during which you'll present evidence about the abuse you've been receiving. Each state has different procedures, and you may need the help of a domestic abuse attorney.
Some states, including California, call a domestic violence protection order a restraining order. In most states, however, it's an order issued during a lawsuit ordering someone to not do certain things. For example, you might get a restraining order preventing an estranged spouse with a history of violence from contacting you during family law proceedings. Restraining orders are different from orders of protection because restraining orders can also include provisions for property, child support, spousal maintenance and child custody when these are issues during a divorce or separation.
How Long Orders Last
One difference between orders of protection and restraining orders is how long the orders last. Restraining orders are good for a period of time set by the court, determined on a case by case basis, usually at least six months, but sometimes for several years. Extensions are available, but must be requested and approved before the initial order expires. Orders of protection are in force for at least one year, but can be issued for longer as the court sees fit. Orders of protection can also be renewed upon request to the court.
Penalties for Violation
The main difference between restraining orders and orders of protection is the penalties for violation. If an abuser violates a restraining order, he or she will only face a contempt charge and be required to pay a fine. However, if an abuser violates a protective order, criminal charges can be filed, ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending upon the circumstances of the violation and the number of violations already against the abuser.