The details of how to remove an order of protection vary from state to state, but generally one of the parties asks for the order to be dropped by filing a motion to remove the order with the judge who originally issued it.
Orders of Protection
Orders of protection, or restraining orders, are issued by courts – usually family courts – in instances where one of the parties has abused, stalked or threatened the other. Often the abuse is physical, but repeated phone calls, destruction of property, internet shaming and other kinds of nonphysical abuse can also provoke orders of protection.
Reasons for Removing the Order
A common reason for requesting the removal of the order is for the good of the parties' children. Other reasons can include situations where the party that provoked the order has sobered up, undergone violence counseling or therapy; or because the parties have settled their differences and want to resume living together. The essence of these reasons is that the aggressive party no longer imposes a threat.
Who Can Request the Removal of the Order?
Either party can make the request to remove the protective order. It doesn't have to come from the party who originally asked for the order. Either way, family court judges assess these requests carefully, listening to see if the requesting party has been coerced or threatened. Almost always, both parties need to convince the judge by their behavior in court, as well as by the reasons given for requesting the removal, that removing the order is in the best interests of all parties, including minor children.
Reasons Why the Judge May Not Remove the Order
Family court judges often take things into account that would normally not influence judges in other types of cases. The judge looks into a couple's history to see if there is an ebb and flow of reconciliation and abuse that may continue. Or she may observe that both parties are emotionally fragile or that significant issues remain in the relationship that may provoke further abuse.
In these instances the judge will likely keep the order in place, perhaps amending it to mitigate a particular problem. Some judges will carefully steer a couple down a path of reconciliation; others may decide that by the time a couple arrives in domestic court, chances of reconciliation are slim.
When Prosecutors Get Involved
When a restraining order is in place and criminal domestic violence charges have been filed, how and when an order of protection is dropped changes considerably. One difference is that a restraining order in a case where a criminal charge is pending is likely to be an Emergency Order of Protection. These orders have short durations by design. In California, an EOP remains in place for a maximum of seven days or five business days, whichever is shorter. Kentucky has a similar Temporary Protection Order that lasts up to 14 days. In some other states, emergency protection orders expire in no more than three days.
Because emergency orders have short durations, filing motions to drop them have little practical value. By the time the motion to drop the order can be heard, it will have expired and a court hearing on the merits of the order will have been held.