A Utah resident's life may be disrupted by violence, stalking, threats or harassment. To stop these potentially dangerous acts, the victim can ask the court for one of two types of protection orders: a temporary restraining order, or TRO, or a more permanent protection order.
If the victim feels they will suffer irreparable harm from another's violence or harassment, they can typically get a temporary restraining order granted immediately before there is a hearing for a more permanent order. To get a TRO or a protection order, the victim must follow a specific legal process, which involves filling out forms and submitting them to the court.
What Is a Temporary Restraining Order?
A short-term emergency order is known as temporary restraining order (TRO). An individual must already have an open or underlying case—such as a divorce or custody case on file with the court. If an individual has already received a decree from the court, and their case has been closed, they’ll need to file a Petition to Modify Custody to reopen it.
TROs, governed by Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 65A, are used in extreme circumstances, in which there will be irreparable harm to a victim unless the court issues the order. A TRO can go into effect immediately, and the court does not have to tell the subject of the TRO about the order. A TRO can be used to order a:
- Landlord to allow a renter back into their unit if they were illegally removed.
- Person to stop doing something. For example, they may be required to stop damaging another’s property or restrained from selling it.
- Temporary custody of a minor child to a responsible adult.
- Party to immediately return a minor child to the custody of another.
A Writ of Assistance may be issued to help someone regain custody of a minor child. This court order authorizes law enforcement to take custody of the child. The Writ is used only in extreme emergencies.
Requirements for a Temporary Restraining Order
Requirements for a TRO are:
- Proof that there will be irreparable harm to the victim, who must must explain what the danger is and why it is irreparable.
- Proof that this harm outweighs that which would be caused by issuance of the TRO.
- Proof that the order would not be contrary to the public interest.
- Petitioner is likely to win their underlying case.
Applying for a TRO in Utah
In Utah, the petitioner must first attempt to notify the respondent that they are applying for the TRO and must do their best to deliver a copy of the court filing to them.
If they do not notify the respondent, they must show the court that they will suffer immediate and irreparable harm by notifying the respondent or they must show the efforts they made in attempting to do so.
Making a Court Application
The petitioner next files paperwork in the court of their underlying case. A commissioner or judge reviews their application the same day it is filed and either approves or denies the Order on Application for Temporary Restraining Order and Notice of Hearing. If the TRO is issued, the court will schedule a hearing as quickly as possible. A TRO does not last longer than 14 days.
If ordered by the court, the applicant will post a security bond or deposit money. They will next serve the papers by a sheriff, constable or private investigator to the respondent and enforce the Writ, if any.
If the respondent is represented by an attorney, or the order is about minor children who are represented by a Guardian ad Litem (court-appointed representative of a minor’s best interests), documents must be hand delivered, mailed or emailed to them.
Temporary Restraining Order vs. Protective Order
The terms temporary restraining order and protective order may be used interchangeably, but they are not the same. The term "restraining order" is sometimes used when the person means a court order of protection for people in domestic violence or civil stalking cases.
Court orders protecting individuals from abuse are protective orders. If a respondent violates a protective order, they can face arrest, be charged with a crime, and even face jail time.
Types of Protective Orders in Utah
Some types of protective orders include:
- Cohabitant protective orders: Typically apply to domestic violence cases and can be issued against anyone the plaintiff lives with currently or has lived with in the past; anyone they share or expect a child with; anyone they are related to; and anyone they have or have had sexual involvement with.
- Dating protective orders: Protect plaintiffs from someone they saw romantically but were not sexually involved with and short relationships where sex did occur.
- Sexual assault protective orders: For plaintiffs who may have been assaulted by a stranger. Utah’s definition of sexual assault is broad. Abuse does not have to be physical; a plaintiff can file an order against someone who is sharing explicit images of them without their consent.
- Child protective orders: For children who directly experience or witness abuse.
- Civil stalking injunctions: Typically for those who have been stalked by an obsessed stranger or coworker. If someone engaged in stalking behavior against the plaintiff at least twice, the plaintiff can seek a civil stalking injunction.
How to File a Protective Order in Utah
The petitioner can find the necessary forms to file for a protective order in the Utah Courts protective orders webpage. These are:
- Request for protective order.
- Temporary protective order.
- Protective order.
- Service assistance form.
There is no cost or filing fee to request a protective order. The petitioner will file their request in the county district court where either they or the respondent reside, or where the event took place. Protective orders can be filed by mail, email or in person.
Reviewing the Protective Order Request
After the court evaluates the permanent protective order request, the court will either grant or deny it, usually on the same day. If the court grants the request, the judge will sign an ex parte order (also known as a temporary protective order), which lasts until the court hearing.
A constable or sheriff will serve the respondent with a copy of the order if they live in Utah. If they are out of state, it is up to the petitioner to contact law enforcement in the respondent's state to arrange for them to be served. The order is effective once it is served.
Under a cohabitant protective order, a respondent can request a hearing before the court hearing date by filing the Respondent's Request to Vacate Temporary Protective Order form. This request is not always granted, according to Utah Code 78B-7-604(4).
Requesting a Court Hearing
If the court denies the protective order request, the petitioner can ask to present evidence in the hearing with the goal of trying to convince the court that they need the protection order. To request a hearing, they must file a Request for Hearing form within five days.
The court will then serve the respondent with the petition and hearing notice. During this time, a temporary protective order is not in place.
Hearing Between the Petitioner and Respondent
The hearing between the petitioner and respondent gives both parties the opportunity to show evidence supporting their arguments and allows the court to decide if it should issue a three-year protective order.
If both parties have witnesses and evidence, they should be part of the hearing. If either party doesn’t attend or doesn’t bring evidence to the court hearing, they miss their chance to show supporting evidence and tell their side of the story.
Importance of Attending at Court
Both parties should attended the hearing. If one or the other does not, it can affect the outcome for that person, for example:
- If respondent doesn’t show up for the hearing, the court may grant the plaintiff the protective order without the respondent’s input.
- If petitioner doesn’t attend the hearing, the court will dismiss the temporary protective order.
- If petitioner does not serve the respondent with the temporary protective order prior to the hearing, they should still show up for the hearing and request an extension of the temporary protective order. If they don’t show up, the court can dismiss the case.
The court may increase the period for a temporary protective order if:
- Plaintiff who can't attend has a good reason for not being present.
- Respondent was not served with the temporary protective order.
- Plaintiff can’t attend due to circumstances that are urgent and important.
At the Court Date
The hearing between the plaintiff and respondent takes place in front of a commissioner or judge, depending on the specific district. For example, in Utah Judicial Districts 1, 2, 3 and 4, commissioners hear protective order cases.
After hearing the evidence from both parties, the court decides if it will grant the temporary protective order or enter a final protective order. If it decides to issue the final protective order, the temporary protective order remains in effect until the court serves the respondent with the final protective order.
Enforcement of Final Protective Order
If the court grants the final protective order, both parties get a copy of the order at the hearing. If the respondent does not attend the hearing but lives in Utah, they will be served with a copy by law enforcement. If they are out of state, it is up to the petitioner to contact law enforcement in the respondent's state to arrange for them to be served.
Protective orders are part civil and and part criminal. The criminal element of a final protective order involves orders to stay away, property orders and weapons restriction. The civil part of a final protective order can include child custody orders, orders on financial support, retrieving personal property, and using phones and utilities.
Consequences of Violating a Utah Protective Order
In Utah, if the respondent is in violation of the criminal elements of a protective order, they may face jail time. The first protective order violation is a class A misdemeanor, which carries up to 364 days in jail and a possible fine. Additional violations increase the charge to a third-degree felony, which carries up to five years in prison.
If either the plaintiff or the respondent violates the order’s civil elements, the opposing party can file a motion to enforce order requesting enforcement from the court. The violating party may be held in contempt.
- Show up at the hearing scheduled by the judge. You need to appear at the hearing to get a final protective order or civil stalking injunction. A temporary restraining order can terminate at that time unless you get a permanent order.
- Stay in contact with the sheriff's office to help the sheriff serve the abuser. Provide any possible information on the abuser's whereabouts.
- Call the police immediately and file a report when someone stalks or harasses you. You have to provide police reports or other evidence to obtain a civil stalking injunction. This evidence may also persuade the judge to issue a temporary order.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.