Requirements for a Restraining Order in Illinois

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When an individual applies for a court order to prevent someone from abusing or harassing them, the resulting order both restrains the abuser and protects the applicant. It is called a restraining order in some states, a protection order in others.

In Illinois, this type of order is termed a protection order when domestic violence is involved. There are several other types of restraining orders in the state, including civil no-contact orders for victims of sexual violence and stalking no-contact orders, each with its own particular requirements. Anyone seeking court help in Illinois to protect themselves against abuse or harassment needs an understanding of the different types of orders and the procedures for applying for them.

What Is a Protection Order?

A protection order is another term for a domestic violence restraining order. It is a legal document issued by an Illinois court that restricts an abuser's contacts with the protected person or persons named in the order. Essentially, orders of protection in Illinois protect an individual from abuse or harassment by a family or household member. They order the abuser to stop the behavior and keep away from the victim.

While some states issue protection orders to prevent any type of harassment, including stalking by strangers, Illinois orders of protection are primarily a means to protect victims of domestic violence. That is, a protection order aids someone who is being abused by a family or household member. Illinois also permits an individual to file for a protection order on behalf of a minor child or adult who cannot file themselves due to age, health, disability or inaccessibility.

Note that in a stranger-stalking case, the victim may apply for a no-contact order. This is available when the abuser is not a family or household member, but the remedies are not as broad.

Who Can Apply for Protection?

Since the intention of orders of protection is to aid victims of domestic violence, only those in a particular relationship with their abuser in Illinois can apply. Under the law, the person to be restrained must be a member of the victim's family or household. The terms are defined more broadly, however, to include anyone in a close relationship with the victim.

There are several possible qualifying relationships that allow an Illinois resident to apply for a protection order. The Illinois Domestic Violence Act defines the term “family or household member” as including any of these relationships:

  • Spouses and former spouses.
  • Parents, children and stepchildren.
  • Anyone related by blood or in a current or past marriage.
  • People who currently share a common dwelling.
  • People who previously shared a common dwelling.
  • People who have a child in common.
  • People who share a blood relationship through a child.
  • People who are currently dating or who are engaged.
  • People who have previously dated or been engaged.
  • People with disabilities, their caregivers and personal assistants.

The term "family or household member" is not defined narrowly for protection order purposes. Any of these relationships are sufficient in Illinois to qualify a person to apply for an order of protection.

What Qualifies as Domestic Violence?

Once a qualifying relationship is shown between the person to be protected and the person to be restrained in Illinois, a protection order may be available. The person applying for this order must specify the abusive behavior involved, and the behavior must qualify as domestic violence under state law regarding protection orders.

Domestic violence: Illinois law defines domestic violence to include physical abuse, harassment, intimidation and interference with personal liberty and deprivation. Each of these terms includes a variety of behaviors. Physical abuse, for example, includes sexual abuse, use of physical force, confining or restraining someone, deliberate sleep deprivation or any other behavior that creates an immediate risk of physical harm.

Harassment: For the purpose of a protection order, harassment includes intentional conduct causing emotional distress. It is presumed to be harassment if a person creates a disturbance at the victim's place of work or at school, phones those places repeatedly, follows the victim repeatedly or keeps them under surveillance. It is also harassment for someone to threaten the victim with physical force, confinement or restraint, taking or hiding the victim's child or threatening to do so, on one or more occasion.

Intimidation: Means intimidating, threatening or restraining someone who is dependent on the abuser because of age, health or disability. This is considered domestic abuse regardless of whether that person is a family or a household member. Interference with personal liberty includes the same types of threatening or coercive behavior to force someone to do something against their will.

Willful deprivation: This usually applies only to elderly or disabled persons. It involves withholding medication, medical care, shelter, food or other assistance that the person requires.

Types of Protection Orders

There are three types of protection orders in Illinois: a temporary order, an interim order and a plenary order. A temporary order is available on an emergency basis after an ex parte hearing. That means that the person seeking the order applies to a judge without the other person being notified of, or appearing at, the hearing.

Emergency orders can be granted ex parte when the court finds that the harm the applicant fears is likely to happen if the abuser is notified of the application and hearing. The temporary order can exclude the abuser from a shared home if the judge believes that danger of further abuse outweighs the hardship to the abuser. This order is valid for up to 21 days, which is usually long enough for a hearing to be held where the other party is present.

An interim order can be granted to extend the emergency protections if the final hearing cannot be held within the 21-day period. The only prerequisite to this order is that the other party must have been given notice of the final hearing.

The plenary or final order occurs after a hearing at which both parties have the right to appear and be heard. A plenary order can be valid for up to two years. It can be renewed as many times as the applicant and court feel are necessary.

Applying for a Protection Order

In order to apply for an emergency protection order in Illinois, the individual must go to the circuit court where they live, where the abuser lives or where the abuse occurred. The applicant fills out an order for emergency protection. Some courts will have domestic violence legal advocates available to assist with the forms. After the applicant completes the form detailing the parties and the most recent incidents of abuse and signs it under penalty of perjury, it is reviewed by a judge.

Sometimes the judge asks the applicant questions. Ultimately, if the judge decides to issue the emergency order, the court sets a date for a full court hearing for the plenary order. Papers including the emergency order are served on the abuser by law enforcement.

Attending the Plenary Hearing

For the plenary hearing, both parties have the chance to come to court and give their side of the story. If the applicant fails to show up, the temporary and interim orders are cancelled. If the abuser does not show up, the court can still issue a plenary order, but it can also order a new hearing date.

Protections Possible With Order

A plenary order of protection is the final order in the matter. Like the emergency order, the plenary order in Illinois can order the other party to stop the abusive behavior. That is, they can be ordered to stop harassing, abusing, stalking, intimidating, neglecting or exploiting the victim and stop interfering with their personal liberty. The judge can also order the abuser excluded from a shared home, even if they are the owner or principal renter, and prevent them from going to the school or workplace of the victim.

The plenary order can also mandate that the abuser undergo psychological, substance abuse or batterers’ counseling. It can make custody and visitation orders to protect minor children, order financial support for the victim and children, and reimburse the victim for losses suffered as a result of abuse. This includes medical expenses, lost earnings, repairs to damaged property, attorney fees and court costs, moving and travel costs.

Pets can be protected and abusers ordered to stay away from them. The plenary order can also mandate that the abuser turn over their guns, firearms and firearm owner’s identification card to local law enforcement. The court's power here is broad and can include virtually anything necessary to prevent further abuse.

Enforcing the Protection Order

If a protection order is issued, the applicant should make several copies of it and provide a copy to the person in charge of the locations where the abuser is prohibited from appearing, like schools and workplaces. Violation of the order can be a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois, or if the abuser has a criminal record, it can be a Class 4 felony.

Even if a violation appears to be a minor one, it is recommended that the victim call the police or sheriff. Under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act, police are required to take all reasonable steps to prevent further abuse, including the arrest of the abuser. When police arrive, they will need to see a copy of the protection order and can make the arrest.

Make sure a police report is filled out, even if no arrest is made. Even if the police do not arrest the abuser or file a criminal complaint, the party may still be able to file for civil contempt for a violation of the order. A judge can punish someone for being in contempt of court.

Civil No-Contact Order

Illinois also has a civil no-contact order, which is similar to a domestic violence order of protection in that it can protect a victim of rape or nonconsensual sexual conduct. While the domestic violence order of protection is available for sexual abuse by someone in a familial or household relationship, a civil no-contact order is available even without a particular relationship between the parties.

The steps to getting a no-contact order are similar to those for getting a domestic violence order of protection. The victim fills out appropriate forms at the circuit court and can be granted an immediate emergency no-contact order ex parte, with no notice to the other party. A plenary hearing is then noticed and held by the court.

Stalking No-Contact Order

In Illinois, a stalking no-contact order is available for those who are not in a familial or household relationship with the abuser. Stalking is considered a “course of conduct” crime, so more than one act is required that causes the person to fear for their safety, the safety of another person, the safety of a location like a workplace, or to suffer emotional distress.

Acts that are considered stalking in Illinois include, but are not limited to, activities where the abuser follows, monitors, observes, keeps watch over or threatens the person, or interferes with or damages their property or pets. The conduct started and continues without the victim's consent.

Steps to getting a stalking no-contact order are similar to those for getting a civil no-contact order. The victim fills out forms specific to this order at the circuit court and can be granted an immediate emergency stalking no-contact order ex parte. A plenary hearing is then noticed and held by the court.