To cancel a restraining order early, you must petition or “ask” the court to do so. Restraining orders are legally binding documents that essentially restrict the movements of an individual you feared might harm you physically or emotionally, pose a threat to your child or endanger your material wellbeing. Judges may want to know what’s changed to make you feel safe before they consider canceling the order.
The terms and conditions of a restraining order are governed by state laws and vary greatly. People often use “restraining order” when talking about any protective order issued by a court. There are significant differences, however, that may affect your desire or ability to cancel yours early. Many states, for instance, automatically issue a restraining order as soon as you file for divorce to prevent either spouse from liquidating assets or moving children out of state. These restraints are automatically removed if you drop the case or when your divorce is granted by a judge.
States use different protective orders for different situations. Washington, for example, categorizes its civil protective orders as a Domestic Violence Order for Protection, Restraining Order, or Civil Antiharassment Order. You file an antiharassment order against neighbors or strangers who may be stalking or harassing you. The domestic order applies if you’re being threatened or abused by a spouse, family member or household member. California has restraining orders pertaining to domestic violence, workplace violence, dependent adult or elder abuse and secondary and post-secondary school violence.
A criminal no-contact order is filed by a prosecutor or other law enforcement official and is issued against a person charged with committing assault or other violent acts against you. It prevents that person from having any contact with you as he awaits trial. It’s filed on your behalf, but you cannot request dismissal of the order because it’s tied to pending criminal proceedings.
Filing Your Request to Cancel the Order
The specific process for requesting a dismissal of a civil restraining order varies by state. Each requires that you submit certain forms, and some jurisdictions require a hearing before a judge. The Clerk of the Court at your local courthouse cannot give you legal advice but will direct you to the appropriate forms and discuss the fees, which are typically due at the time of filing. State legal aid societies are also valuable resources for information if you cannot afford to seek guidance from an attorney.
Some states require that you go through a screening process before you attempt to dissolve the order. In New Jersey, for instance, those protected under a Domestic Violence Act must meet with a caseworker from Family Intake to discuss the reasons for your petition to dismiss, the consequences of your filing, and whether you’ve been coerced to proceed by your abuser.
If necessary, the court clerk will schedule the date and time for your hearing before the judge. The judge may have several questions about why you’re canceling the order early, but states generally allow the petitioner, the person who originally requested the restraining order, to cancel it unless they feel you’ve been bullied into doing so.