How to Get a Restraining Order in Delaware

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A restraining order helps protect victims of harassing, abusive behavior by penalizing an offender who continues to make contact even after he has been warned to leave someone alone. Victims of domestic violence can get an order for Protection Against Abuse in Delaware without pressing charges. However, victims who don’t qualify for a protection order because of their relationships with the perpetrators must seek relief through a criminal No-Contact Order.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Delaware defines domestic violence as emotional, physical or sexual abuse; child abuse; trespassing; kidnapping or interference with custody; intentional damage to property; threats of abuse or any behavior an applicant would reasonably find threatening when perpetrated by certain people, including:

Read More: What Are Grounds for a Restraining Order?

  • Close family.
  • Extended family living in the same home.
  • Current or former romantic partners.
  • Caretakers.

The term domestic abuser cannot apply to roommates, coworkers, classmates, neighbors or extended family (such as cousins) who live elsewhere.

Filing for a Restraining Order Against a Domestic Abuser

Victims don’t need to press charges against an abuser to file for a restraining order, nor do they need a lawyer to file the paperwork. Victims can petition for an order of Protection From Abuse in Delaware free through the Clerk of Court’s office at the courthouse in the county where they live. They can ask for an emergency order, called an ex parte order, if they need immediate relief.

The application asks for the name and contact information of the perpetrator, though victims do not have to provide this information if it places them in harm’s way. The form asks for a description of the parties’ relationship, a description of the abusive behavior and other mitigating factors, and the type of protection the applicant is requesting. Minors can apply through a parent, guardian or a legal representative who files on the child’s behalf.

Domestic violence prevention agencies can help applicants file. Victims can visit the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCADV) resource page or call the state’s domestic violence hotlines at 302-762-6110 in New Castle County or 302-422-8058 in Kent and Sussex counties.

What Happens After I Apply for a Protection Order?

A family court judge reads the paperwork as soon as possible and issues or denies a temporary order. The protections provided by an order may include:

  • No contact between the abuser and victim or the victim’s associates.
  • Temporary possession of assets, such as the home or car.
  • Temporary restriction of the abuser’s right to possess firearms. 
  • Mandated training, counseling or treatment to help prevent future abuse.

Parents may also secure temporary orders for child custody and support.

Emergency orders last up to 30 days until the applicant and alleged abuser can attend a hearing before a judge. The Clerk of Court’s office prepares a summons that law enforcement delivers to the offender. Victims in Delaware don’t have to pay for this service. The order is in effect as soon as the service is completed.

If the judge denies the petition for an emergency order, the court sets a hearing within 30 days, and the abuser is served the notice. After the full hearing, the court will deny a protection order or approve an order of one to two years or more. If the abuser fails to show up to the hearing, the judge will approve the order. If the victim fails to show up to the hearing, the order will be denied.

What If I’m Not Related to My Abuser?

Sometimes, victims aren’t able to apply for an order of Protection From Abuse in Delaware because of their relationship (or lack thereof) to their offenders. In these situations, the only way to get a No-Contact Order is by pressing charges. The criminal court system provides the victim with a restraining order throughout the end of the offender’s trial. Other resources are also available to victims of crime, including updates on court information, inmate tracking and financial assistance.

Can I Contact Someone I Have a No-Contact Order Against?

Victims should not contact offenders when a no-contact order is in place. While orders for Protection From Abuse in Delaware aren’t mutual except in rare circumstances, victims can face different legal penalties. An offender could attempt to have a victim charged with harassment or could use the contact to file for an order of his own.

There is one exception. When a victim moves here and petitions a court for a restraining order based on an existing order from another state, Delaware will issue a mutual order if the offender in the case has also petitioned for – and received – an order for no contact. In this situation, contact by either party would be a violation of a no-contact order in Delaware, as would breaking any other terms of the protection orders.

What if There is a Violation of a No-Contact Order in Delaware?

Victims should call 9-1-1 if an offender violates a protection order in a way that makes her fear for her safety or that of someone else. However, it’s important that victims report other violations as well by calling the authorities at a non-emergency number or filing a complaint with the court system. Violations can result in jail time of up to a year and fines up to $2,300.

Warnings

  • Protection orders can be changed or dismissed only by the court. The parties involved cannot decide on their own that they don't need the protection order in place any longer.