Every state has its own procedure for withdrawing an order of protection, a restraining order, a no-contact order, or a similar measure that protects a victim of harassment or domestic violence. A person interested in changing (modifying) or terminating (ending) the order should look at the court’s website in the state where the order was issued. A victim or a protected party named in a restraining order should file a request to modify or end the order in the court that issued the order before it expires. Separate paperwork is required for each person for whom the victim wants an order modified or terminated.
Withdrawing an Order Before Hearing
A petitioner, or the person who files the petition for the protection order, can withdraw or dismiss the order before the court hearing takes place. They should let the court clerk know they want to do this. The petitioner should request paperwork, if available, that certifies that the order has been withdrawn. Typically, if a petitioner fails to show up in court for the hearing on the order, the judge will dismiss the existing protective order, allow a temporary protective order to expire, or deny a permanent protective order.
How Long Before Withdrawal?
The state determines the length of time that it takes to schedule a hearing for a modification or withdrawal. In Maryland, the court clerk schedules a hearing within 30 days. The petitioner must state their reasons for wanting to withdraw the protective order. If their petition contains restricted information that is ruled confidential by statute, rule or court order, the petitioner must file a notice regarding restricted information, pursuant to Rule 20-201.1, with their petition to end the protective order.
What Can Be Changed
A petitioner can request that various things about an order of protection be changed, including that the restraining order be dropped; the list of names of people protected by the order be altered; and that child custody, child visitation, child support and spousal support orders be modified.
If the restraining order ends, custody, visitation, child support and spousal support orders may or may not remain in effect depending on the rules of the state in which the petitioner lives. For example, in California, custody and support orders will not end when the restraining order ends, but in South Carolina, when an order of protection expires, all orders associated with it expire as well.
Complete and File Court Forms
Typically, there is no filing fee to file a request to change or end an existing restraining order. Yet in California, if the restraining order has already ended, and the petitioner wants to change the child custody, visitation or support orders, they may have to pay a filing fee. A petitioner who cannot afford to pay the fee can request a fee waiver.
Some jurisdictions, such as the District of Columbia, require a petitioner to file an affidavit to obtain a court order for protection. When the court requires the petitioner to complete an affidavit for the order, it is likely that the court also will require the petitioner to complete an affidavit to modify or withdraw that order.
Changing Accompanying Orders
A petitioner who wants to change court orders that accompany a protective order may need to fill out additional forms. In California, a petitioner who wants to change child custody or visitation orders needs to fill out the declaration under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, as well as other related forms that apply in their case. These may include the child custody and visitation application and attachment, request for child abduction prevention orders, children’s holiday schedule attachment, physical custody attachment, and the joint legal custody attachment form.
California typically requires a petitioner to complete an income and expense declaration to request a change in child support or spousal support order. To ask for an order for attorney’s fees and costs, a petitioner must fill out an income and expense declaration, a request for attorney’s fees and costs attachment and a supporting declaration for attorney’s fees and costs. Alternatively, the petitioner can provide in a separate declaration the information that would otherwise have been in the request for attorney’s fees and costs attachment and supporting declaration for attorney’s fees and costs. A petitioner who plans on having witnesses testify at the hearing must submit a witness list to the court.
Items Requiring Mediation
If a case involves child custody and visitation issues, the judge may order the parties to mediation with a third party. The point of mediation is to determine a plan that is best for the children. When parties are sent to mediation, a judge may make temporary custody and visitation orders last until the next hearing or another court order. Either parent can ask to meet with the mediator separately.
When Respondent Wants Order Withdrawn
A respondent, or person who is required to abide by the protective order, should not violate the protective order. This would draw the attention of law enforcement. It would also indicate that the respondent cannot be trusted if the order is withdrawn. Instead, the respondent can indicate their interest in the order being withdrawn by filing a motion for the withdrawal with the court. The respondent should present evidence, such as witnesses or documents, to support their position.
Service of Paperwork on the Respondent
After the petitioner files their petition and other paperwork to modify or withdraw an order, they should have someone other than themselves serve the opposing party with a copy of their filed papers. They may also need to serve the other party with forms that allow a response, and a statement on income. In California, these court forms include a responsive declaration to a request for an order and a blank income and expense declaration. The petitioner should read more about service to understand when they have to serve papers in person and when they can serve papers by mail.
The state may have special rules for serving a protected person with a confidential address. The server must fill out a proof of service for the petitioner to complete and file with the court. A petitioner can have the court’s family law facilitator or self-help center review this to ensure it is filled out correctly.
If the other party is served at the hearing, the petitioner does not have to serve them in person. The court will send the amended order and proof of service to law enforcement, alerting police throughout the U.S. to be aware the order was changed or ended.
After the Hearing to Withdraw
If a judge changes the terms of a restraining order, they will issue a new restraining order to show the change between the prior and current orders. The petitioner should keep the new order with them at all times. If the judge ends an existing restraining order, the petitioner will receive an order to terminate the prior restraining order.
- California Courts: Change or End a Restraining Order
- South Carolina Legal Services: Filing for an Order of Protection in South Carolina
- California Courts: How Do I Ask to Change or End a Domestic Violence Restraining Order After Hearing?
- City of Phoenix: What Are Protective Orders?
- Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Domestic Violence Division: Petition and Affidavit for Civil Protection Order
- Maryland Courts: Domestic Violence - Protective Orders
- California Courts: Respond to a Restraining Order
- Many states have organizations offering free legal help to battered women and divorcing families. See Resource 2 to find a free or low cost attorney.
- In very rare cases, the defendant may be able to sue you for attorney's fees associated with defending himself, if you withdraw an order of protection. Talk to your attorney to determine if this is possible in your situation.
- You should never withdraw an order of protection out of fear or pity, because orders of protection can be life-saving devices.
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.