How Restraining Orders Work (also known as protective orders)

by | Jan 14, 2011 05:22 PM ET

So, imagine that you are in a relationship with someone. It might be a romantic relationship, an employment relationship, a rental relationship, a neighborly relationship, etc. But the two of you have a falling out. In most cases, the two parties go their separate ways and that is the end of it. But sometimes, for whatever reason, one of the parties will not let go, or will start a campaign of harassment. It is in these situations that restraining orders come into play.

A restraining order is a legal document, usually issued by a court, that tells one person to stay away from another person or entity. The orders come in different flavors, depending on the state and the situation. A restraining order might specify a specific a distance that one person must keep away from another, might specify that all forms of contact are forbidden, etc. A restraining order might also go so far as to require the restrained party to take a class or surrender guns and ammunition.

The most common reason for getting a restraining order is domestic violence. A person who has been the recipient of violence (or other unwelcome behavior) files a request for a restraining order. This video gives a simplified description of the process:

The basic process for filing is straightforward - you fill out the forms and (in many cases) pay a filing fee. A hearing date is set. Here's what happens in court once the application is filed (in this case in the state of California):

See also this introduction to the process in New Jersey:

Part 2 (filing)

The video lists 14 different forms of domestic violence that could lead to a restraining order:

  • Harrassment
  • Assault
  • Terroristic Threats
  • Criminal mischief
  • Criminal restraint
  • False imprisonment
  • Burglary
  • Criminal sexual assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Stalking
  • Lewdness
  • Criminal tresspass
  • Homicide

A restraining order may be enough to solve the problem, but sometimes the restrained party persists. These two videos discuss the handling of this situation:

There is the potential for abuse with restraining orders, as discussed in this article:

The High Price of Restraining Orders

According to Michael McCormick, executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, 2010 should be another bumper year for temporary restraining orders, with 2 million to 3 million likely to be issued. Carrying a cost of roughly $2,000 apiece, this will ultimately cost taxpayers at least $4 billion.

This article describes one common problem:

Do not make the mistake of violating the terms of the court order just because the plaintiff sweetly tells you, "You can come to the house tonight." You cannot go there, (unless there is a specific clause in the order), until the restraining order is lifted. Therefore, if the plaintiff tries to seduce you into unwittingly committing a violation, tell the plaintiff to drop the order first! Sometimes the plaintiff will ask you to come over and spend some time with the children (babysit) while she goes out or has an important situation to attend. At some point an argument may develop. Then, the defendant gets removed from the premises by the police. The plaintiff may not intend to do violate you, and the offer may be difficult for you to resist, but do not fall into this common trap.

See also:

- Call 911: Restraining Order

- Domestic Violence

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