What is a Restraining Order or Protection Order

The basic idea of the law is simple: We have rules to protect us and there are legal consequences for anyone who breaks those rules. Get caught speeding or running a red light and a driver gets a ticket, for example. But the law does more than punish after someone breaks the rules.

Restraining orders or protection orders keeps your property and legal rights safe before something happens. Knowing the types restraining orders you can get, how they work and how courts issue and enforce them is good information to have, no matter which side you’re on.

Restraining Order Basics

A restraining order is a court order directing someone to do or not do certain things. It’s a piece of paper a judge signs stating the terms someone must follow or else risk legal consequences.

Who May Get One?

The laws vary from state to state, but as a general rule, you must have a close personal relationship with the person posing the threat, or you must be related to that person. For example, you may get a restraining order against your spouse, domestic partner or someone you’re dating; or your parent, child, sibling or inlaw.

They’re often used to give legal protection to victims of domestic abuse, harassment, stalking and neighborhood disputes. Also, parents and guardians may ask for restraining orders to protect their children’s safety or legal rights.

In many states, some other type of order is used to get protection from someone you’re not related to or don’t have a close personal relationship with, such as a neighbor, roommate or complete stranger. These may be called civil restraint or civil harassment orders, for instance.

Restraining Order Terms: “No Contact” and Other Coverage

The scope of restraining orders can be wide. A court can direct someone’s action (or inaction), or restrict how people deal with property. Some common restraining order terms or conditions include orders not to:

  • Call, email, send letters to or otherwise contact someone
  • Enter a family home
  • Remove children from a certain state or area
  • Sell marital property
  • Possess or buy a firearm

Judges tailor restraining orders depending on what’s needed in a given case. However, the terms and conditions must be reasonable and must be absolutely necessary for your protection.

Types of Restraining Orders

Again, the laws vary by state, but in general there are three common types of restraining orders:

Emergency Protective Orders

An emergency protective order goes into effect immediately. It’s often used when police respond to domestic violence calls. A police officer may call a judge at any time and ask for one if it’s needed to prevent imminent harm to you or a family member.

This order is in effect for a only short time, usually less than a week. Its purpose is to provide protection and give you time to apply for a restraining order.

Temporary Restraining Orders

A temporary restraining order (TRO), another type of short-term order, is usually in effect for less than a month. Usually, it’s issued when you apply for a restraining order. Its purpose is to give you protection until a hearing can be held and a restraining order can be issued.

Permanent Restraining Orders

A permanent restraining order is usually referred to as simply a restraining order. It can be issued once a hearing has been held. Depending on the laws in your state, it may be effective for months or even years. Also, it can be renewed or extended if the circumstances, such as danger of abuse or harassment, haven’t changed when the order expires.

The law is there to protect you, your family and your property at all times. Don’t hesitate to use that protection to stop anyone who threatens your rights or safety before something terrible happens.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Can I get a restraining order from another court if the first one turns me down?
  • What type of proof do I need to support a restraining order?
  • Can I get the court to overturn a restraining order against me?