Restraining Order Roadmap: 7 Essential Steps in Filing a Restraining Order

There are over 1 million active domestic violence restraining orders in the United States. And they offer benefits for protecting your physical and psychological well-being. But the process for filing a restraining order can get complicated.

Are you in need of a restraining order but don’t know where to begin? We can help. Here’s a 7-step road map that’ll teach you the steps necessary for filing a restraining order.

1. Determine the Type of Restraining Order

First, you’ll need to determine what type of restraining order is right for your situation. Usually, restraining orders are either domestic violence or civil harassment.

Domestic violence cases are for spouses (current or former), people related by blood, or those who have resided together as a family, or individuals that have a child together. Civil harassment cases are for any other type of relationship. This includes distant family members, roommates, neighbors, or strangers. Both are for cases of violence, stalking, and abuse.

Some states separate restraining orders into subtypes based on the type of harassment. These may include domestic violence, stalking, sexual violence, repeat violence, and/or dating violence.

There are a few types of restraining orders that can protect you while you navigate the legal process. An emergency restraining order protects someone from immediate harm. Police issue this type of restraining order outside of court, but only last a few days.

A temporary restraining order protects you until your court case. You may apply for this if you need protection before your restraining order hearing. These last for a few weeks.

2. Prepare the Forms

Next, you’ll need to get a form to file a petition for a restraining order. You can get one from the courthouse, a lawyer’s office, police stations, and even from women’s shelters. There are several states that have the forms available online.

You’ll usually need to provide the first and last name of the individual you’re filing a restraining order against. You’ll also need to provide a summary of why you’re seeking the restraining order. For example, this may include any recent acts of stalking or violence.

Also, submit copies of any supporting evidence, like police reports or court orders.  You’ll also need to provide as much information about the other party as possible. This includes information like work or home address information.

Once you’re finished, be sure to make several copies of these forms in case anything should happen to them.

3. File the Forms

Next, you’ll need to go ahead with filing a restraining order with the proper authorities. This usually includes going to a family court located in the county where the violence or stalking occurred. Note that filing for a restraining order is free and does not require a lawyer (although you may want one).

Once you hand in the forms to the court clerk, they’ll give the judge your forms. Make sure to ask when to return to find out about the status of your form. Usually, this takes no longer than one business day.

When you pick up the paperwork, check if you’re going to get a temporary restraining order granted. Also, look for any changes the judge may have made to your form. And be sure to check to see when your court hearing will be.

4. Serve the Forms

Next, you’ll need to arrange a way to serve the restraining order to the other party. Note that anyone protected by the restraining order cannot serve the forms.

These papers have to get delivered in person, not by mail. Sometimes, law enforcement officers may serve your restraining order papers for you. Many times, people hire a business to deliver the forms, called a “process server.”

You must make sure that the other party gets the court order papers. Be sure your server fills out a proof of service form that you can bring to the court. If the other side hasn’t been served, the judge can’t create a permanent restraining order.

5. Attend the Hearing

At your hearing, the judge will decide if they’ll grant you a permanent restraining order. Make sure to bring any documents of your abuse to the court.

Also, make sure to prepare what you want to say. Make a list of the orders you want. That way if you get nervous, you can read from the list.

After the hearing, the judge will decide if how long the restraining order will be active. The judge may also specify restrictions or conditions, like counseling and child visitation. If the restraining order has an end date, note that all these provisions will expire at that time, too.

6. Know How to Report Violations

Make sure to understand the type of restraining order you have. For example, no contact restraining orders prevent them from contacting you at all. Others will require they always remain a certain distance away from you.

Be sure to keep the order on you at all times. If you ever need to contact the police about a violation, this will make sure they can quickly understand the situation. 

Finally, report any violations to the court as soon as possible, as well as the police. That way, the other party can be charged for failing to adhere to the restraining order.

7. Know How to Modify Your Restraining Order

After you get a restraining order, you are also able to modify it if necessary. Modifying restraining orders isn’t easy, so it’s best to hire a lawyer in these situations.

So, what modifications are permitted? Well, you can dismiss a restraining order if your problems with the individual at hand resolve. Restraining orders have an end date, but you can renew if even if there aren’t any new incidents.

Filing a Restraining Order: Now You Know!

Filing a restraining order can be daunting, but you don’t need to worry. All it takes is 7 simple steps! Just follow this guide and you’ll get the legal protection you need in no time.

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