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Domestic Violence Restraining Order FAQs

Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of behavior in which a person acts abusively toward an intimate partner. Domestic violence can happen regardless of gender or sexual orientation -- anyone could be a victim, and anyone can be an abuser.

Behavior is abusive when it's intended to control another person by making that person feel intimidated, frightened, terrorized, humiliated, or by isolating that person from family and friends.

The following are answers to the most frequently asked questions about domestic violence restraining orders.

What Are the Different Types of Domestic Violence?

There are several forms that domestic violence can take:

  • Physical abuse - This may or may not result in external wounds or bruises. Hitting, slapping, and grabbing are all considered forms of physical abuse.
  • Emotional abuse - A pattern of criticism, belittling, or name-calling with the purposed of diminishing another's self-esteem.
  • Psychological abuse - An effort to intimidate another or threaten them with things like taking that person's children or telling others information that would cause embarrassment or humiliation.
  • Sexual abuse - Can involve coercing another into performing sexual acts or treating another in a sexually humiliating way.
  • Economic abuse - Can involve withholding money or resources that another person needs or making another person completely financially dependent on the abuser.

What Is a Domestic Violence Restraining Order?

Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) — sometimes called a Protective Order — is an order issued by a court that applies to an individual that another person has identified as an abuser. Restraining orders generally forbid another person from engaging in certain activities that affect the person who sought the order.

It's important to note that restraining orders differ depending on the specific pattern of abuse. Also, not all kinds of abuse necessarily lead to a court granting a restraining order. Courts usually need to see that an alleged victim has a reasonable fear for their safety in order to grant an order.

Financial, emotional and psychological abuse allegations alone don't prove a threat to one's safety in relation to whether a court will grant a DVRO. A court can, however, take the non-physical forms of abuse into consideration once a protective order is in place when determining the future of the order and its details. This means a DVRO can help address non-physical forms of abuse, as well.

What Protections Does A Restraining Order Provide?

Some examples of what a restraining order can do include:

  • Requiring the person against whom the order is filed to move out of your home
  • Prohibiting another person from contacting you or a designated member of the household. This includes via telephone, mail or email
  • Mandating that a person keep a certain amount of distance from you at all times. The order can include the person staying away from a place of residence, school, place of work, place of worship, and more
  • Altering (temporarily) a custody arrangement that keeps child/children out of the custody of the person against whom a restraining order is filed
  • Denying the right of the person against whom the order is filed from possessing a firearm

It's important to remember that restraining orders are intended to protect a person from specific abusive behavior, so an order will touch on only those persons and activities that a court has been asked to cover.

Are There Different Types of Restraining Orders?

Yes. Different kinds of protective orders can be issued depending on the specifics of a person's situation. The main types of restraining orders are:

  • Emergency Protective Orders (EPO) - This is an emergency order issued by the police when a person cannot petition a court right away, either because the court is not in session or the harm is imminent. An EPO generally expires after 5 days.
  • Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO) - This is another type of emergency order issued before the parties have had the opportunity for a formal hearing on the facts of the case. A TRO will generally stay in effect only until a hearing has been held and a judge has made a ruling.
  • Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) - this is a restraining order that takes effect only after the parties have held a hearing on the facts of the case. The person the restraining order would apply to has had an opportunity to defend himself or herself before the judge.
    • A DVRO remains in effect for a longer period of time than either an EPO or TRO, generally several years. A person who wants a DVRO to apply after the deadline must request a new order from the court after another hearing.

A person who violates any one of these orders may be subject to civil or criminal penalties, including fines or incarceration.

Who Can Get a Restraining Order?

Anyone can get a restraining order if they have been the target of repeated abusive behavior and in an intimate relationship with another person. The relationship can be current or past.

An intimate relationship can be a current or former spouse or domestic partner, persons living together without a formal legal recognition of their relationship, or persons who have or had a dating relationship whether or not they ever lived together.

Parents or relatives can also request a domestic violence restraining order if the facts show the required pattern of abuse. In some states, a person can petition a court for a restraining order once he or she has reached 12 years of age.

How Do I Get a Restraining Order?

The places where you can apply for a domestic violence restraining order may vary depending on the state or county you live in. Generally, you can request a restraining order by filing a request at your local courthouse. Sometimes, specific courts—such as a family court—may be a more appropriate place to apply for a restraining order.

If you are facing immediate harm you should call 911 to contact the police. A law enforcement officer should be able to get you in touch with a victim advocate or legal aid familiar with the process of seeking an emergency protective order.

Victim of Domestic Violence? Let an Attorney Help You With a Restraining Order

As you can see, domestic violence is a pattern of behavior, meaning that it will persist until steps are taken to protect the victim. Those suffering from domestic violence often believe they only have two choices -- stay and endure or walk away.

While getting out of a situation may be necessary in many circumstances, the fact is that there are often many different options available. Explore those options and ways you can protect yourself and your family by speaking with a qualified family law attorney in your area.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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