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How to Get a Restraining Order and When You Should Get One

Any time you are in an abusive or harassing relationship, you may want to consider getting a restraining order which will help to protect you by making it illegal for an abuser to have any type of contact whatsoever with you. 

Qualifying for a Restraining Order

In order to get a restraining order, you will need to show the court evidence that you are, in fact, being abused or harassed.  Abuse can include physical, mental, verbal or emotional abuse.  Harassment may include repeated intrusive acts by another person that are intended to cause you harm in some way (e.g., compromise your personal safety, invade your privacy or put you at risk of harm).  This includes verbal harassment, repeated unwanted attempts at contact, trespassing on property, or being followed around unwillingly.

If you are trying to obtain a restraining order, then it is best to have some documentation or witnesses to back up your claims.  This could include notes with dates and times of alleged offenses, printed emails, text messages, pictures or witness statements.  There are specific laws related to harassment and stalking, you should check with your local law enforcement agencies to find out the exact details of these laws.

How to Get a Restraining Order

If you feel that you need a restraining order (often referred to as a “TRO,” or Temporary Restraining Order), you should contact your local court clerk to obtain the proper papers.  You will need to obtain a packet of papers, which is usually already bundled together for you with everything you need.  Fill out all of the papers thoroughly.  You do need to prove that the person you are seeking protection from is indeed harassing you, abusing you or stalking you in some way.

Once you fill out the papers and return them to the clerk, a hearing date and time will be set.  In some places it is possible to get a hearing on the same day that you turn in the papers.  If it is not the same day, it is often quite soon, due to the nature of the case.

Once a temporary restraining order has been granted, there will be a hearing date set for approval of the final restraining order.  This could take several weeks to schedule.

You should file a copy of the temporary restraining order with your local police department.  You will also need to have the abusing party served with the restraining order.  This should be done by a professional process server (you can get this information from the court), or in some situations you can have the abuser served by a third party that is unrelated to the case (meaning not a victim or witness).  The abuser will have to sign a “Proof of Service” form to prove that they have been served with the restraining order.

Do not fail to attend the final hearing, or the judge may dismiss the temporary restraining order.  Take your personal safety very seriously, and do not hesitate to seek a restraining order in any instance of harassment or abuse.