Also known as protective orders, restraining orders protect victims of domestic violence by removing the people who have hurt them from their lives and the lives of their children. Seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) is a good first step to take when you have been abused by someone in a close relationship with you. You can apply for a TRO not just after an act of physical violence but after threats of violence, emotional abuse, stalking, or other forms of harassment.
You do not need to notify the perpetrator to get a TRO. Victims of domestic violence simply file a petition for a judge to review. You may be asked to explain some of the details giving rise to your request. If the judge agrees that you need protection from the perpetrator, he or she will issue a TRO. These usually last for 10 days and can prevent the perpetrator from any contact with you or your children at home, at work, or anywhere else that you may interact. If the perpetrator violates this order, he or she may face penalties such as jail time.
Often, a TRO is just the beginning. You might decide to seek a long-term restraining order against someone who has hurt you. This would require a more extensive hearing in court that gives the perpetrator a chance to argue against the order.
Justia provides a comprehensive 50-state survey on domestic violence restraining orders, both emergency and long-term, as well as domestic violence forms and resources for each state.
Protecting Your Rights in a Domestic Violence Hearing
Whether you are the victim or the accused, you should consider hiring a lawyer to protect your rights. During a hearing for a restraining order, a judge will decide whether the accused is likely to have committed domestic violence, and the judge may order the accused to have very limited or even no contact with any children for as long as the protective order lasts, which can be several years. The victim may receive sole custody of the children to protect them from abuse or from being exposed to the abuse of a parent, which can be very harmful in a child’s development.
Who exactly is eligible for a restraining order and what they must prove to a judge is slightly different in each state.
The victim, or petitioner, has the burden of proof in these hearings. This means that the victim must show the judge that a long-term protective order is necessary. Many types of evidence may be relevant, so it is important to carefully prepare for the hearing. Photographs, medical records, and specific information regarding the history of your relationship and the timeline of the abuse will give you credibility in seeking a long-term restraining order.
If you are the accused, or respondent, you will want to decide in advance whether to admit or deny that you committed the acts of which you are accused. If the allegations are true, and you decide to admit them, you will need to convince the judge that you have turned a new leaf and will take steps to ensure that you do not commit domestic violence again. However, it is always a good idea to consult with an attorney before admitting to any allegations, as any admission has the potential to negatively affect your rights. If you choose to deny that you committed domestic violence, you will need to mount at least one of the legal defenses available to you at the hearing. You can argue that the accuser is lying if you have evidence to support that argument. Alternately, you can argue that you acted in self-defense or that the acts were not as serious as the accuser claims. Regardless, it is often a good idea to discuss your options with an attorney and consider all possible repercussions of your legal position at a hearing.