How does a Restraining Order Work? A Complete Guide

A restraining order, also known as a protective order, is a legal document that orders a person to stop harming, threatening, or harassing another person.

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How to get a restraining order | Shouse Law

It can also prohibit the person from contacting, approaching, or being near the protected person.

A restraining order is issued by a judge or a magistrate after reviewing the evidence and hearing the testimony of the parties involved.

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Types of Restraining Orders

There are different types of restraining orders depending on the relationship between the parties, the nature of the abuse, and the duration of the protection.

Some of the common types of restraining orders are:

Domestic violence restraining order

This type of order is for people who have been abused by a spouse, former spouse, partner, parent, child, relative, or someone they live with or have lived with.

A domestic violence restraining order can also protect the children, relatives, or roommates of the abused person.

Civil harassment restraining order

This type of order is for people who have been harassed, stalked, threatened, or assaulted by someone who is not related to them or who they do not have a close relationship with.

This can include neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances, or strangers.

Workplace violence restraining order

This type of order is for employers who want to protect their employees from violence or threats by another employee or someone else who has a connection to the workplace.

A workplace violence restraining order can also protect other workers, customers, or visitors who may be affected by the violence.

Elder or dependent adult abuse restraining order

This type of order is for people who are 65 years or older or who have certain physical or mental disabilities and who have been abused, neglected, exploited, or abandoned by a caregiver or someone else who has a relationship with them.

Gun violence restraining order

This type of order is for people who believe that someone poses a danger to themselves or others by having access to firearms.

A gun violence restraining order can temporarily prevent the person from owning, possessing, buying, or receiving any guns or ammunition.

How to Get a Restraining Order

The process of getting a restraining order may vary depending on the state and county where you live, but it generally involves the following steps:

Filing a petition

Fill out and file some forms with the court that explain why you need a restraining order and what kind of protection you want.

You may need to provide some evidence or documents to support your claims. You may also need to pay a filing fee unless you qualify for a fee waiver.

Getting a temporary restraining order

If the judge or magistrate finds that you are in immediate danger, they may grant you a temporary restraining order (TRO) that lasts until your hearing date.

The TRO will be served on the person you want to restrain by a law enforcement officer or another authorized person.

Having a hearing

Within a few weeks of filing your petition, you will have a hearing where you and the person you want to restrain will have a chance to tell your side of the story and present any witnesses or evidence.

You should bring a lawyer or an advocate to help you with your case.

The judge or magistrate will decide whether to issue a permanent restraining order (PRO) that can last up to several years.

Enforcing the restraining order

If the person you want to restrain violates any terms of the restraining order, you should call 911 and report it to the police.

The police can arrest the person and charge them with a crime.

You can also go back to court and ask for more protection or sanctions against the person.

How a Restraining Order Affects Your Life

A restraining order can have significant effects on your life and your rights. Some of the possible effects are:

For the protected person

A restraining order can provide you with safety and peace of mind by keeping your abuser away from you and your loved ones.

However, it can also limit your contact and communication with the person you want to restrain if you have children, property, or other ties with them.

You may need to make some changes in your living arrangements, work schedule, or daily activities to avoid running into them.

What is the difference between a restraining order and an injunction?

A restraining order and an injunction are both legal orders that can prohibit or compel certain actions, but they have some differences in their purpose, scope, and duration.

Here is a summary of the main differences:


A restraining order is typically issued to protect a person from harm or harassment by preventing the alleged perpetrator from having any contact with the victim.

An injunction is a more general term that can be used to impose restrictions or obligations on any person or entity in order to prevent or stop a violation of rights, a breach of contract, a nuisance, or an injury.


A restraining order usually applies to a specific person or group of persons who are named in the order.

An injunction can apply to anyone who is affected by the order, even if they are not named in it.

For example, an injunction can prohibit a company from polluting a river, which would affect all the people who use the river.


A restraining order can be temporary or permanent, depending on the type and severity of the case.

A temporary restraining order (TRO) is issued without notice to the other party and lasts for a short period of time, usually 14 days or less, until a hearing can be held.

A permanent restraining order (PRO) is issued after a hearing and can last for several years or indefinitely.

An injunction can also be temporary or permanent, but it usually requires notice and a hearing before it is issued.

A temporary injunction (also called a preliminary injunction) is granted to preserve the status quo until the final resolution of the case.

A permanent injunction (also called a final injunction) is granted after the final judgment and remains in effect until it is modified or dissolved by the court.

For the restrained person

A restraining order can restrict your freedom and your choices by preventing you from going to certain places or doing certain things.

If you are a victim of abuse, harassment, or violence, you should seek help from a lawyer, a domestic violence agency, or a law enforcement officer to get a restraining order and protect yourself and your family.

When you are accused of abuse, harassment, or violence, you should also consult a lawyer to defend yourself and protect your rights.

A restraining order is not a criminal conviction, but it can have criminal consequences if it is violated.

Therefore, it is important to follow the terms of the order and respect the court’s decision.

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