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Protect Yourself! – When and How to Get a Restraining Order

A restraining order, also known as a protective order, is an order issued by a state court requiring a person to stop threatening or harming another. It may also go by the name of an injunction, a protection order, an order of protection, or something similar. Each state is unique.

Here is some information on what they are and how they can protect you.

Generally speaking, the laws pertaining to domestic violence determine who can file for such an order and what protection you can expect along with how it will be enforced. All orders in every state allow the court to order the abuser to stay away from you, your home, your place of employment or your school. In addition, you can ask the court to prohibit the person from contacting you by phone, text, notes, mail, email, or through a third person.

In some states, the court can order the abuser to pay you temporary child support or mortgage payments on a home you both own, to award sole use of a house or car owned by both or you and to pay medical costs and property damage caused by the abuser.

What if the abuser violates the restraining order?

When the abuser violates the order, you can call the police. The police can generally enforce the order to stay away, cease contact, cease abuse and possibly custody provision and exclusive use. These are the types of matters that require an immediate response. If you are unable to notify them when a violation occurs, you should do so as soon as possible afterwards. It may result in a misdemeanour or felony criminal conviction as well as punishment.

It may be advisable to contact an attorney who deals with domestic violence charges and restraining order violations. Keeping track of the violations is important in case they need to be addressed later in court.

Violations such as failure to pay support or attend treatment are not easily enforced by the police, but the court can take action. In this case, you may file a “motion for contempt” with the issuing court, documenting how the abuser violated the court order. The court will hold a hearing to determine the validity of the assertion. If the court determines that the abuser violated the order, the judge will assess a penalty, which could be a fine, jail time or both.

The violation may result in the order being extended or changed in some manner. The court may require the abuser to surrender any weapons and ammunition in his possession. He may also be required to attend a batterer’s treatment program, to submit to regular drug tests, or take a program in alcohol or drug abuse counselling.

What about my children?

Many states allow the court to intervene to protect the care and safety of your kids as part of the restraining order. The court can order the abuser to stay away from your childrenand their day-care center or school.