A restraining order is a court order that instructs a person to stop and avoid certain behavior. Though such orders are sometimes granted for business or financial purposes, they are best known for their use in domestic abuse situations. For example, a person may obtain an order of protection against his or her spouse in an effort to put an end to domestic violence. This court order may be granted not only to prevent physical or sexual abuse, but also to prevent verbal abuse, stalking, and other threatening behaviors.
In a domestic abuse situation, a restraining order may forbid the defendant or alleged perpetrator from being within a certain physical distance of the plaintiff or alleged victim. It may also prohibit phone calls, written communication, and other types of contact. In the event that the defendant violates the order by contacting, harassing, or appearing within a certain distance of the victim, he or she could face imprisonment and/or fines.
When an order of protection is requested by a victim of abuse, threats, or stalking, it may be granted on a temporary basis without a hearing or notice to the defendant. Granting a temporary order without a preceding hearing is not intended to strip the defendant of rights. Instead, it is granted to provide immediate protection to the alleged victim, allowing him or her to feel safe until both parties can appear in court.
Typically, a court hearing is held within a reasonable period of time. This hearing provides a chance for both the plaintiff and the defendant to be heard. Both sides are allowed to testify and to produce evidence concerning the reason for the order. A judge will then decide whether or not to grant a permanent restraining order. In some jurisdictions, the defendant must request a hearing; in others, a hearing date is set automatically.
A permanent restraining order is typically not meant to last a lifetime, and in many cases, it is granted with a specified time limit. For example, a victim of domestic violence may be able to obtain an order for a two-year period. The time period can be extended upon the application of the victim and at a judge’s discretion.
It is possible for both parties in a dispute to obtain restraining orders against each other. For example, if a husband and wife have physically abused each other, it is possible for the spouses to obtain reciprocating orders. Laws concerning this type of court vary by jurisdiction.