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What is a Restraining Order?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a MyLawQuestions writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By anon941454 — On Mar 22, 2014

I have a manipulative sibling Stalking, crossing all personal boundary lines, used position at an insurance agency to locate me while I was in the hospital. This occurred after telling her I did not want anyone to know where I was. My spouse was present and I requested privacy. She is a "crazy-maker." If I could relocate, I would. What to do?

By anon356718 — On Nov 27, 2013

I was attacked by a classmate off campus and I went to go file a restraining order, but the campus police didn’t take any action right away because the two classmates, the attacker and the driver denied the whole situation.

I was asked if I had any proof and all I could get was a part of the attacker’s coat I ripped off. The campus police told me if they could find the attacker on camera with the exact coat that they would be able to get involved.

What I'm not understanding is why they are going off of my restraining order instead of the other little details? I was told my restraining order was only for my house, but two city blocks should be able to cover school grounds as well since campus is just across the street from my house. My situation is really messed up because I had witnesses I can contact who also called the cops on the day the attack took place and they didn’t show up until two or three hours later I could have been killed. Now I’m forced to sit in the same class as these two girls and try to ignore their laughter. I don’t find it funny and I’m starting to question if I’ll truly get justice.

By anon315408 — On Jan 23, 2013

Someone I used to go to school with thinks it's fate that he met me on his birthday. We were acquaintances, but I tried to keep some distance while still being friendly.

I found out he did something I didn't like from my friend, while we were with the "acquaintance" and was automatically frustrated. Ever since (a year and a half ago) he has not stopped calling or texting me, trying to bother me about how I should not be mad and asking me, 'why are you doing this?' "why are you so scared, huh?".

He is constantly bothering me in my personal life, such as calling during work, and other important places where I am. Of course, he does not know what is going on, but I do not want to be in contact with him. We are both underage, and I have tried blocking him through my phone carrier, but of course, it only lasts 90 days. Is this enough to get a restraining order?

By amypollick — On Jan 07, 2013

@anon312500: The penalties will be much stiffer for the 20 year old, since he or she is an adult, and probably will include charges for violating a restraining order, and even statutory rape, depending on the state's age of consent and the type of relationship they have. Even if the 15-year-old does the violating, the 20-year-old would be charged simply because he or she is an adult. Statutory rape is a felony in most states and can include jail time.

In all likelihood, the worst that would happen to the 15 year old is probation or something along those lines. But the 20-year-old would be in major legal trouble.

By anon312500 — On Jan 07, 2013

A 15 year old and 20 year old date, and the court orders a no contact order and they disobey the order. What's the penalty for both of them?

By anon293023 — On Sep 23, 2012

What can happen after the cease and desist order was sent by the attorney and the party is being accused of incidents like stalking and harassment excessive calls texts etc., but recently was contacted by the party who is the person who requested it? What will happen to the order and the person who was served on it to not contact as the rules state?

By anon292940 — On Sep 23, 2012

I have a brother in a senior lodge. He hardly gets visitors and his step family lives four hours away. He is almost close to senior abuse with his hygiene. He has dementia plus other issues. When my sister and I go visit he comes alive and thinks he's back to being 20 years old.

It has been suggested to the step family, who has power of attorney to get a restraining order or peace bond. All we do is visit and make him feel good.

Isn't this juvenile to a 78-year-old man? I'm also I'm involved in Senior abuse prevention. This would be a form of senior abuse, not letting him get the joy of his last years with his sisters.

By anon280656 — On Jul 19, 2012

I am being harassed by some neighboring guys in my area saying that I am in a relationship with a neighbourhood married muslim woman but it isn't so. What do I do? I am mentally stressed as my reputation is getting worse every day.

By anon249621 — On Feb 21, 2012

My grandchild cannot be placed with me as her mother (my daughter) made threats towards me if my grandchild was placed with me, which means social services are keeping her in care. How is this fair? Why can't I seek a restraining order? They say it's because my daughter will breach the order.

By anon233522 — On Dec 07, 2011

My mother in law never liked me. She always judged me, and then, all of a sudden, she wants to mend the relationship.

To make the story short, lately our relationship has been one month we are good terms and then on bad terms. Basically, she said mean stuff about me. But I want to keep her away from my two kids. She lives in this multifamily house with different people and the lower apartment which is hers doesn't have a living room. It has a kitchen and she lives in the city which is dangerous, and her house is disgusting. She rents to a drunk guy and I don't want my kids in the house at all. Since I'm no longer on speaking terms with her, can I get a restraining order against her and her husband? Please help.

By anon178956 — On May 22, 2011

If a wife obtained a permanent restraining order on her husband and they were getting a divorce but the husband now wants to get help and stay married, can the order be lifted?

By anon163602 — On Mar 28, 2011

My 9 year old son is being physically and mentally attacked by a child in his class (also 9). The school is doing what it can, but the process is long and slow. Can I get a restraining order to stop this child from coming near my son until the school can get a permanent exclusion for this child?

By anon133386 — On Dec 10, 2010

My son had a nasty divorce 2001. In 2002 his son, at our house took a book from his older sister and ran into the street in front of our house, ran to the car and climbed in. Grandfather smacked the child with no damage.

Mother took out a lifetime forever restraining order on the Grandfather. It is 2010 and the children are grown. The girl is 18, boy 15. The father is getting time with his children. What rights do the godparents have? Can the Grandfather get the restraining order lifted. The children's childhood is over. they will never know the son's parents' background.

By anon120448 — On Oct 21, 2010

May I be able to place a restraining order on a family member who is dependent in the same household?

My brother is 30+ years old but still lives at home. Not handicapped or mentally challenged, but does not get along with anyone within the household.

By anon112053 — On Sep 18, 2010

Can I get a restraining order against my parents now that I am 18 years old?

By anon108979 — On Sep 05, 2010

Can someone help? I'm confused. I lived in New Hampshire and i was divorced there. To my shock, in my divorce papers was a restraining order. I had not been served prior to the moment i signed the papers. I was not told how to appeal or what process i could take. I feel like my rights were violated.

Since that day I've only talked to my ex wife; she has called me. I never hit or touched my wife in any way. In fact, it was the other way around. i got abused by her and her family and was threatened more than once.

To protect myself i moved to north carolina. please help.

By anon103601 — On Aug 13, 2010

There is this guy who he says that he has known me for nineteen years and that is a lie. He will not leave me alone. All i want is to be left alone. he hangs out with all my friends, talks to all my friends about me, he stalks me, goes to my school,leaves threatening messages on my phone, text messages and just will not leave me alone. So i went and got a restraining order on him, but that doesn't seem to want to stop him.

By anon96966 — On Jul 17, 2010

If my neighbors are making threats and I serve a restraining order against them, will they have to move?

By anon90071 — On Jun 14, 2010

I'm still shocked that my wife would do this but I was served with a temporary protective order and forced to leave my home. I was accused in that order of threatening and attacking her on three occasions. None these incidents ever occurred.

I'm wondering what rights I have. How can I defend against something that has never occurred. My kids are distressed and I miss being with them. They were present when the alleged incidents occurred and know that none of these things occurred.

Although I can meet them and pick them up they too, are wondering why their mother would create these made up incidents. I just tell them I don't know. We have a court date and I don't know how to defend myself against something made up because these things never occurred.

Will I ever gain rights back into my home? The order prohibits contact but can I pick my kids up on the public street in front of my home? if I need a lawyer what can I tell him about an incident that didn't occur -- just that? It's just unreal to me that you can be barred from your home and kids with no proof of anything. Again, anyone familiar with this type of thing, if you can help me I'd appreciate it. I miss my kids and just want this to be set right.

By anon84781 — On May 17, 2010

I had an affair for about four months but ended it as i knew what we were doing was bang out of order, however, the other man will not leave me alone now and keeps saying that if i don't contact him he will come around to my house and he is really frightening me. he does not want this to end. Am i able to get restraining order to stop this harassment/bullyng/intimidation? I am so scared.

By anon67761 — On Feb 26, 2010

In December 2009, my ex boyfriend tried killing me. he came into the house and grabbed me by the throat and started choking me to death. he did it three times before the cops came, and the last time he did the cop walked in on him.

but lately he's been having his friends contact me for him. they all are threatening me and crap. i keep blocking them but they keep getting more profiles and threatening me. i still have all the messages, too. what should i do?

By anon56558 — On Dec 15, 2009

I have an ex friend whom I've known my entire life and she is obsessed with me, trying to get friends to harass me. She texts me through e-mails and won't stop and tries to do everything i do, talk how i talk and try to become me.

the school will not do anything about it because "it's not happening on school grounds" but off school grounds, she harasses me and my friends and spreads lies and tried to destroy me. she's like a psycho ex girlfriend in those soap operas. It has been going on for over a month now. i just need to know if i can apply for a restraining order or not.

By anon50743 — On Oct 31, 2009

What is the distance regulation for a temporary restraining order and so? Does it differ from situation to situation? (i.e. 50 feet, 75 yards, 1 mile)

By anon45943 — On Sep 21, 2009

My grandson is being picked up by his father at my home. He brings someone with him at each visit. He was kicked off my property due to his vulgar mouth. He has been asked to stop recording my home and to meet in a public place. He insists on coming and harassing me and my family. He tells my grandson once he gets in the car that he is going to kill me and my grandson's mom. He comes and starts his recording long before my grandson is there. I am not sure what to do. The police tell me that is not stalking or harassment. I feel he will attempt to make good on his threat, just to "get even" with my daughter. (The two were never married). The dad is narcissistic!

By anon45312 — On Sep 15, 2009

To the poor girl who was stalked by another girl: restraining orders are free and pretty easy to get. You just need to go to your court house in your county and go to the "self Help Center." They tell you exactly what to do and help you with your paperwork. good luck

By anon39319 — On Jul 31, 2009

My brother has been served a TRO, we know my sister in law lied to the court in order to get this TRO. She was upset, because she thinks my brother cheated on her. My question is, does the court not require any type of proof that physical or emotional violence has occurred. What if we fear she is going to take the kids to Mexico?

By stressed — On Jul 20, 2009

Oh let me make something clear..since I cannot go back and edit my post... when I had left her a voicemail telling her to leave me alone, I did that a year or so ago when she was being creepy, threatening to kill herself etc. At least a year or maybe even *two* years ago. This whole time I thought I finally had gotten her off of my back until...she found out where I am and started calling me at work a few days ago...she had told me she has come to my job but I wasn't there etc....even after I have made it clear to her that I do not like her and that I never want her near me.If I could explain the entire situation you would understand that this is a complete nightmare for me.

By anon37472 — On Jul 20, 2009

I have a stalker..and I am so stressed out.It is another female whom I had once became friends with and then she had made my life feel like I was living in a complete nightmare.The situation I found myself in is very similar to the movie "single white female". It's been at least 4 years since I have had contact with her..I had to move out of my apartment, lose contact with all of my friends she had become close to...I basically have had to start a new life...new job/work. I don't really hang out with people other than my boyfriend and family or the new friends I have made at my current job,I just don't really have much of a social life because I am so stressed about her trying to make a way back into my life that I have now.Ahhhh,it's so crazy.She has been told repeatedly to stay away by my family,my old nieghbors,etc.I had even told her myself.A few years later...she has found out where I work and has shown up...called,etc.She has in the past,gone into my apartment...has taken my panties, bras, clothes, etc...would put on my make-up...then later I started finding pictures of her dressed in my things sleeping with my ex...many different occasions from what I could see.She is very obsessed with me.She was obsessed with all of my past modeling photos that she had seen at a mutual friend's house before we had actually met.Then she started showing up at my apartment leaving me notes saying she wanted to hang out,etc.Then showed up while I was home and I didn't think much of it, she seemed nice...said she was being treated poorly by her boyfriend at the time and had no where to go and I just ended up feeling sorry for her and sort of took her under my wing.The entire situation had just become very weird and extremely creepy.I can't get into it all at this moment, I am just at the point to where I just don't know what to do...or how to go about getting a restraining order for this type of situation. She has showed up to my old neighbor's house threatening to kill herself if she doesn't find out where I live...This was a year ago and I have had it...I left her a voicemail message telling her it's been years, I have moved on and started a new life and I don't want her or anyone from my past around me...and now she has been trying to communicate with me through my job....What do I do??? This girl is crazy. She was a stalker before and I know she is the same.

By anon32027 — On May 15, 2009

i'm 7 months pregnant and my boyfriend is involved with drugs.. i left him and he is calling my phone threatening me for no reason.. i see him around but when i talk to a guy friend he threatens to hurt them.. what should i do? i love him and he is the father of my baby.

By boss252 — On May 06, 2009

a girl that i was involved with owed me money and wouldn't pay so i threatened her and she got a restraining order. she has contacted me and we have been talking and are active but she won't remove the restraining order cause she is afraid of her mom and she is 18. could the restraining order be removed for her talking to me? i've got text msgs of her saying her mom won't find out and proof that we have no problems with each other

By anon28291 — On Mar 13, 2009

My husband made a restraining order on my brother and he put my 3 year daughter on too. Does he have the right to do that? He made up stories about my brother just because he doesn't want him to be in my house. Now my brother finds himself facing all these problems and he is a new immigrant and he doesn't even speak English. Please help. What should I do? Thank you.

By anon13243 — On May 22, 2008

i ran away from my verbally and physically abusive husband for almost 3 months now with our son. After i tried giving him a chance i analyzed the situation and realized his past behavior towards me. Now, i finally made up my mind that i don't want to give him a third chance because he doesn't deserve it at all and i don't want to take chance again. Do i need to get a restraining order against him because he knows where we are right now?

By anon745 — On May 03, 2007

do restraining orders affect your criminal record?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a MyLawQuestions writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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