A temporary restraining order (TRO) is an order issued by a judge in an attempt to keep one person from harassing another person or group of people. The TRO is only effective for a short period of time, usually lasting no more than a month at most. This is because, in most instances, only one person's request is needed to get the order. For it to become permanent or semi-permanent, a court of law must hear from not only the party who wants someone else to leave him or her alone, but also needs to hear from the person who is accused of violence, harassment, stalking, or other potentially illegal action.
The TRO usually specifies exactly how close a person can get to another person without violating the order. The person against whom it is issued may be obligated by the court to stay at least 100 feet (30.48 m) away from someone else, to not be on shared property, or to not show up at someone’s home or workplace. Each order is different and up to the judge’s discretion.
There are a number of reasons why people may seek a temporary restraining order. They are very common in divorce cases where domestic violence has occurred or been alleged. When sexual or physical abuse of a child has occurred, the spouse who has not been involved in the abuse may seek a TRO, or be advised by agencies like Child Protective Services to obtain one in a first step toward ending custodial rights of the abusive parent. People who have been harassed at work, or who have had threats of violence made to them by others, may also seek protection. Since the courts tend to grant these restraining orders on a somewhat liberal basis, they are often fairly easy to obtain.
Making a temporary restraining order permanent is a little more difficult. The court must hear both sides of a case, and there must be sufficient evidence to continue to uphold the order. The court can also exercise the right to review the order at later points in time, if the person against whom it is issued complies with certain conditions, like attending domestic violence classes or getting treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. Often, permanent orders must be reviewed and have an expiration date. The person who originally sought the order must renew it once it expires.
There are instances where one person will ask for a restraining order against someone who poses no threat. This can be a malicious means of attempting to imply that a spouse or someone close has been violent. If a person is the subject of a restraining order that he or she feels is unjustified, it is very important that the person not to justify the order by violating it. The order serves an important purpose because police will usually immediately respond to its violation. As difficult as it may seem to wait it out, it's important for the subject to do so, and wait for a court appearance to tell his or her side of the story and hopefully prevent the TRO from becoming a more permanent one.