If you are the victim of abuse in a relationship or have experienced sudden violence or threats outside a relationship, you might feel very isolated and alone. It’s important to tell someone you trust so you build the momentum to help you take action to leave or protect yourself. One very important way you can protect yourself is by making the police and courts aware of your situation and filing for a restraining order. We’re here to help you understand how to get a restraining order.
What Is A Restraining Order?
A court issues a restraining order to prevent one person from contacting or being within a certain distance of another person. This order prevents contact of any kind and often will have distance restrictions included in the text. It is intended as a legal process for eliminating the harassment and intimidation of the abused or threatened person. It’s important for someone in an abusive relationship to know how to get a restraining order, but there are other situations that warrant a protective order.
There Are Four Types Of Restraining Orders
Reasons To File A Restraining Order
While you know restraining orders exist, you may not know if they apply to you or your situation. You must first understand the circumstances that warrant seeking an order to know how to get a restraining order. While we won't list every situation under which a restraining order can be filed, these are the most common. Note: there are always dangerous situations that might warrant this kind of protection outside these listed categories.
Abuse doesn't always have to be physical to be considered dangerous enough to get a restraining order. Those who work with domestic violence victims recognize that psychological abuse is usually the most destructive aspect of domestic violence, and the most difficult abuse to heal from. Psychological abuse can involve:
It’s important to keep a journal of all incidents of psychological abuse along with how each incident affected you. If acts of psychological abuse happen via text, email or social media, print out each occurrence for evidence to present to a judge. Be sure to list the date and time of each interaction and any potential witnesses.
Since this will be considered a legal document, it's important to present the facts of the interaction as objectively as possible. Play-by-play descriptions can be useful. The journal and printed materials are a vital step when you need to focus on how to get a restraining order for psychological abuse.
The most important thing to do when faced with physical violence is to make a plan and get out. Physical violence ends in tragedy far too often. Many survivors believe the violence will decrease if they can do what it takes to meet the demands of their abuser. The sad truth is that it usually escalates regardless of what the victim says and does to try to stop the abuser's attacks. No matter how many times a person tells you they’re sorry and that they will change—they rarely do. In many cases, abusers can only make real changes after they seek intensive therapeutic services while staying far from abused loved ones.
Abusers will often make the victim of their abuse feel like they’re overreacting and what they’re experiencing isn’t abuse. This is referred to as gaslighting and recognizing it when it happens is important to recovery. Signs you’re in a physically abusive relationship include when your abuser:
If there is an immediate threat to your well-being, call 911. The police will provide you with a police report. They will also often provide advice on how to get a restraining order and may connect you with domestic violence services in your area.
Please be aware, all of this advice applies regardless of gender. Many people think of abusers as men and the abused as women, but the reality is more complex than that. Law enforcement officials and those working at domestic violence shelters and hotlines are familiar with working with victims of every orientation and gender. There has been a growing awareness of these realities in the United States. No survivor of abuse should ever fear ridicule or disrespect for doing what they need to do to be safe. No matter who you are, you will be respected and helped when you reach out for assistance.
This often goes unaddressed because it can appear there isn’t help for those being financially taken advantage of. There is. Studies have shown that financial abuse happens just as often as physical and emotional abuse and 99% of physically abusive relationships also involve this kind of cruelty. Financial abuse can look like:
When this kind of abuse occurs, it makes it nearly impossible to create an escape plan because there’s no money to payroll such a plan. In the long-term, it can prevent the victim from getting housing, credit, and a job. It’s hard to get any of these things without a positive credit history, access to money for deposits or a tangible employment history.
This type of abuse also takes place in other familial and caretaker relationships outside of romantic ones. If you or someone you know is elderly and experiencing financial abuse, you can contact your local Agency on Aging or Adult Protective Services for specialized assistance in stopping and preventing the financial abuse.
This is an uncommon situation, but may still be covered by a restraining order. If you’re in the process or trademarking or getting a patent for something you invented, and another party is using or selling that product or logo, you may file for a restraining order. This will prevent the other party from selling and using your invention until the lawsuit is settled.
How To Get A Restraining Order
Your state and local governments may have specific and special steps for how to get a restraining order in your area, but these are good guidelines to follow. Most importantly, don’t wait to file. Most courts require a person to file within 30 days of a violent incident.
Learn The Process
You should visit your county clerk’s office for instructions and forms to file. They will tell you how to get a restraining order in your county. The process may take a few hours of waiting but is fairly easy.
Domestic violence help centers will show you, step by step, how to get a restraining order and give you advice, making it as easy as possible. Some may have lawyers that work or volunteer for them to offer legal advice. They can point you toward a lawyer if they or you think you may need one. This could be costly, but you can seek lawyers who specialize in domestic violence.
You want to walk into court prepared. Things to keep and bring with you:
If possible, bring any witnesses with you to court.
Practice what you want to say when you get to court. Remember to keep your focus on the subject of your restraining order. Don’t talk about why what the abuser is doing is wrong, talk about the abuse. Cheating, drinking, and cursing won’t help your case. Focus on what scares you, how you feel threatened and the facts of the abuse.
A big part of how to get a restraining order is staying as calm as necessary to present all your evidence. The person you’re getting a restraining order against may be in court with you, so preparing will help keep you composed.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Old Do I Have To Be To Get A Restraining Order?
Most states require you to be at least 14 years old.
How Much Will It Cost?
In most cases, it costs nothing to file with the court.
Does the Order Only Protect Me?
No. You can include children, roommates or other loved ones.
How Long Does An Order Last?
That depends. It can last weeks, years and, sometimes, a lifetime depending on the facts of your case.
What If The Order Is Violated?
Call the police. They will arrest the violator. If it’s a repeat offense, or the offense was severe, they could charge him with a felony.
If I Move Will I Be Protected?
Yes. All states recognize protection orders from other states.
Knowing how to get a restraining order is the first step to getting out. There’s nothing more important than ensuring your and your children’s physical safety. The law is on your side and a restraining order is one layer of defense against abuse. If they have isolated you, reach out to friends and family for help and community. Each connection will make you feel stronger.
The first sign of violence or abuse is the best time to leave. The longer a relationship lasts, the harder it may be to leave. If you’re wondering how to get a restraining order—you should start now. Starting on a plan to get out and to safety should be your number one priority.
If you are or suspect you are in an abusive relationship, you can call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 800-799-HELP (7233). They offer free, anonymous help 24/7. They offer advice in several languages and can help you figure out how to get a restraining order in your particular situation. If you are in immediate danger, always call 911. There is help and you are not alone.