We’ve seen plenty of movies and television shows depict individuals who are threatened with restraining orders. It happens so often (even in comedies) that you can’t help but wonder if the characters truly understand the ramifications or the basic concept of a restraining order.
Being issued a court order that is intended to protect a party from the harm of another is certainly no laughing matter, especially when someone believes their life is at risk. It’s a great option for those who may have suffered abuse to act fast and legally find peace.
There are two sides to a restraining order, and it’s critical to understand both. There’s the process of issuing one, and there’s the process of being served one.
To get a better understanding of these processes, here’s a guide to help you grasp what a restraining order is, how it can help you and how it could impact you if you’re have been issued one.
The more you know what to expect, the better you can stay out of legal trouble.
What is a Restraining Order?
Restraining orders, which are often called protection orders, are issued by a judge to order someone to stop hurting you, to stay away from you, to move out of your living quarters, to have no contact with you, or to stop harassing you. Each state varies in their process, but most states, including Texas, have orders that instruct the abuser to stay away from you, your home, your workplace, or your school. You can have all contact – whether by phone, text, email, notes, through a third person or by the delivery of gifts – strictly prohibited. It can also protect children by restricting the offender from getting near a child, their school, or daycare. If an offender violates a restraining order, they may be held in contempt and possibly spend up to six months in jail for each violation.
How Do I Get a Restraining Order, and What’s the Process?
You can begin by visiting your local courthouse and filing a petition or request for a temporary protection order. The country clerk will likely ask for your name, contact information and the person you want protection from as well as ask you to fill out a form. When filling out the form, it’s important to include as much information about your situation and your abusive partner as you can. The form will ask for a detailed description – and you may have to provide evidence, which may include pictures of injuries or threatening messages.
After you’ve completed the forms, a judge will determine if you qualify. If the judge believes you are in immediate danger, he or she may issue a temporary order of restraint. Temporary orders only last for a short period, typically until your hearing date. After your hearing and you’ve presented your case, and the judge sides with you, you may get a more permanent restraining order called Temporary Injunctions and/or Permanent Injunctions.
However, it’s essential to keep in mind the issues that you could face when filing a restraining order, such as whether you’re dating or you’re married, if you’re under 18 years old, or if you’re in school. Restraining orders are not automatically granted. Some obstacles can stand in your way and can make it very difficult for you to obtain a restraining order.
If you live together or have children with the offender, the judge can make orders about who can have the property and who can have custody of the child. The opposing party may have to pay child support or have particular visitation rights. The same can be effective for pets.
If I’ve Been Served with a Restraining Order, What Should I Expect?
If you have been served with a restraining order, it means someone has gone to court and told the judge they have imminent fear of bodily harm. The order is only valid until the hearing. You must appear in court on the date and time assigned.
At the hearing, you have the right to tell the judge why you feel the restraining order should not be issued. If you have criminal charges pending against you, it would be wise to have an attorney at the order for protection hearing.
You have a right to a lawyer, and you may bring witnesses to defend your case. Be careful of what you saw and how you say it. Always protect yourself, even if the plaintiff claims he or she will not go forward with the order. After all, it’s your record and future that is on the line.
If a restraining order is issued, it will go on your record. If someone were to run your record for employment, probation, or immigration purposes, it would show that someone had or has a restraining order against you.
If you or anyone you know fears for their safety, whether it is from the actions of a current or former partner, a restraining order should be top of mind. Take action immediately!
If you have been served with a restraining order, get in touch with a trusted attorney.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about restraining orders.