How to Get a Restraining Order to Fight Harassment

Are you having trouble fighting harassing behavior? Whether it’s a stranger, your neighbor, or even a family member that’s harassing you, you shouldn’t put up with it—you can ask for a restraining order to protect yourself. According to a National Institute of Justice study, 85% of the participants said their life had improved after asking for a restraining order to fight harassment

We understand that you might feel embarrassed or scared, but it’s important to remember that there is a solution to the harassment problem. You should learn a bit more about restraining orders and the laws that protect you from harassment—just knowing that the law is on your side might help you feel safer already.

What Is a Restraining Order, and How Does It Work?

A restraining order is a document issued by a court to protect a person who has been harassed in any way. You can ask for a restraining order if you’ve been the victim of:

  • Domestic violence
  • Assault 
  • Threats of abuse or violence
  • Child abuse
  • Stalking 
  • Sexual harassment
  • Other forms of harassing behavior

The person who asks for a restraining order is called the “protected person,” while the perpetrator is called the “restrained person.” Depending on your particular situation, you can get a restraining order to protect your family members, too. In most cases, restraining orders cover the following:

  • Personal conduct orders
  • Stay-away orders
  • Residence exclusion

Personal Conduct Orders

If you want to stop specific abusing acts against you and your family, a personal conduct order will probably be enough. Here’s how this type of a restraining order protects you:

The Perpetrator Will Not Be Allowed to

What it Means for You

Call you

You don’t have to fear harassing phone calls 

Send messages

You can forget about harassing text messages

Stalk you or your family members

You can relax and not let the stalkers make you anxious every time you leave the house

Threaten you

You don’t have to fear the abuser’s threats coming true when you least expect them to

Destroy personal property

You can be sure that the abuser can’t damage your property in any way

Stay-Away Orders

In this case, the restrained person has to keep a certain distance from:

  • You as a protected person, and your family members
  • Your home
  • Your workplace
  • Your children’s school
  • Your vehicle

The distance determined by stay-away orders can differ depending on your state or your particular situation, but it is usually at least 100 yards away.

Residence Exclusion

The restrained person is ordered to leave your place of residence. Such order is possible in case of:

  • Domestic violence
  • Elder abuse
  • Dependent person abuse

Check Your State’s Restraining Order Laws

Restraining order laws differ from state to state. You should turn to the local authorities to learn more about how a restraining order works in your state and area. For instance, California Restraining Order Law states that, in addition to family members, pets can be protected by the restraining order if the applicant believes that the abuser might hurt them. 

It is important that you check the facts because getting a restraining order may not be a suitable solution for your particular problem. It’s crucial to know if this type of protection is enough to keep you safe.  

Do You Need a Temporary Restraining Order?

A temporary restraining order is issued by a court before trial with the intention to stop the abuser from harassing the protected person for a specified limited period. In California, for instance, a temporary restraining order usually lasts between 20 and 25 days or until the hearing. 

If you’re scared for your safety, you should report the abuser and ask for a restraining order. If the judge decides that you are in danger, you can get a temporary order to stay protected until your hearing date. 

In this case, it is up to you to deliver a copy of the restraining order and all the relevant documents to the perpetrator. Since you are trying to avoid any contact with that person, you can have anyone older than 18 and not involved in the case to deliver the paperwork on your behalf. 

What Happens After the Hearing?

Depending on what the judge decides, a temporary restraining order can be canceled or continued after the hearing. If the judge finds the accused guilty, a temporary restraining order will be extended into a permanent restraining order. The permanent restraining order can last for up to five years.

What if Your Situation Requires a Faster Solution Than a Temporary Restraining Order?

When the situation is urgent, and you can’t wait for the judge to decide whether you can obtain a temporary restraining order, you can ask for an Emergency Protective Order (EPO). Judges can issue these orders 24 hours a day, and they can last up to seven days. 

When a victim contacts the police to report serious violence or serious threats, the police then asks the judge to issue an EPO regardless of the time of the day. Keep in mind that in the case of civil harassment, this option is only available if you report a stalker.

If the person abusing you is someone you live with, an EPO can make that person leave your home for seven days, which gives you enough time to file for a temporary restraining order.

When to Get a Domestic Violence Restraining Order?

Are you wondering whether a domestic violence restraining order is the right solution for your problem? If you’re not sure, you should know that you can ask for this type of restraining order if you’re the victim of either abuse or threats of abuse.

Here are the two major categories of potential abusers that can be stopped by a domestic violence restraining order:

Family members
  1. Parent
  2. Child
  3. Grandparent
  4. Sibling
  5. In-law 
People that you have a close relationship with 
  1. Married or registered domestic partners
  2. Persons you are dating or used to date 
  3. Ex-spouses and partners
  4. Persons you have children with

When it comes to family members, you should know that two-degree or more distant relatives do not fall under this category. If you are harassed by your aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, or any other distant relative, you need to ask for a civil harassment (non-domestic) restraining order.

When to Ask for a Non-Domestic Violence Restraining Order?

Any type of harassment that doesn’t fall under the previously mentioned categories calls for a non-domestic restraining order. This type of restraining order is suitable in cases when the perpetrator is someone that you don’t have a close relationship with. For instance, if you’ve been the victim of neighbor harassment, you can ask for a non-domestic violence restraining order to protect yourself from your neighbor’s harassing behavior.

Who Can Obtain an Elder or Dependent Adult Abuse Restraining Order?

In case they turn you down for a domestic violence restraining order, you should check whether you qualify for another type of protection, such as an elder and dependent adult abuse restraining order. Elder or dependent adult abuse refers to the maltreatment of:

  1. A person who is at least 65 years old 
  2. A person who is between 18 and 64 and is dependent on others. This category covers people with mental or physical disabilities that prevent them from protecting themselves

When it comes to the term “abuse,” it covers the following forms of harassment:

  • Physical abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Negligence
  • Abandonment
  • Isolation
  • Any other behavior that causes either physical or mental harm
  • Deprivation of things or services that the harassed person is dependent on

When to Apply for a Workplace Violence Restraining Order?

If you notice any form of harassing behavior in the workplace, you should act on it. You shouldn’t wait for it to become alarming to ask for a workplace violence restraining order. Even if you’ve been a victim of threats of violence, you can protect yourself by asking for this type of restraining order. The court can then forbid the restrained person to:

  • Harass or threaten you
  • Contact you or go anywhere near you 

In this situation, it’s important to know that your employer is the one to request a workplace violence restraining order on your behalf. If the employer is filing a petition for more than one employee, there has to be a separate set of forms for each of them. When the court issues the order, it can last up to three years. If needed, this order can also protect the harassed employee’s family.

If you’re a victim of threats of violence and not actual physical abuse, you will need to provide proof of credible threat of violence. This means that the perpetrator has intentionally said or done anything that would make any reasonable person afraid for their safety. In most cases, this includes stalking, making harassing phone calls, and sending disturbing messages or emails.

Where Do You Go to Get a Restraining Order?

If you’ve been the victim of harassment and you want to ask for a restraining order to protect yourself and your family, you should go straight to your local civil court. The ruling on the restraining order usually takes some time, but if your safety is jeopardized, the court will issue a temporary restraining order to protect you in the meantime.

How to File a Restraining Order?

When it comes to asking for a restraining order, there are a few steps that you need to take:

  1. Fill out the restraining order forms
  2. Include proof that you have reasonable grounds to think that your safety is jeopardized
  3. Make at least five copies of the forms
  4. File the paperwork with the court
  5. Find the person who can serve the papers to the restrained person
  6. FIle your proof of delivery so that the judge knows that the restrained person received the papers
  7. Get ready for the hearing

Gather Evidence of Harassment to Make Sure You Obtain a Restraining Order

If you want to make sure you obtain a restraining order, you should do everything in your power to prove that you really need this type of protection. One of the crucial things to do is gather all the evidence that you can. Depending on the type of harassment you’re facing, there are different methods that you can use. Here are some ideas that can help you:

  1. Save all harassing messages and emails
  2. Keep a record of harassing phone calls and voicemails
  3. Obtain copies of medical records if the abuser has injured you
  4. Obtain copies of police reports
  5. Research your abuser’s past
  6. Talk to witnesses (if there are any), and ask them to testify

In case you don’t know the person that harassed you, the best thing to do is to report the harassment right away, while you still remember all the details. This is particularly important if you’ve been a victim of stalking. You should go to the police while you can still recall the stalker’s face and other details of the incident. 

What if the Abuser Violates the Restraining Order?

A restraining order is effective most of the time, but we are not going to lie to you—the abuser can violate the order. Even if that happens, you can still protect yourself. You just need to go to the police right away to file a complaint and have the perpetrator punished for the violation. As soon as the abuser violates the order, the case turns from civil to a criminal matter, and the offender can be arrested for what they did. 

Most of the states allow you to file criminal charges at least one year after any incident that resulted in harassment. If you show signs of any injury when you go to the police, they can file criminal charges on their own, and the offender should be punished accordingly. Depending on the method of harassment, the police may impose fines, probation, or jail punishment.

Rely on DoNotPay to Protect You From Harassment

Fox details how DoNotPay makes it easier to fight companies by suing them in small claims court

If you don’t know how to stop a stalker, you can count on DoNotPay to give you a hand and protect you from the abuser. We are here to explain what it means when someone is harassing you, so you don’t neglect even the smallest signs of harassing behavior, and then you can use our app to put an end to it. With DoNotPay by your side, fighting harassment doesn’t require much hard work on your part. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Log in to your DoNotPay account in the web browser or your iOS device
  2. Go to Relationship Protection section
  3. Choose the Safety and Stalking option
  4. Give the name of the abuser (if applicable) and explain the situation to our virtual legal team
  5. DoNotPay will generate a cease and desist letter
  6. In case you have a problem with online harassment, DoNotPay can contact the social media representatives and ask for protection from the abuser. 

When it comes to in-person harassment and the cease and desist letter, you should know that this document should be sent to the abuser, demanding that the person in question immediately stops all harassing actions. In case you eventually need to move forward with the case, you can use this letter as evidence that you did your part in trying to resolve the issue before taking the abuser to court.

As for stopping online harassment, we can report the person in question and ask for their account to be investigated. Another thing you can rely on us to do is to ask for the aggressor to be blocked on your behalf, so you can relax, knowing that they cannot contact you anymore.

Let DoNotPay Help You in Other Problematic Situations

We will be more than happy to help you put an end to in-person harassment, disturbing text messages, cyberstalking, or any other form of abusive behavior. But there’s more to it—you can also use our app to fix other mundane issues that plague your daily existence. 

Whatever you need help with, your part of the job is quite simple. You just need to create an account on DoNotPay, log onto it in the web browser or iOS device, and then choose the service that fits your needs. We are exceptionally skilled at: