When Can I File a Restraining Order to Protect Myself?

File a Restraining Order When Can I File a Restraining Order to Protect Myself?

When Can I File a Restraining Order?

Protecting yourself and your family is probably one of your biggest priorities. If you feel you or your children are in danger, you are probably wondering when you can file a restraining order. DoNotPay is here to help you understand the process and help protect your safety.

What Is a Restraining Order? 

A restraining order, which can also be called a protective order, is a civil order that is issued by a court in order to protect a person from alleged abuse, assault, domestic violence, stalking, harassment and/or sexual assault.

When Can I File a Restraining Order?

You can request a restraining order to protect yourself in several troubling circumstances. You can apply for a restraining order if you are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, usually right away. You can also request restraining orders when you are being threatened, harassed, or stalked. You may potentially be able to include children or other family members, depending on the circumstances.

What Can a Restraining Order Do?

Restraining orders help protect the individual or multiple people by ordering the offending party to refrain from certain actions, and/or requiring the offending party to comply with certain provisions.

This can include:

  • Restricting the abuser/offender from contacting, threatening, intimidating or interfering with the protected person(s).
  • Requiring that the offender stay away from the protected person's home, place of employment, business, school or other locations as specified by the court
  • A "no contact" order, which means the abuser cannot, under any circumstances, contact the protected person in any way, including via email, text, social media, or through other people.
  • Affecting custody orders of shared children
  • Requiring the offender to move out of a shared residence ( sometimes referred to as a 'kick out order"
  • Requiring an abuser to surrender firearms and/or prevent them from purchasing firearms
  • Protecting pets

What Happens If the Offender Violates the Order?

If or when they violate a protective order, they can be arrested and prosecuted, and potentially be charged with contempt of court as well. However, studies show there is a significant reduction in police-reported violence against victims after obtaining a permanent order of protection, which is why it is so important to get one.

Where Can I Find My State's Restraining Order Laws?

The best way to learn what you need to know about restraining orders is to understand your state laws.

Although restraining/protection orders may be issued or handled differently in each state, there are federal protections in place no matter where you are.  The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a federal law that protects you even if you move to another state. It requires that all U.S. states, tribal and/or territorial jurisdictions recognize and enforce protection orders from any other state.

However, you are not able to extend, modify or cancel your protection order from one state within another state. If you qualify, you can apply in the new state for a new restraining order, so long as you notify the person the restraining order is against.

To find out your state's laws and how much it costs to file a restraining order, check out the following guides:

TexasCaliforniaNew York
IllinoisNorth CarolinaOhio
GeorgiaVirginiaWashington State
ColoradoNew JerseyPennsylvania
South CarolinaMinnesotaAlabama
Washington DCKansasKentucky
LouisianaNew MexicoIdaho
Rhode IslandIowaNew Hampshire

How Do I File a Restraining Order?

The exact steps for obtaining a restraining order will vary by jurisdiction, but the general process will likely be similar. 

  1. Usually, the first step is to get a temporary order of protection, often called an emergency order of protection (EPO). In many cases, it can be issued immediately at the scene of a domestic crime.
  2. An emergency order of protection may last for a few days or a week, so you will need to proceed with requesting a permanent restraining order, which could be in effect for a few months or even several years. Permanent restraining orders may even be renewable.
  3. Contact your local courthouse and find out how to file a restraining order in your jurisdiction.
  4. Follow their steps and fill out the required paperwork in a timely manner.
  5. Compile all of your evidence - find witnesses of the abuse or aftermath, copies of police reports or hospital records, pictures of injuries or damages, copies of threatening messages (sent via email, text, etc.) or subpoena 911 recordings.
  6. You will likely need to attend a hearing in court to be granted a permanent restraining order, particularly if the offender challenges the order. You will need to keep a close eye on the court docket and your case.

If a restraining order is denied, you may be able to file a petition or appeal the case, but your best case is to make sure you do everything honestly, accurately and in a timely manner.

How Can DoNotPay Help File a Restraining Order?

When you are worried about your safety, it can be overwhelming to research restraining order requirements and to handle the paperwork associated with them. DoNotPay can help you understand the laws in your state, get the forms you need and apply for a restraining order with as little stress as possible.

How to apply for a restraining order with the help of DoNotPay:

  1. Search for relationship protection on DoNotPay.


  2. Answer a few easy questions on our File a Restraining Order product.


  3. Submit the form and you're done!


And that's it! DoNotPay will compile for you the forms you need to fill out and give you detailed instructions about how to file for a restraining order in your jurisdiction.

How Else Can DoNotPay Protect Victims?

Helping you file restraining orders is just one of the ways DoNotPay is prepared to help protect you and your rights. We can also help you with:

DoNotPay is here to help you stay safe!

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