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Should You File a Restraining Order?

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Should You File a Restraining Order?

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If you have been harassed, harmed, or abused by someone, it might be wise to consider filing a restraining order. It should be noted that restraining orders are civil orders, which means they do not give the abuser a criminal record. Restraining orders prevent them from being legally allowed to come within a certain distance of you, your home, or the place where the violence occurred. Situations in which a person might consider the benefits of filing a restraining order are in cases of domestic violence or child abuse, especially during or after divorce or separation, as well as cases when repeated harassment and/or stalking have occurred to you or your child.

A variety of acts are considered domestic violence when committed against a victim by a legal adult, including:

  • Assault
  • Burglary
  • Criminal restraint
  • Criminal sexual contact
  • Criminal trespassing
  • False imprisonment
  • Harassment
  • Homicide
  • Kidnapping
  • Lewdness
  • Sexual assault
  • Stalking

If one or more of these criminal acts has occurred, it might be time to file a restraining order against your abuser/harasser.

Evidence to present to prove the necessity of a restraining order:

  • Description of specific incidents which occurred (i.e. instead of merely saying your abuser followed you home, include what days and times you witnessed the abuser following you home)
  • Save texts, emails, voicemails, and any pertinent phone records which might be indicative of abusive or harassing behavior
  • Take pictures of injuries, damaged property, etc. and send to a friend or family member so they cannot be lost or deleted.

When an instance of abuse or harassment occurs, it’s important to record it immediately. Even if you do so in an email to a trusted friend or family member, a journal, or elsewhere, the main purpose is to record details that could prove to a court that threatening behavior is indeed occurring, as well as how and when that behavior occurred. It’s also important to make sure you have copies of every piece of evidence saved somewhere where it cannot be lost or deleted. It’s a good idea to send copies of texts, emails, pictures, etc. to a trusted friend, family member, or legal representative to ensure that vital evidence doesn’t go missing before you are able to file a successful restraining order.

A restraining order is filed similar to any other court process.

You will have to fill out and file paperwork regarding the threat presented by the person you are filing against, attend a hearing, and wait for a judge to reach a decision. Restraining orders are designed to protect you from a real threat of danger, so it’s important to prepare to file a restraining order by collecting evidence to prove why the order needs to be enforced.

When a victim of domestic violence files a restraining order, a judge can sign something called an Order of Protection. This requires the abuser to obey whatever the court orders, and these orders tend to be extremely specific regarding what the abuser is allowed to do and where they are allowed to go in relation to the victim. It should be noted that an initial restraining order is temporary, and you will have to return to court on a date indicated to you in order to reapply the restraining order.

Once issued, keep a copy of the restraining order with you at all times.

It’s a good idea to keep a copy of the restraining order with you at all times, as well as offering a copy of the order to the police in any town you think the abuser might attempt to contact or harass you. If an abuser violated a restraining order in any way, call the police immediately and they will be required to take action. If you wish to file a criminal charge against your abuser, you will need to do so at a local police department.

If you or your child are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.

Regardless of the presence of an active restraining order, if you suspect that you or your child are in immediate danger from an abuser or harasser, call 9-1-1 right away. If you suspect or are experiencing domestic violence of any kind and are not in immediate danger, or just want to learn more, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline or visit their website here to look for further support and resources. It’s also a good idea to seek legal counsel regarding your rights and to learn more about how to file a successful restraining order for your specific situation.

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