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How to Obtain an Order of Protection (Restraining Order)

What is an Order of Protection?

A domestic violence Order of Protection, also called a "restraining order", is a civil court order from a judicial officer, such as a judge or magistrate. In order to issue an Order of Protection, a judicial officer must find that domestic violence has occurred and that you have a specific relationship with your abuser. The restraining order is intended to provide protection from physical harm caused by force from a family or household member.

Who can get an Order of Protection?

To give you an Order of Protection, you must meet a "relationship requirement". In other words, a judicial officer must find that you have one of the specific relationships listed below with your abuser.

  1. You are related to your abuser by blood
  2. You are or were married to your abuser
  3. You are related to your abuser or your abuser's spouse by marriage. Note: Former in-laws do not meet the relationship requirement.
  4. You live, or used to live, in the same household as your abuser
  5. You are or were your abuser's same-sex partner, and you live, or used to live, in the same household as him/her
  6. You have a child with your abuser, or are pregnant with your abuser's child
  7. You are related to your abuser or your abuser's spouse by court order, such as adoption
  8. You are a minor who lives or lived in the same household as your abuser and you are related by blood to a former spouse of your abuser

How can an Order of Protection help?

An order of protection will direct your abuser to have no contact with you of any sort. This includes personal contact and contact by telephone calls, letters, messages through someone else, visits to or near your residence, place of employment, or school. If you live with your abuser, the court can order him to move out of the residence. If your abuser owns guns, he will be required to turn them into to law enforcement. The court can also prevent the abuser from having contact with a child or other relatives.

How much does an Order of Protection cost?

Nothing. There are no fees for filing or serving an order of protection.

What happens after you get an Order of Protection?

If the judge issues an Order of Protection, the order will go into effect as soon as your abuser is served with a copy. Your order will last for one year from when your abuser is served. However, your abuser has the right too object to the order of protection by requesting a hearing at any time during which the order is in effect. If a hearing is set, you must attend or the order of protection will be changed or canceled.

What happens if the abuser violates the order?

Although it is a crime and contempt of court if your abuser knowingly violates the order, it is important to recognize the limitations of an Order of Protection. You must be vigilant in enforcing the order's provisions by reporting every violation to the police or the court. Likewise, you must be vigilant about not violating your own restraining order. If you do not enforce your own order, do not expect the court to when you abuser violates it.

Tips for Preparing to File for Divorce

  1. Go to and get one free credit report for yourself. Review your report and note each debt associated with your and your spouse. Close any joint credit card or department store charge cards to prevent incurring further debt. Close any account that is open, but has a zero balance. You cannot run your spouse's credit report without permission.
  2. Photocopy the last five years of your federal tax returns. Include all W-2s and 1099 forms.
  3. Photocopy the last two pay stubs of both you and your spouse.
  4. Contact your dental and health insurance company to find out how much it costs to insure the children alone.
  5. Go to to obtain the blue book values of any vehicles.
  6. Contact the mortgage companies and obtain the pay off value for all mortgages attached to any real estate owned by you or your spouse. Get the pay off value for the first day of the month following the month you intend to file for divorce or legal separation.
  7. Obtain the mortgage statement that reflects the principal owed on any mortgages for the month you intend to file for divorce.
  8. Get statements that reflects the principal owed on any car loans for the month you intend to file for divorce.
  9. If you or your spouse own real estate either have it appraised or ask a real estate agent to run comps on the property so you will have an accurate estimate of the value of the property.
  10. If either of you have a retirement account, for each plan obtain the hire date of the contributing party, the date contributions to the plan were first made and, if applicable, the date the contributing spouse quit working for that employer.
  11. If you or your spouse have certificates of deposit, stocks or mutual funds, get a copy of the most recent statement of value.
  12. Get copies of the last six bank account statements for any joint or sole accounts for you and your spouse.
  13. Get copies of any credit card statements for the month in which you intend to file.
  14. If you have children who are in day care, obtain proof of the monthly cost of that day care.
  15. If your spouse is being abusive or threatening, record all phone conversations with him or her if possible. Be sure to save any emails, voice mails or text messages.
  16. If you and your spouse have already physically separated, be sure to record the parenting time you each have with the children. Document any time you are denied access to the children by your spouse.
  17. If domestic violence has occurred in the relationship, obtain copies of any police reports and/or court documents if they exist. If the police were not called, start a journal in which you recount the incidences of domestic violence. Note the name, address and telephone numbers of any witness. Obtain your medical records, if applicable.

Last Updated: 01/23/2015