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Restraining Order Defined

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A restraining order is one of several distinct yet similar types of protection orders. Each of these different types of protection orders, including temporary protection orders, ex parte protection orders and stalking protection orders, are sometimes referred to as restraining orders, but there are specific rules that apply to each.

An actual restraining order is often used in contentious divorce proceedings. Its purpose is to prevent one party from draining a joint bank account, running up debt on joint credit cards or selling commonly held property, such as cars or a home. This type of restraining order is only in effect until the divorce proceedings have been finalized. Unlike other protection orders, this type of restraining order cannot be renewed. If either party violates the restraining order they can face contempt of court charges, rather than criminal charges that apply if a protection order is violated.

Victims of domestic abuse can also obtain various protection orders, which are sometimes called restraining orders. The primary purpose of the restraining order is to keep the abuser away from the victim. A judge can order the abuser to stay away from the victim’s workplace, school or home, even if the home is in the abuser’s name, and not to contact the victim. Several other items can also be included in a restraining order when necessary, including:

  • Support provisions, which order the abuser to pay spousal or child support, or to continue making mortgage payments on a home owned by both parties.
  • Restitution provisions, which compensate the victim for medical costs or property damage due to abuse.
  • Counseling provisions to force the abuser to attend counseling sessions for alcohol or drug abuse or anger management.

To obtain a restraining order, a victim must first petition a judge in family court for a temporary restraining order or temporary protection order. These are almost always granted to bring an immediate halt to any domestic abuse. The temporary order stays in effect until a full hearing can take place, usually within 7-10 days.

The terms ‘restraining order’ and ‘protection order’ are often used for the same thing, they actually have different meanings. There are also different variations of each one. Understanding the variables in each unique situation can help a judge or attorney get the right protection in place for an abuse victim.

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