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What is a Temporary Restraining Order and How Does it Work?

A temporary restraining order is a type of short-term civil court order that is designed to keep the party requesting entry of the order safe from harm at the hands of an offending party. The order does not serve to establish a criminal record for the offending party. It can address the environments of home, work, family members' homes, friends' homes, and similar locales. It usually has a set time duration (in the majority of states, 10 days) and may include information about a minimum distance that the requesting party and offending party must remain from each other.

Domestic Violence Cases

Temporary restraining orders are often used in domestic violence situations. Domestic violence includes the commission of one or more proscribed acts by an adult or emancipated minor against a victim. Proscribed acts include, but are not limited to, assault, sexual assault, stalking, harassment, false imprisonment, kidnapping, criminal trespass, burglary, criminal mischief, criminal restraint, terrorist threats, criminal sexual contact, homicide, and lewdness.

Domestic violence victims can readily acquire a temporary restraining order. It is not uncommon for parties to seek entry of temporary restraining orders simultaneously against one another. It is also not uncommon for a requesting party to have to seek entry of multiple temporary restraining orders during a given period against a single offending party because of the short-term nature of the orders' life spans.

Procedures and Protections

Temporary restraining orders are entered or signed by judges at the request of a party, such as a victim of domestic violence. The order is entitled an Order of Protection and specifically mandates that the offending party follow legal requirements, setting forth the exact conduct allowed and prohibited. Orders can be used to:

  • provide cessation of all contact
  • protect other family members
  • evict an abuser from the home, even if the abuser is owner
  • grant custody to the victim of the minor children
  • possibly direct the payment of child and spousal support
  • direct child visitation by the abuser so long as children are safe
  • order the abuser to pay costs stemming from abusive situations such as household bills, attorneys' fees, moving expenses, and medical bills
  • direct the offending party's police-supervised re-entry into the residence to remove personal effects
  • mandate that the offending party undergo professional counseling

In essence, the judge entering the temporary restraining order is empowered to do anything within the confines of the law required to ensure protection of the requesting party, provided the requesting party consents.