A temporary restraining order (TRO) is a compelling legal option for anyone facing domestic violence. It is a court order that protects a person or persons from physical, mental, verbal, or other abuse.

A temporary restraining order can require the abuser to keep at least 100 yards away from the victim, which is enforceable by arrest and can be filed against a spouse, ex-spouse, parent of a child, boyfriend, girlfriend, grandparent, or anyone else initiating harm. Under some circumstances, a temporary restraining order can require an abuser to surrender his or her firearms and prevent the abuser from purchasing a firearm.

To obtain a temporary restraining order against someone who is abusing you, it is not necessary to have a domestic violence case pending in court. In most states, if you are subject to domestic violence, threats of domestic violence, or stalking, you may apply for legal protection.
 

How Can a TRO Help You?

If you are being physically or emotionally abused, threatened, stalked, harassed, or subject to other acts of violence, a TRO can help to keep the abuser away from you. After a judge signs the order and the abuser is notified of it, the abuser is restrained from all contact with you, your children, and other family members.

The order will also extend to places such as your home, your workplace, your car, and your children’s school or childcare facility. If the abuser violates the order, you can ask the police or the court to enforce it by reiterating the requirement to keep away or by putting the abuser in jail.
 

Who Can Be Restrained?

Typically, you may seek a domestic violence restraining order against a current or former spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, domestic partner or civil union partner, or any relative.

If the person who is harming, threatening, or harassing you does not fit into one of the covered categories, you may be able to get another kind of temporary protective order, such as a “civil harassment” order. Your local court can help you determine the proper forms to file.
 

How to File

You or your attorney must file a TRO petition in your county court. Many counties offer detailed online information about temporary restraining orders, plus free downloadable forms, so you may want to begin your search for information at the county court’s website.

You can also visit the court clerk’s office in person to get the forms and ask questions about the process. Some courts have self-help centers with staff trained to help you prepare and file your forms. Usually, there is no charge to file a petition for a domestic violence restraining order.

When you complete the forms, you will have to explain in detail what has happened and why you need the restraining order. Sometimes, a judge will want to ask you a few questions before signing the order. Include enough detail to let the judge know why the order is necessary, while also trying to keep it as short as possible, and make sure your explanations are clear and to the point.

If you are ready to take action and pursue a temporary restraining order, here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • TROs are generally filed after an “ex parte” order from a judge. This requires the victim to complete a filing with the court and gives the abuser official notice so he/she can seek an opportunity to be heard.
  • TROs can be filed by completing paperwork at a courthouse. Engaging an attorney is advised but not necessary to file for a TRO.
  • TROs can be granted on the same day as filed.
  • The TRO will stay in effect for 15-20 days, or until the court-ordered hearing “Order to Show Cause” to evaluate the TRO with both parties present takes place.
  • The TRO must be served on the abuser, and can be done so by a marshal.
  • The victim should keep copies of the TRO with them at all times.
  • If the abuser violates the terms of the TRO, the victim should alert authorities immediately.
  • During the “Order to Show Cause” the TRO may be extended to a permanent Restraining Order, may be cancelled, modified, or extended.

As with most other legal issues, if you’re unsure about how to proceed, or if you need legal assistance, it’s always a good idea to contact a reputable attorney with experience in the type of legal matter you’re experiencing.