Protection orders are also referred to as restraining orders – we will use both terms in this article. It’s important to know that you can seek the advice of or retain an attorney at any time during the process of getting a civil restraining order.
Why would I get a civil protection order?
Although a protection order is only a piece of paper, it does have some real protective benefits. As a practical matter, it is enforceable by the police. Any violations of the protection order will result in an arrest and a criminal prosecution. Perhaps more importantly, getting a protection order is a way to move the abuse out of the secret dark places and into the light. Most forms of harassment, abuse and manipulation rely on threats, fear and secrecy. Many people operate with seeming impunity when they think no-one is watching. Filing for a protection order, telling your story and bringing the issue into the cold hard light of a courtroom often robs the abuser of their power and helps you regain some of your power.
Getting a restraining order is often a big step. Often well-meaning family members, and even police you have been in contact with, will advise you to get a protection order. It’s very important that you take this step when you are ready, not when someone else tells you to.
What’s the difference between a civil and criminal protection order?
A civil protection order is one that you seek and obtain yourself. A criminal protection order is one that is issued by the court as part of a criminal prosecution, which is handled by the district attorney. In your role as a crime victim, you have certain rights to be heard and involved, but the actual case is prosecuted by the district attorney and they get to exercise their discretion to handle the case.
What are the reasons a protection order will be granted?
A civil restraining order requires that you prove that there is an imminent risk of harm if the order is not granted. Past bad actions will not always result in a protection order if they don’t appear to be ongoing or likely to recur. However, the harm does not need to be physical. An ongoing risk of psychological or emotional harm may sufficient to obtain a protection order. In fact, most protection orders are granted due to ongoing harassment and manipulation, even in the absence of any physical threats of violence.
A judge will likely give extra consideration if the person filing is an at-risk or elderly adult. There are special provisions in the law that protect this group of people.
How do I apply for a protection order?
Step One: apply for a Temporary Protection Order (TPO)
You must go to the courthouse and file an application for a TPO. Answer everything completely and attach copies of any exhibits that corroborate your testimony. You will have to appear in front of a judge and testify about the reasons that you need a protection order. The judge is required to make sure that the allegations are sufficiently serious to warrant a protection order.
If your request is granted, you will be assigned a second court date.
You are entitled to have an attorney help you with this process, so please don’t hesitate to call if you would like assistance evaluating your claim or preparing your application.
Step Two: service
Once the TPO is granted, take a copy of it to the Sheriff’s Office and ask them to personally serve the TPO on the restrained party. You will have a second hearing in 14 days and the restrained party has the right to contest your claims. However, they have to be personally served with notice of the claims and the hearing.
You will need to know the other party’s address, or where they can regularly be found.
Step Three: Permanent Protection Order (PPO) hearing and judgment
A second hearing (or contested hearing) will be scheduled to determine whether the temporary order should be made permanent. If the restrained party has been served and doesn’t show up (but you do) the order will be made permanent by default.
If you don’t show up, the order will be dismissed.
If both of you show up, you will have the opportunity to negotiate an agreement to extend the temporary order up to one year. Otherwise, each side will get to testify, present other witnesses and evidence, cross examine and argue their position. The court will have to decide whether to dismiss the order or make it permanent.
Your goal will be to show the judge that there is an imminent risk of harm if the other party is not restrained.
Who can I include in my protection order application?
Your protection order application can include yourself and any minor children in your custody.
Any other adults who want to be protected will need to obtain their own protection order, even if they live in the same house.
I share custody of my kids with the other party, can I still get a restraining order?
If you have kids with the other person and still need to co-parent or make exchanges, the court will often allow limited communication and contact solely for that purpose. Be careful not to engage in communication on other topics; the modification usually only allows contact for a specific purpose. Always read the language of the protection order carefully.
I got a TPO, but then the other party was arrested and there is a criminal protection order. Do I still need to go to the PPO hearing?
Criminal protection orders last as long as the criminal procedure in the legal system. At the beginning, that feels like it will last forever. If you would like to have protection from the restricted party permanently, you should go to the PPO hearing. Once the other party is released from custody, you will continue to be protected.
What are the consequences of violating a restraining order?
Most often, a violation of a protection order will result in your arrest and a criminal prosecution. That criminal case will also create a new criminal protection order.
Why would I modify or change a PPO?
PPO means Permanent Protection Order. If you and the restricted party decide to be together again, you will need to apply to the court to modify the PPO. It does not just “go away”. The restricted party can be arrested for being in contact with you if you don’t ask for the PPO to be modified.
Someone got a PO against me, can I get one against them?
It is very difficult to get a protection order against someone who has sought a protection order against you. The mere fact that they are seeking a protection order against you is not grounds for you to seek your own protection order. There must be independent grounds placing you in fear of imminent harm to justify your own protection order.
More To Consider Regarding Civil Protection Orders:
Restraining Orders are One-Directional
Protection orders involve a protected person and a restricted person. They do not prevent communication from the protected person to the restricted person.
Because they are one-directional, they create a huge liability for the restricted person. A protected person can call, text, and visit the restricted person with legal immunity; but the restricted person can be reported and arrested at any moment. It is important to resist any attempt to bait you into a violation of the protection order until it is modified/dismissed by the court.
Other Party’s Address
In order for the sheriff to serve the other party, you will need to have their home or work address. In the event that the other party is transient, you should know where they can generally be found. The sheriff is not a detective and does not have the resources to track down the other party.
Our attorneys are very knowledgeable on this topic and have helped many people through the process. Please contact us if you need help.