Every family experiences conflict, but when violence—or the threat of violence — is used against you or your children, it's time to get a restraining order. Regardless of the situation, violence should never be used as leverage to control circumstances or another person. When this happens, a restraining order can serve as an extra layer of protection and deter the offender from attempting to contact the victim.
When to Get a Restraining Order
You should get a restraining order if your ex has physically harmed you or your children, or has threatened any of you with harm. This includes verbal threats, as well as threats expressed through e-mail, text, and social media.
How to Get a Restraining Order
There are two ways to get a restraining order. You can either contact your local police or visit your county courthouse (which you can find by calling 2-1-1). If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. If danger isn't imminent, go to the courthouse in person or call the non-emergency number for your local police station.
Whether you go to the courthouse or your local police station, you'll be asked to fill out a form stating why you're requesting the restraining order. Officials will then make arrangements for you to speak with a judge about your situation. If you're filing your request after hours, you may be asked to speak with the judge over the phone.
Assuming that the judge grants your request, a temporary restraining order will go into effect immediately, and a court date will be set. The court will notify your ex of the temporary restraining order and court date, which will typically take place within two weeks.
Tips for Appearing Before the Judge When You Get a Restraining Order
The judge will want to hear directly from you about your request for a restraining order.
Make sure that you:
- Tell the truth.
- Bring any documentation you have with you, such as e-mail or text records.
- Speak clearly and stick to facts that relate to your request.
- Share anything from your history together that could be relevant to the judge's decision, such as past acts of violence against you or the children.
Past restraining orders should also be brought to the judge's attention. Don't assume that he or she automatically knows about them.
What to Do Once the Temporary Restraining Order is in Place
Make sure that you attend the court date. During the hearing, the judge will decide how long the permanent restraining order will be in effect and whether it will impact your existing child custody arrangement. The judge may also demand that your ex attend parenting or anger management classes.
How a Restraining Order Impacts Child Custody
Domestic violence in child custody cases — whether against you or your children — is taken very seriously by the courts. Most likely, the child custody order will be temporarily adjusted and re-evaluated at a later date, once any conditions established by the court have been successfully met, and the restraining order has been removed.
Remaining Safe While the Restraining Order is in Place
When you get a restraining order, it's no guarantee that your ex won't attempt to make contact with you.
As best you can, try to anticipate how he'll react when he gets the news that the judge has issued a temporary restraining order. If you fear for your safety, make arrangements to stay with a friend or relative temporarily. If your ex does try to make contact, call the police right away.
What to Do if a Restraining Order is Filed Against You
If you're the recipient of a restraining order, know that your conduct is being closely scrutinized. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to make contact with your ex. Stick to all of the rules outlined in the restraining order so that the court cannot say you've violated the order when you appear in court. Be sure to attend the court date, as well, and tell the truth when responding to the judge's questions.
Know, too, that while this may be a low point, you will recover from this experience.
Any changes to your child custody arrangement that result from the restraining order are most likely temporary. Do everything the court asks you to do — including taking parenting or anger management classes — so that your case can be re-evaluated once you've met the conditions placed on you by the court.