Last Updated: February 14th, 2019 at 5:17 pm
Read Time: 5 Minutes
If you are in an abusive relationship, or if at any point you feel your life or the life of a family member is in danger, you need to know you can take steps to protect yourself by filing a restraining order. A restraining order makes it a crime for the restrained person to come near or contact you in any way. Whether you choose to get a temporary restraining order, file a domestic violence restraining order, or civil harassment restraining order, these are all legal mechanisms to protect you and your family members.
What’s a Restraining Order?
A restraining order, sometimes called a protective order, is used by a court to protect a person, business, entity, or the general public in a situation involving alleged domestic violence, harassment, stalking, or sexual assault. Every state has some form of a domestic violence restraining order, as well as specific laws for stalking and sexual assault restraining orders.
In Florida, restraining orders can cover different types of violence, including domestic, repeated, dating, and sexual. Each of these orders offers different protections, although they are all very similar to those provided by domestic violence restraining orders.
Steps to File a Restraining Order
Filing a restraining order often starts at the local family court located in the county where you live, the person who harassed you lives, or where the abuse happened. While the process to file for a restraining order is rather easy, the filing of legal documents and the gathering of such documents can be more complicated.
1. Obtain the Forms
Visit your local courthouse, as well as the courthouse from the abuser’s county or the county where the abuse took place. Request the proper forms for the type of restraining order you wish to file.
2. Seek Legal Advice
Although a lawyer is not required to file a restraining order, the process can be very confusing. Hiring legal services can help you answer all your questions, help you submit the correct forms, and be your advocate in court. If you wish, you can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, who can refer a lawyer for you.
3. Complete All Forms
Once you have the proper legal forms, you need to fill out the petition for a restraining order against the abuser. You will also need to complete an affidavit that explains the events that lead you to file the restraining order. Besides the forms, you will also need to bring in medical records, police reports, and other documents that detail the abuse. Working with an experienced legal advisor can help make sure you have all the legal documents you need to build a solid case against your abuser.
4. Wait For the Court Hearing
After officially filing the restraining order, you will need to wait for the court hearing. In most cases, this should take one to two days. The court hearing is often scheduled two to three weeks after you’ve filed the paperwork. In the event of filing an emergency restraining order, the court will do its best to hold the hearing as soon as possible.
5. Serve the Court Order to the Abuser
For the restraining order to be in effect, the abuser needs to be handed the order papers. You don’t need to give the documents yourself – anyone over 18 who is not protected under the order can do this for you. A courier service can also be hired to deliver the restraining order. In the case of not knowing where the abuser is, you can file special forms to explain.
6. Attend the Court Hearing
If a court hearing is scheduled, you might be asked to give testimony supporting your restraining order request. If you are working with a legal advisor, he or she will bring evidence that supports your claims, including pictures, medical records, police reports, and so on. Be advised, the abuser is also allowed to give their side of the story. However, on occasion the abuser doesn’t show up, then the restraining order is usually immediately granted.
7. Wait for the Judge’s Decision
Lastly, you need to wait for the judge to rule on whether to issue the restraining order the same day as the hearing. If granted, the restraining order can last up to five years. Read through it carefully, the order describes your rights and any limitations imposed upon the restrained person.
How to Use a Restraining Order?
Once you are granted a restraining order, it is essential to understand how to use it and the limitations it imposes.
Keep a Copy
Ideally, you should carry a copy of the restraining order with you at all times. If the abuser ignores the order and tries to contact you or get near you, you can call the police. Having the copy of the restraining order will help them understand the situation faster. If you ever lose the order, you can contact the court for another copy.
Contact the Court about Violations
If at any point there is a violation of the restraining order, you should immediately report it to the court. Read through the restraining order as it clearly states what the other party is allowed to do. If any of these limitations are violated, the abuser could be facing an arrest and charged with a crime. This can also help if you want to file a repeated violence restraining order.
Also, if the other party fails to return your property after being served with a restraining order, or if they fail to pay child support, you should call the court and report them as these are also a violation of the order.
Extend or Dismiss the Restraining Order
Your restraining order has an expiration date. The court allows it to be extended or dismissed. In any case, you will be asked to explain the reasons why you wish to choose either one. A restraining order can be renewed or extended even if a new incident doesn’t occur.