A restraining order is an order issued by a court that is meant to protect a person from harm. A restraining order requires the alleged abuser to immediately leave the house and avoid any contact or communications with the identified victim for a period of time. A restraining order can also direct a person to pay child support and reimburse medical expenses.

An accuser can get a temporary restraining order by going to the courthouse, filling out a form that describes the alleged abuse, and appearing for a 5-10 minute hearing before a judge.

In most states, a person can obtain a temporary restraining order without hard evidence of abuse.  Each year about 2-3 million domestic violence restraining orders (sometimes called an “order for protection,” “injunction,” or “peace order”) are issued in the United States.

A temporary restraining order typically remains in effect for 7-15 days. At the end of that period, the judge holds a “final” hearing in which both persons can present their sides of the story. At that time, the judge may decide to issue a “permanent” restraining order, which can remain in effect for one year or longer.

Because it is so easy to get, a restraining order can be used as a tactic to gain an unfair legal advantage in an impending child custody dispute, or used by a vindictive partner to “teach him/her a lesson.” Some judges use a restraining order as evidence that the named parent is likely to be abusive to the child, even if no evidence of child abuse is presented.

In some states, the existence of the order can never be removed from your record, even if you are later found to be innocent.

SAVE Special Report:

The Use and Abuse of Domestic Restraining Orders.

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