*****Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and is for educational purposes only. This does not create an attorney-client privilege.
A restraining order, also known as a protective order, is an order given by a court of law as a way to protect someone from being physically or sexually assaulted, abused, stalked or otherwise harassed by another, specific individual. You may be wondering if these orders can be used to protect an individual from psychological and emotional abuse as well, and unfortunately the law is pretty narrow about what kinds or harm or threats can constitute the issuing of a restraining order. Ultimately, there needs to be ‘sufficient’ evidence or current or imminent threat of physical or sexual abuse, psychological and emotional abuse alone, without a threat of one of the above, isn't enough.
In a restraining order, the person who is seeking the order is called the “protected person”. The person against whom the restraining order is being set is referred to as the “restrained person”. Seems straightforward enough, right? The order can also cover multiple ‘protected persons’. For example, after a case of domestic violence, the woman seeking the protective order might wish to prevent the abuser from interacting with or otherwise contacting both herself and her children.
So what exactly can a restraining order do? Most people have an idea that a restraining orders generally function by setting a physical distancing requirement. For example, this could be requiring that the restrained individual keep at least 100 yards between themselves and the person who filed for the order. However, there are actually a variety of different approaches a restraining order can take.
This most commonly known or understood kind of restraining order mentioned above is called a “stay-away order”. So again, this means mandating a certain physical distance between the parties in question, such as 50-100 yards. Not only can this require that the restrained person stay a minimum distance from the protected person, but it can also require them to keep distance from the protected person`s home, their place of work, their vehicle, or other significant locations to them, such as their children`s school or residences of family members, etc.
The next kind of order is a “personal conduct order”. The purpose of these orders are to stop specific acts against the protected persons named in the restraining order. In this day and age especially these kinds of orders are important, because the internet allows for harm and intimidation even if the restrained person is required to keep a physical distance. These personal conduct orders can legally require the restrained individual to desist vandalizing the protected people`s property, harassing, cyber and physically stalking, threatening or contacting the protected persons in any way, attacking or sexually assaulting, or otherwise disturbing the peace of the protected individuals.
The final kind of restraining order is a Residence exclusion, or a “kick-out”/”move out” order. This kind of order can require the person being (or going to be) restrained to move out of the premises of where the protected person is living. This kind of order can be placed temporarily and without going through the full filing process, as a way to keep the parties separate while they await the hearing with the court. The person ordered to leave the residence can be required to only pack personal belongings and must stay away from the premises, even if the official restraining order has not yet been assigned.
Restraining orders mean very serious consequences for the restrained individuals. From being required to move out of their home, to not being able to go the same places or do the same activities as before, the order can mean drastic changes to the daily life of the parties in question. These orders can also come into play and interfere with the ability of that person to see their children or to own a gun in some states. It can also affect the immigration status of individuals seeking a green card or visa. These protective orders carry serious legal weight and can be an important tool to ensure the safety and well being of many.