Top Questions And Answers About Restraining Orders
Chris Wojcik Student, Loyola University Chicago
Here are the 5 most important things you need to know if you are considering petitioning for a restraining order.
How do I get a restraining order?
It depends on where you live. Options vary from going to a local courthouse, shelter, lawyer’s office, or even police stations.
In all states, you will have to petition and complete some forms that detail the who, what, when, and where of the abuse or harassment. Eventually you will have to go to a Family Court to finalize the order.
Do I need a lawyer?
No. But lawyers help. A lot.
Here's how lawyers can help you obtain and maintain a restraining order:
- They can help you decide what type of order you need. Options range from temporary to emergency. It also depends on who is doing the harassing - a coworker, partner (or former partner), child, parent and more.
- If you want the person you're getting the restraining order against to keep paying bills or have other money issues, a lawyer can work with the opposing side to come to an agreement, or argue your case in front of a judge.
- Usually, you are getting a restraining order because the other person is intimidating. Lawyers will be right by your side the whole way.
- There's a lot of paperwork involved in restraining orders. Lawyers complete it and file it for you - on time.
- If the person violates the restraining order, a lawyer will take your case to the right authorities, and help you get justice.
- If you are sharing a dwelling with the person you're getting an order against, a lawyer can help you get a move-out order - quickly.
- If you believe that someone is trying to get a restraining order against you unjustly, the best person to talk to is an experienced lawyer or attorney.
The exact punishment depends on the state, but violating a restraining order or a civil protection order is a Class A Misdemeanor (the most serious type of misdemeanor) and is punishable by a serious fine (we’re talking several thousand dollars) and up to year in jail.
What if I move to a new state? Is my restraining order still valid?
In accordance with the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, a protection order issued in one state must be honored in full faith by another state. If you move to another state, you can by all means get a restraining order in that state, but it is not required for legal validity or protection.
Does a restraining order ever expire?
If you get a restraining order in a court, it does not last forever. In some states, like Massachusetts for example, your first restraining order can only last for 1 year. However, in all cases you will have a hearing scheduled for you on the day your order expires. At that point, you can have another order issued for you for an even longer period of time.
In Illinois, an initial order lasts for up to 2 years and can be extended as needed. In California, up to 5 years. In New York, it will usually be 2 years, but can be up to 5.
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