If you are being sexually harassed, physically abused, or stalked and you want to make it stop, then you can seek protection by obtaining a restraining order.
What is a restraining order?
A restraining order is a legal document issued by a court that orders an individual to stop abusing or harassing you. A restraining order is issued in the civil division of the Circuit Court in the county in which you live. For your protection, the abuser will be instructed to stay away from your workplace, school, home, and not to contact you by mail, email, phone, etc. If the individual violates the instructions, this is a criminal offense and may result in arrest, and possibly a prison sentence.
The timeliness of receiving a restraining order from the court will depend on the information that you present regarding your circumstances. More will be explained about the process, however if you are uncertain, or have additional questions, you can always contact local attorneys, such as Houston’s Johnson, Johnson & Baer in eastern Texas, for instance.
How to Apply?
Obtain the forms for a restraining order from the county clerk’s office. Some courts provide court forms online that you can fill out, download and take in person to the clerk’s office.
When filling out the petition request:
- Describe in detail what the person is doing to you. This is the time to explain how you have been harassed, beaten, bullied or constantly threatened by a spouse, a significant other or someone else.
- Provide documentation, if you have it, to support your reasons for seeking a restraining order. For instance, if you have been physically abused and had to seek medical attention, attach a copy of your doctor’s reports, hospital stays or photos of your injuries. You can also provide copies of police reports.
- Include documentation of any legal custody orders if minor children are involved. This allows the judge to know what court orders are currently in force involving your children.
The person against whom you are seeking the restraining order must also receive a copy of your request. That person can attend the hearing if he or she so desires. You can use a process server or serve the papers by registered mail.
Is There an Immediate Resolution?
If your life is in danger, you can ask the court for an “ex parte order,” which means that you will not have to wait to have a hearing. The judge will grant you an emergency protection order without a hearing.
If you are not seeking an ex parte order, the court will schedule a hearing to discuss why you are asking for a restraining order. The judge can grant a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) based on the evidence presented. If minor children are involved, the judge may allow limited contact or ban contact between you and the other party. It all depends on your circumstances.
If a TRO was issued, the judge will schedule another hearing to review your case. If, after receiving the TRO, your circumstances have not improved, the judge can issue a permanent restraining order that lasts between three to five years.
The court system can be overwhelming for those who are not familiar with the process, but protection for your life or peace of mind is well worth the effort. It would be to your advantage to contact a local attorney for guidance, particularly if minor children are involved. A domestic violence help center can also refer you to attorneys who specialize in this process.
Teresa Stewart was fortunate to escape early from an abusive relationship and is a strong advocate for others to protect their personal safety. Houston’s Dane Johnson of Johnson, Johnson & Baer handles a variety of cases including DWI, Assault, and Domestic Abuse.