A Restraining Order, also known as an Order of Protection, is a civil order issued by a court that is designed to protect you from being harmed, abused or harassed by an abuser. It can also keep an abuser from the scene of domestic violence, which may include your home or where you work.
If you believe you need protection from an abuser, you must first complete paperwork that is filled out and filed at your county courthouse for a judge’s signature. You may complete the paperwork yourself, or contact your attorney to ask for assistance and to make sure your situation qualifies for a restraining order or if you should seek police or other assistance. You do not need an attorney to complete the paperwork but like all legal situations, it’s never a bad idea to have a legal advocate on your side.
To qualify for an Order of Protection, typically a relationship must exist between you and the other person who harmed you. Some of the situations that apply include:
- You were married to the person who hurt you;
- Separated or divorced from the person who hurt you;
- Related to the person who hurt you (that is, a parent, stepparent, child, aunt, uncle, grandparent, cousin, or someone with whom you have a child, or someone with whom you say you have a child);
- Dating (or formerly dated) the person who hurt you;
- Engaged to (or formerly engaged to) the person who hurt you;
- Living with (or formerly lived with) the person who hurt you;
- Or you are an adult with disabilities.
Once filed, a restraining order is effective upon completion of the judge’s signature and lasts until the court date, which usually occurs a few weeks from the filing date.
The person who is requesting the restraining order must attend the initial hearing, even though the abuser may not yet have notice of the proceeding. You will appear before a judge on an assigned court date, or the same day you file the Petition depending on the jurisdiction, and you will have the opportunity to outline your situation to the judge at that time.
The restraining order will provide a date for a second court appearance, during which the abuser has a right to be present. During this second appearance, both parties will have an opportunity to explain each side to the judge. It is highly recommended that you bring a lawyer to this hearing, as the judge will determine if you receive a final order, called a Plenary Order of Protection, as well as the length and conditions of the order. An experienced family law attorney will have the skills and know-how to properly present your case and increase your chances of successfully obtaining a Plenary Order of Protection, which can be in effect for up to two years in Illinois.
In the instance an abuser does not appear at the hearing, the judge may keep the existing temporary order in effect until the abuser can be brought to court. If the abuser was properly served with proof of service, the Court may enter the final order at that time. If the Petitioner does not appear, the temporary Order for Protection and/or the Petition filed will be dismissed.
Restraining order is in place – now what? How does it work?
The person who requested the restraining order is the enforcer of the order. Do not allow the abuser access to your home or workplace and never accept phone calls. All violations of the restraining order must be reported to the police immediately. A violation of an order is considered a misdemeanor, a criminal offense, and an abuser can be arrested even though the police may not have witnessed the violation. Contempt charges may also be brought against the abuser in civil court when a restrained person violates an order.
You will get a copy of the order that should be carried with you at all times. Call the police if the abuser violates the order. The police will arrest an abuser who violates any part of the order in place to protect you from threats or harm. By carrying your order with you at all times, it will be easier for the police to validate the order and understand your current situation. In the event you lose your order, or it’s destroyed, you are to return to the court to get another copy.
Court Violations and Criminal Charges
Criminal charges can be filed with your local police department against the abuser. You do not have to file criminal charges, but the law does allow you to file them if you so choose. In most states you have at least a year after any incident to file criminal charges. If the abuser is found guilty of the charges, the court can impose punishment in the form of fines, probation, or even jail.
If you would like assistance in filing an Order of Protection, please contact the Law Office of Barbara Sherer. We provide you with expert legal advice while making sure that the outcomes will protect you and your family.