If you are getting a divorce, but your spouse threatens, harasses, abuses, or stalks you, a family law attorney may recommend filing a temporary restraining order, also known as an order of protection. No matter what the order is called in your state, the purpose of a temporary restraining order is to keep your estranged spouse away from you, your children, and even other of your family members, especially if you have been physically and/or emotionally abused.

What is a temporary restraining order?

You can apply for protection under the law if you are the victim of domestic violence or receive threats of domestic violence. Once a judge signs the order and your spouse is notified, he or she is restrained from all contact with you. That means the person may not approach you at your home, in your vehicle, where you work, or where your children go to school or daycare. If your spouse has threatened your life, you also may ask the court to order that person to surrender any weapons he or she has to the police.

Your spouse also may be prohibited from contacting you by phone, mail, email, fax, or text messages. If your spouse fails to comply and violates any provisions of the order, the police or court can enforce the order, sometimes by putting the person in jail. In some states, the law requires the abuser to appear in court to show cause why the temporary order should not be made permanent.

How can you get a temporary restraining order?

You must file a petition for a temporary restraining order with your county court. Be brief yet concise when you explain why you need the restraining order. If you do not provide adequate information when filing the forms, the judge may want to ask you additional questions before signing the order. Often, the court puts a temporary restraining order in place until a hearing for a permanent restraining order is scheduled.

Can you renew or extend a temporary restraining order?

The court puts temporary restraining orders in place for a specific period of time. But if you can show the court that there is a need to continue to protect you from future abuse, the judge may decide to grant an extension of the order to make it last longer. In making a decision, the judge will take into account:

  • The reason why you first asked for a restraining order

  • If there is an ongoing court case, such as a child custody case or divorce that goes to trial, that may anger your spouse or increase his or her hostility toward you

  • Whether you and your spouse are likely to cross paths in your daily lives (e.g. you work for the same employer)

Although the judge also will look at whether your spouse violated any provisions of the temporary restraining order, your spouse doesn't have to abuse you during the duration of the temporary order for you get an extension. Since a temporary retraining order usually expires within a few weeks, if you feel that the safety of you and/or your children continues to be at risk, your attorney may advise you to file a petition for a permanent restraining order. Contact a law firm, such as The Law Offices of John G. McGill, Jr., if you suspect that you need a restraining order.