Most people are familiar with the idea that a restraining order can be used to prevent domestic abuse. Each state deals with this issue a little bit differently. It is a complicated situation, because every American has rights and the law does not like to limit those rights without first deciding a person has done something wrong. On the other hand, nobody wants to sit by and watch a woman (or man) or child be abused. Temporary restraining orders are one way that state and local governments around the United States have tried to fix this problem.
What is a temporary restraining order
A temporary restraining order is basically an order from a court stopping a person from doing something. In the context of domestic abuse, this most commonly means ordering a man to stay away from his wife, girlfriend, or children. Of course, restraining orders can also be issued against women. There are two basic ways for a restraining order to be issued, by a criminal court or a civil order.
Temporary restraining orders in criminal cases
In criminal cases, a person who is charged with a crime will often have stipulations placed upon them. These are usually called “protective orders.” Most commonly, suspects will be ordered to stay away from their alleged victims until after their trial is complete. Judges have a great deal of discretion and they can make other orders as well. A suspected child abuser could be ordered to stay away from schools, for example. The requirements for a victim to obtain a criminal protective order of this sort is to simply call 911 and report a crime. The victim’s wishes are usually taken into account, but a criminal protective order is something that is for the local prosecutor to pursue.
Obtaining a temporary restraining order without a crime
Civil courts can usually issue a protective order even when no crime has been committed. The Temporary Restraining Order requirements usually include some type of intimate or familial relationship. Take Maryland, for a fairly typical example. The state will grant a protective order against an alleged abuser that is a current or former spouse, was a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend, is a family member, or is a recent sexual partner. The temporary protective order can be granted after any kind of physical abuse, including kicking, punching, and slapping. Threats of violence, stalking, or detaining someone against their will can also give rise to a protective order. Mental injury to a child is sufficient as well. The judge can issue an order that requires an alleged abuser to move out of a shared house and award temporary child custody.
Keep in mind that most states can also issue an order to create separation between two people that are not related. In the Maryland example, this is called a “Peace Order.” There is no relationship requirement, but the court has less power and will generally just order the alleged harasser to “stay away” for a temporary period of time. The bottom line is that courts have a lot of flexibility once abuse or threats of abuse have been shown.