The law tends to move slow. Judges have busy dockets, and they need to hear from both sides so that everyone can get a fair decision. There are a few situations where courts can move fast, though. Domestic violence is one thing that can get a court to act. Most states have a court that can quickly hold a temporary restraining order hearing to order an abuser to stay away from the abuse victims for a short period of time until a more permanent arrangement is worked out.
What happens at a temporary restraining order hearing
The exact proceedings will vary widely from state to state and even from court to court. That said, a temporary restraining order hearing will typically follow some of the same basic steps.
First, the person seeking a restraining order (or their lawyer or sometimes someone from law enforcement) will explain to the court what they are asking for.
The law will typically have a set of requirements for granting a protective order. There often has to be some evidence of a real threat. Courts do not want people asking for restraining orders just to keep their spouse away.
The alleged abuser has rights too, and it would not be fair to restrict an accused person’s rights without some fair due process in court.
What to expect at a temporary restraining order hearing
The dynamics of a court hearing for temporary restraining order change dramatically once there are children involved. Typically, this is a situation where the mother wants a restraining order against the father. Courts are a little more skeptical of granting restraining orders when children are involved.
For one thing, fathers have a parental relationship with their children that cannot be severed as easily as a relationship to a spouse or girlfriend.
A temporary restraining order hearing involving a child can also be abused in an attempt to influence custody proceedings in a divorce. So you just have to expect judges to be more critical of restraining order requests that would separate parents from their children.
Looking at an example from Virginia
Virginia provides a good example of how a temporary restraining order hearing can work. Virginia grants three types of what it calls “protective orders.” The first is an emergency protective order, which expires after three days.
An abuse victim can go directly to a court or magistrate and immediately get an emergency protective order without the other side having any say in the matter. At an emergency protective order hearing, the victim just has to say they are in danger and the order can be granted. Then, if the victim wants to extend the protection, the victim will have to go back for a short temporary restraining order hearing.
At that hearing, the person the restraining order would be against is allowed to show up and challenge the order. The court can grant a preliminary protective order that lasts up to 15 days.
The final step in getting a long term protective order for up to two years is a full temporary restraining order hearing that both sides have a full chance to prepare for.