It’s a nightmare no one wants to find themselves in: They’ve been the subject of someone else’s unhealthy obsession, they’re the victim of sexual assault, or they’re the victim of domestic abuse. These situations can cause enormous stress and fear, and sometimes they overlap. The first step toward regaining a sense of safety and security is to get a restraining order, also known as a protection order. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is a Restraining Order?
A restraining order is an order signed by a judge that requires someone who is harming someone else to stop abusing them, or they will face serious legal consequences. These types of orders are used in the following situations:
- Stalking. Stalking is when someone causes another person to feel fear for their safety due to the person’s actions. Several actions can be considered stalking: Following the victim, threatening them, vandalizing the victim’s property or harming their pets, excessive contact (including by phone or digital messaging), or spreading personal information about the victim. The stalker can be someone the victim knows, or it can be a stranger.
- Sexual assault. Sexual assault refers to any nonconsensual sexual act. That includes situations where the victim doesn’t have the capacity to consent.
- Domestic abuse. Domestic abuse involves the victim fearing physical and emotional harm done by the perpetrator. In Tennessee, the people who can be charged with domestic abuse are the following. Note that this includes all genders and sexual identification.
- A spouse or ex-spouse
- Someone you are or were dating, had/have a sexual relationship with, or live/lived with
- Anyone related by blood or adoption
- Anyone related by marriage or used to be related by marriage
There are two types of restraining orders: Temporary and extended. Temporary is the first step and is often treated as an emergency situation in which someone’s safety needs to be assured while the case is sorted out legally. In Tennessee, a temporary restraining order last 15 days or until the hearing for the extended protection order.
An extended restraining order extends the temporary order for up to one year with possible one-year extensions. But suppose the plaintiff is convicted of a felony against the victim, including assault or sexual assault, false imprisonment, or kidnapping. In that case, there’s the potential to get a lifetime order of protection.
What Protections Does a Temporary Restraining Order Provide Me?
There are several. A temporary restraining order can require the abuser or stalker to:
- Not go anywhere near the victim. That means both physically and in terms of any form of contact, including indirect contact (using mutual friends or other family members to pass on messages).
- Immediately leave any shared living space.
- Give the victim custody of any pets that belonged to anyone in the household.
- Order cell phone companies to move the victim and any children off the account of the person judged to be abusive or stalking at the expense of that person.
What Protections Does an Extended Restraining Order Provide Me?
It provides all the same protections as the temporary order, and in addition, it can require the abuser or stalker to:
- Move out of the home or, if the plaintiff is the sole owner or renter of the home, they must provide suitable housing for the victim. If the plaintiff is not the sole owner or renter, they can be ordered to leave, and the victim would retain the housing.
- Give up custody (temporarily) to any children shared with the victim.
- Provide financial support to the victim if the couple was married or to any children if they were not.
- Attend counseling programs focused on violence and control issues and/or substance abuse, if that’s part of the problem.
- Relinquish all firearms to a third party who can if they wish sell or dispose of the firearms in a legal manner. The plaintiff is not allowed to possess firearms while the restraining order is in effect.
Should I Hire An Attorney to Help Me Apply for a Restraining Order?
Filing for a restraining order is something that you can try to do on your own. But like many legal procedures, it’s bureaucratic and involves complicated paperwork which, if improperly filled out, could cause the restraining order to be denied. Because this is such a stressful, emotional event, having someone with professional experience could help you avoid making untimely errors. A knowledgeable attorney can also advise you as to how to answer the various questions on the forms to provide the details the judge will need to make a determination.
What Is the Process for Getting a Restraining Order?
First you need to file the paperwork. Note: The paperwork will ask for your address. If you need to keep that confidential, be sure to let the clerk know, as they may have methods for not letting that information inadvertently be given to the plaintiff.
Once the request is filed with the clerk, it will be assigned to a judge, who may have questions for you. If you’ve requested a temporary order, there will be an ex parte hearing for the judge to decide if the temporary order is merited.
A hearing will be scheduled at which both sides will be allowed to provide testimony. The plaintiff will be served with a notice of the hearing. When the hearing date arrives, you must attend; otherwise, the judge can let your temporary order expire without renewing it for a more extended period. The judge will use the testimony at the hearing to determine whether the extended order is needed.
What Should I Do if I Need a Restraining Order?
Call me at 615-970-6448 to request a no-obligation case evaluation as soon as possible. I have extensive experience working with people who need restraining orders. I understand the process, but I also understand how stressful this situation is. I’ll be an advocate for you in your time of need and work with you to get you back on the path to safety and security.