Domestic Violence How to Get a Domestic Violence Restraining Order

A domestic violence restraining order or a protection order is available to a victim of abuse from a family member or someone close. These are the general steps to take in most jurisdictions.

First Step: Domestic Violence Prevention Forms

To get a domestic violence restraining order or a "protection order", you must fill out domestic violence prevention forms. You can get these forms from the following places:
  • The Family Court Clerk's office in your city
  • Court websites in your area
  • State Judicial Branch websites

Are there any filing fees for a domestic violence restraining order?

There are no filing fees for Domestic Violence restraining orders. However, be sure that you clearly describe how domestic violence was involved because there are fees for civil harassment restraining orders where violence is not involved. You will want to make it clear that you are filing for a domestic violence restraining order.

Once a TRO (temporary restraining order) is filed and approved, you will need the restraining order served on the abuser. You should not serve the papers yourself. If you would like the sheriff to serve your forms for you for free, you also need to fill out the following applications and forms:
The Court Clerk will give a copy of the papers to the appropriate law enforcement department if you have requested that they serve the person you want protection from. You must be able to provide them with an address (home or work) so the person you want restrained can be served. In addition to the sheriff, these forms can also be served by someone you know or a process server. A "process server" is a professional person who is hired to serve the court forms for a person involved in a lawsuit and a fee will be involved.

Is there anything I should do after the order is served?

Yes, file the Proof of Service form with the court. This shows the judge and police that the temporary restraining order was served with and that the restrained person now has a copy of the restraining order. The server will give you a Proof of Service form that they fill out after they server the person being restrained. You should make 2 copies when you get them and take them to the clerk's office before the hearing. The clerk will file one and give you a stamped copy to take with you to your hearing.

What will happen in court?

When the court date arrives for the hearing regarding your application to obtain a domestic violence restraining order, you will appear before a judge to tell your story about what happened. Your abuser is usually not allowed to be present when you testify before the judge. You may bring a lawyer to this hearing and a support person and a witness if you have any or you may appear alone. Your abuser will also have an opportunity to tell the judge what happened between you. The judge will decide whether to make the temporary restraining order permanent and how long it will last and under what conditions. If the judge finds no grounds for the domestic violence restraining order, the restraining order will be dismissed.

What if I don't appear?

If you decide not to make an appearance on the court date and have not rescheduled the case, the clerk will make the attempt to contact you by phone or may even send a certified letter. If you do not call or contact the court, the domestic violence restraining order will be automatically dismissed.

What if the accused abuser does not appear?

The judge will either continue the domestic violence restraining order until the abuser can appear before the court or enter a final order if there is proof that he or she was served with the Domestic Violence Restraining Order Notice to Appear. The police or sheriff's office should also have proof of service.

What happens after the court hearing?

You will be given a copy of the permanent domestic violence restraining order if the judge should grant one. You should carry this with you all the time. If your abuser violates the domestic violence restraining order, call the police and show them the order when they arrive. If you lose your domestic violence restraining order, you can request another copy from the court. It is a good idea to make copies and keep them in different places or provide one to someone responsible. This would include at your work place, apartment complex or home, your child's school, in the glove compartment of your car, etc.

What about criminal charges?

Any act of domestic violence is a crime, but a temporary restraining order does not, by itself, give the abuser a criminal record and usually begins as a civil order. Criminal allegations and charges are usually filed first at your local police department, not with the court. Most states will give you a year to file criminal charges for domestic violence after an incident. However, the police are obligated to file charges on their own if they find any signs of physical injury or that of a weapon being used against you.
Divorce & Family Law
Temporary Restraining Order
About author
Michael Wechsler
Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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