Restraining Orders - General
What is a Restraining Order?
- "Restraining Orders," (also called "Relief from Abuse Orders" in Vermont, and "Domestic Violence Protective Orders" in New Hampshire), are court orders, issued by a judge, that require one person to do or not do certain things, such as to stop abusing, to stay away from and/or to not contact another person.
- The person asking the court for the order is the plaintiff and the person they are asking to be protected from is the defendant.
- Restraining orders may also include other court orders, such as an order for the defendant to move out of the home if the two people live together, or an order that temporary custody of the children be granted to the plaintiff.
- When you file a request for a restraining order, you will be asked to write an "affidavit" in which you explain in your own words why you are requesting the order, such as what the defendant has done and why you feel you are in danger. If the order is granted, the defendant will be able to read your affidavit. However, other paperwork including your contact information, will and should remain confidential.
- A short-term restraining order (such as an Emergency or Temporary Order) may be issued by a judge without hearing from both parties (this is called "ex parte"). However, to grant a restraining order that lasts for a long time (usually up to a year), a judge will need to hear from both parties at a hearing in Family Court.
- Generally, you do not need an attorney to file a request for a Temporary or Emergency Restraining Order, however you may wish to consult an attorney prior to the hearing for a Permanent Order. (Visit the "Need a Lawyer?" page for more information.)
- If the court grants a restraining order against the defendant, the defendant will not have a criminal record (or if they already have one, this will not be added to it.) HOWEVER, if the defendant violates the restraining order, that is a crime and may appear on records.
- Only the defendant can violate the restraining order. If they do, it is up to you to report that violation to the police in the city or town where the violation occurred. It is the responsibility of the defendant to follow all the requirements of an order. If you have applied for and been granted a restraining order, it is not possible for YOU to do something in violation of the order (such as contacting the defendant or a member of his family). It IS a crime if the defendant violates the order (by contacting you, coming to your home or work, etc.)
Restraining Orders vs. Police Reports
Asking the court for a restraining order is not the same as reporting a crime to the police. Restraining orders are 'civil', not criminal, because they are issued by a civil court to temporarily protect someone, not to launch a criminal investigation.
- For a helpful overview of the difference between the civil and criminal legal systems, click here.
How to Ask the Court for a Restraining Order
Restraining orders, if granted, are "Full Faith and Credit" which means they are good in every state, and any police department can help enforce them. In general, you should request a restraining order in the town where you live, or if you have gone to another town to escape the abuse, you may request it there.
- For more information on New Hampshire Protective Orders, click here.
- For more information on Vermont Relief from Abuse Orders, click here.
How WISE Can Help
A WISE Advocate can help you decide what the best next step is for you to be safe. It is up to you whether you want to ask the court for a restraining order. WISE will not pressure or require clients to get restraining orders or to make police reports.
If you decide to ask the court for a restraining order, a WISE Advocate may be able to go with you or to help you fill out the necessary paperwork. Call the WISE Crisis Line (1-866-348-9483) any time for more information.
As you look through the pages of this section, please keep in mind:
Internet Safety: There are many ways for an abuser to track your computer or internet use. In many cases, it may be safer to use a computer that your abuser has never had access to, such as a computer in a public library, community technology center, or at the home of a trusted friend. To learn more about protecting yourself while using the internet, visit the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence Internet Safety Page.
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