A temporary restraining order (TRO) or temporary protective order is a court order signed by a judge that requires someone to stop harming or stalking you. Depending on the state where you live, it may be called an injuction, order of protection, or something similar.
To obtain a TRO against someone who is abusing you, it is not necessary to have a domestic violence case pending in court. In most states, if you are subject to domestic violence, threats of domestic violence, or stalking, you may apply for legal protection.
If you are being physically or emotionally abused, threatened, stalked, harassed, or subject to other acts of violence, a TRO can help to keep the abuser away from you. After the judge signs the order and the abuser is notified of it, the abuser is restrained from all contact with you, your children, and other family members. The order will also extend to places such as your home, your workplace, your car, and your children’s school or childcare facility. If the abuser violates the order, you can ask the police or the court to enforce it by reiterating the requirement to keep away or by putting the abuser in jail.
Typically, you may seek a domestic violence restraining order against a current or former spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, domestic partner or civil union partner, or any relative. If the person who is hurting, threatening, or harassing you does not fit into one of the covered categories, you may be able to get another kind of temporary protective order, such as a “civil harassment” order. Your local court can help you determine the proper forms to file.
You must file your TRO petition in your county court. Many counties offer detailed online information about TROs, plus free downloadable forms, so you may want to begin your search for information at the county court’s website. You can also visit the court clerk’s office in person to get the forms and ask questions about the process. Some courts have self-help centers with staff trained to help you prepare and file your forms.
When you complete the forms, you will have to explain in detail what has happened and why you need the restraining order. Sometimes, a judge will want to ask you a few questions before signing the order. Include enough detail to let the judge know why the order is necessary, while also trying to keep it as short as possible, and make sure your explanations are clear and to the point.
Usually, there is no charge to file a petition for a domestic violence restraining order.
To learn more about how the law can help protect you from domestic violence, see our section on Domestic Violence & Divorce.