What is a Restraining Order?

A restraining order-sometimes called a protective order-is a court order that
makes it illegal for the abuser to:

  • harm you
  • come near you
  • contact you in any way

Sometimes, restraining orders can also protect your children or other
people who live in your home.

The specific details about what a restraining order can and cannot do depend
on the laws of each state. In most states, though, violation of a restraining
order is a crime
. Because of this, a restraining order can be a powerful tool.
If you have one, you don’t have to wait until you are actually hurt or threatened
before calling the police; you can call the police as soon as the abuser violates
any part of the order, including coming near you or contacting you in any way.
The police should respond more quickly to your call for help when you have a
restraining order.

Who can Qualify for a Restraining Order?

In order to qualify for a domestic violence restraining order, you must have
a “domestic” relationship with the abuser. Every state has its own
rules for what qualifies as a domestic relationship. But, in almost every state,
you will qualify if the abuser is someone:

  • You’re married to
  • You used to be married to
  • You live with
  • You used to live with
  • You have a child or children with
  • In your immediate family

In some states, other relationships qualify, including people who are:

  • Dating
  • Involved in a sexual or intimate relationship
  • Engaged to be married
  • Extended family members
  • Related by marriage or adoption
  • Related through the foster care system

Because the laws are different in every state, it is important to find out
who qualifies for domestic violence restraining orders in your state. You can
find out your state’s law by going to their website or contacting Break the
Cycle for help.