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No one plans for their marriage or relationship to end with a restraining order. However, in some cases this is truly the safest and best choice for all parties. Many people wish to get a permanent restraining order against their former significant other. While this is possible, it is not common.
Restraining orders can be issued for a variety of reasons. In general, the courts will award a restraining order if there is reasonable evidence that the defendant poses a threat to you. In most cases, a restraining order is given after a person has already shown a pattern of abuse or harassment that is likely to occur again. A restraining order is an attempt to stop the defendant from further harassing or harming their victim.
In most cases, restraining orders will forbid the defendant from approaching the victim either in person, by phone, by electronic communication, or by any other means. They are also often forbidden from going to the person’s workplace and home. Many restraining orders stipulate that the defendant must remain a certain distance from their alleged victim at all times. Unlike criminal actions, a restraining order is not a conviction and does not stay on their criminal record or show up on a criminal background check. They are intended to prevent a crime rather than punishing one.
Restraining orders are not awarded based on evidence that is beyond a reasonable doubt. Rather they depend on what the court calls a balance of probabilities, the likelihood that this will occur again. The victim also must show a “subjectively reasonable” level of fear. Most restraining orders are temporary because most couples stop having violent interactions with time. The standard of evidence for a permanent restraining order is thus higher. In general, permanent restraining orders are likely to be ordered when the victim shows the following evidence:
- That the abuser has made violent threats and followed through on them in the past.
- That the threats are occurring at the same rate or even increasing, suggesting that a cooling off period will not be sufficient.
- That the abuser has continued this pattern of behavior despite being asked repeatedly by the woman, her friends and family, police, and/or courts to stop their behavior.
If these demands have been met, courts are more likely to order a permanent restraining order. However, many courts still prefer to begin with a temporary restraining order and see if the abuser changes their behavior.
It is important to remember that a restraining order is not protection in and of itself. Many abusive people will choose to ignore the restraining order. This can escalate quickly if allowed to continue. People who have a restraining order against another person should not approach them or communicate with them in any way. They should report all infractions against the restraining to law enforcement as soon as possible. They should also make efforts to safeguard their personal security and safety as much as possible. Dangerous people are not always deterred by a restraining order.
If you are awarded only a temporary restraining order, you may still be able to get a permanent one in the future. You should continue to document and report the aggressor if they act in a harassing or violent manner or break the terms of the order. This will show judges that they are an ongoing threat and are unlikely to stop harassing or threatening you in the future. No one should have to live in fear of harm from a former loved one. A permanent restraining order may be an important step in taking back control of your life.