restraining order can provide necessary protection if you feel threatened by someone, but
you may not know how to obtain one. The process can be daunting if you
have no familiarity with the legal system, but there is help available.
Here are some basic things you should know about restraining orders.
Types of Restraining Orders
Before you can file for a restraining order, you should know the differences
between the different orders available in Rhode Island. Each order is
used in a different situation, so knowing the difference can help you
understand which you need to file for.
Emergency Order: An emergency order can be requested if you need immediate protection and
the courts are closed. It is issued by the local police department, who
will contact a judge on your behalf to approve it. These orders will only
last until the next business day, and can be issued without the abuser
being present for the issuing, which is known as ex parte. On the next
business day, you will have to go to the court to petition for a temporary
Temporary Order: A temporary order is appropriate if you are filing for a restraining order
during normal operating hours for court. A judge will issue this type
of order if they believe that you are in immediate danger of severe injury,
loss, or damage. This type of order will typically last 3 weeks, and is
meant to protect you until your formal court hearing. It can be extended
if your court date is adjourned past the limit. This is also an ex parte order.
Final Order: A final order will be issued at the court hearing after a temporary order
has been issued. This hearing allows the alleged abuser to present their
defense and prove their side of the story. If your abuser doesn’t
appear at the hearing, your order can still be granted, provided the other
party was provided proper notice of the hearing. These orders can last
up to three years, and may be extended later if you can prove that the
extension is necessary.
Which Court Do I Go To?
Depending on your relationship to your
abuser, the court you petition for a restraining order will differ. Family courts
are used when the abuser is a spouse or ex-spouse, a family member, or
a current or ex-partner with whom you have a child. Family court also
handles restraining orders involving juveniles. The district court will
issue restraining orders if the abuser is a roommate or a current or ex-boyfriend
or girlfriend that you dated for a significant period of time within the
last year, but do not have a child with. Superior court handles restraining
orders involving former friends, landlords, neighbors, or anyone else,
such as a stalker.
How Do I Get a Restraining Order?
In Rhode Island, there is a process to obtain a restraining order, or protection
order. After you have determined which court your will need to file with,
you can begin your petition. If you are filing during court hours, you
will first be granted a temporary order. If court is closed, you will
be granted an emergency order, and will have to petition for a temporary
order as soon as court opens again.
Step 1. Get the Necessary Forms. In order to file your petition, you will have to obtain and complete the
correct forms. Go to the family or district court for the county where
you live, and request the necessary forms from the clerk. If you need
immediate protection, ask for a temporary ex parte restraining order,
which can be issued the same day. Your abuser doesn’t have to be
present or forewarned to petition for a restraining order, but the order
isn’t valid until they are served with the order, either by a police
officer or legal server.
Step 2. Complete the Forms. You can find support to fill out these forms from a number of sources,
but the clerks are not allowed to provide assistance or legal advice.
All they can do is tell you which boxes to complete. Many women’s
shelters offer help, or your attorney can guide you. In the space provided
to explain your reason for seeking an order, outline the most recent events
and clearly describe incidents of violence with specific language. Use
words such as slapping, hitting, grabbing, yelling, and other similar
terms to illustrate your story. If possible, include dates and locations
of each event. You may have to provide a valid address and a physical
description of the defendant for the order to be served. Wait until you
have shown the forms to the court clerk to sign them. These forms will
need to be notarized and signed in the presence of court personnel.
3. Wait for Review. A judge will review your application that day. Once you have completed
your application, bring it to the clerk for signing, and they will forward
it to the judge. You may be asked questions while the judge reviews your
case, and then make the decision on whether to issue a temporary order
or not, based on your complaint. If it is decided that you or your child
is in immediate danger, a temporary order will be granted and a court
date will be scheduled for a final hearing. Keep a copy of your temporary
order with you at all times until your final hearing.
4. Serve the Order. Once granted, the order must be served to your abuser to be considered
valid. They will also receive notice of the hearing and a copy of your
initial complaint. A deputy sheriff must serve the order for free, or
you may hire a certified constable to serve the order. Once it has been
served, they will send a “return of service” form to you and
the court to prove that the defendant was notified appropriately of the
order. You may want to follow up with the individual who served your order
before the court date, if you do not receive the return of service notice.
Never serve your abuser the order yourself. If your abuser is a minor,
their guardian or parents must also be served.
If the individual tasked with serving the restraining order has been unable
to do so, despite diligent effort, the court may order an alternate method, such as:
- Sending the orders by certified and regular mail to the defendant’s
work and last known address
- Leaving copies of the papers at the defendant’s home with a person
of suitable age and discretion
- Publication in a newspaper for two consecutive weeks
The judge may set a new date and extend the temporary restraining order
as required to ensure that all possible methods of service are exhausted
before the final court date.
5. Attend Your Hearing. If you fail to appear at your hearing, your restraining order will expire
and you will no longer be protected. If your abuser fails to appear, the
judge may still grant you a final restraining order or reschedule the
hearing. If the defendant was properly served and the return of service
form was received by the court, it is likely that your order will be granted.
If your abuser does attend the hearing, you will be required to prove your
relationship to them, by demonstrating the length of time you have been
dating, the type of relationship you had, and how often you interacted
with each other. You may need to provide evidence such as love letters,
witness statements, or photographs. This is especially important if the
defendant denies your relationship. An experienced family law attorney
will know what to collect as evidence and how to present your story to
the court through the entire process of obtaining a restraining order.
If you need help gaining protection, get in touch with our
Rhode Island family law attorneys. Our caring team has the experience to support you during this difficult
time, and we can help you present your story in a compelling way to win
the court’s support.
Contact TJC ESQ today to schedule a
consultation with our firm and begin your case.