What Is an Order of Protection?

An order of protection (also referred to as an OP) is type of restraining order issued by a court that’s designed to primarily protect people from domestic violence.  To file an order of protection you must be related to, have lived with, or been in a romantic relationship with the other person.  However there are exceptions for stalking and sexual assault and no relationship is required between the parties in those instances.  If you do not meet these requirements but still feel that you need protection you may be entitled to a restraining order instead of an order of protection.  An order of protection orders one person not to have contact of any kind—including contact via emails, phone calls, text messages, social media, or in person another person for a period of 1 year.

Who needs an order of protection?

If you are being hurt, threatened or harassed by a relative or significant other, you may need an order of protection to help keep that person away from you.

What happens if someone violates an order of protection?

If someone violates an order of protection, you have the right to notify the police, who can then arrest that person. Violations constitute contempt and carry up to 10 days in jail per violation. Although rare, a violation can be charged as a crime under some circumstances—not contempt—and carry up to 11 months and 29 days in jail.

How do I request an order of protection?

It is best to hire an attorney before you file for the order of protection.  However in the event that you cannot wait as you need immediate protection, you can go to the Court Clerk or magistrate in the county where the problems occurred and file for an order of protection.

After you file for an order of protection, a judge or magistrate will review your request. If the judge finds there is probable cause, he or she will issue an ex parte order of protection that’s valid for 15 days. The ex parte order will be served on the other person, telling him or her not to have any contact, direct or indirect, with you until your hearing. Keep in mind, the ex parte order is not the final order. It’s only meant to protect you until your initial hearing.

If you’re granted an order of protection, it will be effective for one year and can be renewed for an additional year, but you must prove that the order needs to stay in place.

How do orders of protection affect child custody?

And order of protection can seriously impact child custody matters. For example, one parent will name his or her children as a protected party, which means the other parent may not be allowed to see his or her children for up to a year.

See our Orders of Protection page for more info.

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