Restraining orders prohibit a person from carrying out a specific action, particularly contacting or approaching a specified individual. While it is designed to protect, if you’re on the receiving end of a restraining order, you may feel unsure and confused about how to proceed.
A restraining order is a serious business, and your ability to win and defend against it will depend on what you do next after being served with the order. If you’re not careful, you may face arrest and jail time.
For instance, if you violate a restraining order in California, it’s considered a misdemeanor offense if done once. However, if you breach the order more than once, it becomes a felony offense that’s punishable by up to three years of imprisonment and over USD$1,000 penalty fines.
In this article, we’re sharing the necessary steps to take if you’re served with a restraining order.
- Don’t Panic
When you’re served with a restraining order, it’s normal to feel angry, confused, and hurt, especially if you think it’s unfair. It may be tempting to reach out to the other party to make amends, but this is not a smart move since you’re under a restraining order in the first place.
In this case, it’s important to stay calm and not panic. Do not reach out to the other party. Then, follow the next steps carefully.
- Carefully Read The Restraining Order And Follow The Instructions
Once you’ve calmed down, you need to sit back and carefully read its content. This way, you’ll know what you’re legally allowed to do and not to do, so you don’t violate it. If you violate the order, it can make it more difficult to fight it.
The document should also contain the court hearing schedule and response papers needed. It also tells you the allegations made against you, including evidence. Lastly, the document should include your rights, for instance, to present evidence, have an attorney present, and be notified of the hearing.
- Consult A Lawyer
In general, you don’t need to get a lawyer to fight a restraining order since you can represent yourself. However, it’s best if you consult an experienced attorney. Look for lawyers specializing in divorce or family law since they’ve seen their fair share of restraining orders.
You’ll need to review the order with your lawyer and go over the evidence and allegations against you. Only then can your lawyer help develop your defense and represent you in court.
- Respond To The Order
Most retraining orders will need a response from you. If you’re not sure how to respond, your lawyer can help you here. This is another reason why you should hire an experienced lawyer to represent you.
Your response should be detailed and submitted on time to prevent further harming your case, which an experienced lawyer can help you with.
- Obtain And Organize Documents And Evidence
The next thing you need to do is to start obtaining the necessary evidence and documents. Whether on your own or with your lawyer, gather any physical evidence related to any events or incidents that the petition refers to.
You should also gather any records or documents that could relate to the case, including emails, letters, phone records, and others that might show where you were during the incident. It’s also important to gather witnesses who can provide information about the incidents, petitioners, or accusations.
During the hearing, the petitioner will need to prove their allegations. The evidence and documents you gather may help disprove or discredit the petitioner’s allegations.
- Attend The Hearing
In general, you’re not required to appear at the court hearing. However, if you don’t go, the court may issue a permanent order. After all, that hearing might be your only chance to tell your side of the story, question the petitioner regarding the allegations, and present evidence.
In addition, there are a lot of things that will be discussed during the hearing, especially if the judge is issuing a permanent restraining order. These may include:
- Child visitation and custody
- Prohibition on possessing firearms
- An order to pay the petitioner’s mortgage, rent, child support, or household bills
- Order the custody and care of family pets
- Temporary possession of assets to the petitioners
Restraining orders, even temporary ones, shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even if you think the allegations are false or the order was unfair, following the above steps can help guide you through the process and safeguard you against potential violations that may result in criminal charges.