Courts issue restraining orders to protect victims from being further abused or harassed, and for this reason, they are taken very seriously. Once a restraining order has been issued, it is fairly difficult to have it removed. Two parties can attempt to have a restraining order removed before it expires: the plaintiff and the respondent. While it is more difficult for the respondent (the alleged abuser) to try to remove a restraining order, it can also be challenging for the plaintiff; even if she requests that the restraining order be removed early, the decision is ultimately up to the judge's discretion.
- Skill level:
Allow a temporary restraining order to expire. In the restraining order process, once a plaintiff has filed an application for a restraining order, she has the option to file for an immediate, temporary restraining order to protect her in the two to three weeks until the court can hear both sides of the story. Then, at the hearing, the judge will decide whether to extend the temporary restraining order into a permanent one.
If the plaintiff decides not to pursue the restraining order, she may simply allow the temporary restraining order to expire and not appear in court.
Once a permanent restraining order has been issued, the plaintiff may request that it be removed early by filing a motion to dismiss. Once the motion is filed, the court will set a date for a hearing. At the hearing, the plaintiff must demonstrate to the judge that he is no longer in immediate, ongoing need of protection from the defendant. However, the judge may choose not to remove the restraining order early if she feels the plaintiff is still in danger or is being coerced into dropping the restraining order.
The respondent may also file a motion to dismiss the restraining order. Here, the process varies by state; in many states, the restraining order must have been in place for a certain amount of time---in some areas, as much as a year---before he is allowed to contest it. Again, the court will set a date for a hearing, and both parties will have the opportunity to re-present their cases. The respondent must demonstrate that the plaintiff is not in need of protection from him. The most successful cases employ evidence, such as witness testimony or written communication. Because it is very difficult for a respondent to have a restraining order removed early, legal assistance is recommended.
Tips and warnings
- Violating a restraining order is a serious offence, and you may be arrested on the spot for any violation. Be careful to follow every article of a restraining order until it is removed. The plaintiff does not have the authority to allow the respondent to violate any portion of the restraining order.
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