Valid Reasons for a Restraining Order: When and Why to File

A restraining order can be a lifesaver in many situations, but knowing when to file one is essential. 

This article explores the valid reasons for a restraining order and how to navigate the legal system to protect yourself or your loved ones.

What is a Restraining Order?

restraining order is a court order that prohibits one person from contacting, harassing, or coming near another person. 

It is a legal tool used to protect individuals from harm, harassment, or abuse by someone they fear or who has harmed them.

Understanding the Five Most Common Types of Restraining Orders

There are different restraining orders, each with specific criteria and conditions that need to be met. 

Understanding the different types of restraining orders is essential for anyone who needs legal protection from abuse.

1. Emergency Restraining Order

An emergency restraining order is a legal document issued by a court that prohibits someone from contacting or approaching another person for a specific period of time. 

It is typically issued when there is a credible and imminent threat of harm or danger to the person seeking protection. 

Emergency restraining orders are meant to provide immediate protection to the person seeking the order and are issued without a hearing or notice to the person being restrained. 

They are typically temporary, lasting only 14 to 21 days or until a hearing can be held to determine if a longer-term restraining order is necessary.

2. Temporary Restraining Order

Temporary restraining orders (TROs) are short-term, pre-trial injunctions that last until a hearing on whether or not to grant a preliminary injunction. 

To obtain a TRO, one party must show that they will suffer immediate irreparable injury unless the order is issued. TROs expire after 14 days unless extended for another 14 days or longer by the party against whom the order is directed.

Temporary restraining orders (TRO) are often used in a divorce case to protect one or both parties from harm or harassment during the divorce proceedings. 

Here are three examples of situations where a TRO may be used in a divorce:

  • Personal safety: If one spouse has a history of domestic violence or threatening behavior, the other spouse can seek a TRO to prohibit the abusive spouse from contacting them, coming near them, or engaging in any other conduct that may put them at risk of harm.

  • Child custody: If there are concerns about the safety or well-being of a child, a TRO can be used to restrict one parent’s contact with the child until a custody hearing can be held to determine the child’s best interests.

  • Property protection: If one spouse fears that the other may try to sell, transfer, or dispose of marital property during the divorce, they can seek a TRO to prevent the other spouse from doing so until the property division is settled.

3. No-Contact Restraining Order

A no-contact restraining order is a type of court order that prohibits a person from having any contact with another person, either directly or indirectly, for a specified period of time. 

This type of restraining order is often used in cases of domestic violence, harassment, stalking, or other forms of threatening behavior.

No-contact restraining orders are often used in cases where an ex-partner is harassing someone. 

If the victim feels threatened or unsafe, they can seek a no-contact restraining order to prohibit the ex-partner from contacting them in any way, including through phone calls, emails, text messages, social media, or in person. 

The restraining order would require the ex-partner to stay away from the victim’s home, workplace, and other locations where the victim is known to frequent. 

4. Domestic Violence Restraining Order

A domestic violence restraining order is a type of court order that prohibits a person who has committed domestic violence from contacting or coming near the victim for a specified period of time. 

This type of restraining order is used to protect victims of domestic violence from further harm and to prevent the abuser from continuing their abusive behavior.

In my practice, it is common for a domestic violence restraining order to be used when someone has been physically or emotionally abused by their intimate partner. 

The victim can seek a domestic violence restraining order to prohibit the abuser from contacting them through phone calls, emails, text messages, social media, or in person. 

The restraining order will also require the abuser to move out of the victim’s home, stay away from their workplace, and refrain from any other behavior that might put the victim at risk of harm. 

What Are Valid Reasons For Requesting a Restraining Order

There are several valid reasons for obtaining a restraining order. Some of the most common reasons include the following:

  • Causing or attempting to cause the victim physical injury.

  • Sexually assaulting the victim.

  • Molesting, attacking, using force against, or striking the victim.

  • Causing the victim to fear that they or another person is in danger of immediate, serious physical injury.

  • Threatening or harassing the individual in person or through phone calls, emails, or other methods.
  • Destroying the victim’s personal property.

  • Disturbing the victim’s peace, such as through coercive control.

  • Controlling, regulating, or monitoring the victim’s movement, communication, activities, and finances.

  • Isolating the victim from their friends, family, or other sources of support.

  • Depriving the individual of their basic needs.

  • Stalking the victim.

What Can You Typically Ask For In a Restraining Order? 

In a restraining order, you can typically ask for various forms of relief, depending on your situation. Some of the most common things that can be requested in a restraining order include the following:

  • No contact: This prohibits the abuser from contacting you directly or through a third party.

  • Stay away: This requires the abuser to stay away from you, your home, your workplace, and any other locations that you frequent.

  • Move out: This requires the abuser to move out of your shared home.

  • No communication: This prohibits the abuser from communicating with the victim through various means of communication, such as phone, email, postal mail, text messages, online chat, and any other forms of communication.

  • Custody and visitation: This can restrict or limit the abuser’s contact with any children involved.

  • Surrender weapons: This requires the abuser to surrender any weapons they own.

  • Counseling: This can require the abuser to attend counseling or therapy sessions to address their behavior.

  • Financial support: This can include child support, alimony, reimbursement for damages, or any other types of relief deemed necessary by the court.

  • Selling property: This prohibits the abuser from selling any marital property without the court’s permission.

  • Moving the children: This prohibits a parent from taking the children out of state or the court’s jurisdiction without the court’s permission. 

How to Obtain a Temporary Restraining Order

The process of obtaining a temporary restraining order (TRO) can vary depending on your state but generally involves the following steps:

1. File an Application for The Restraining Order.

The first step is to file an application with the court requesting an emergency restraining order. This is done in person at the courthouse or a police station, depending on the jurisdiction.

An application for an emergency restraining order typically includes the following information:

  • Your personal information: This includes your name, address, and phone number.

  • Information about the abuser: This includes the abuser’s name, address, and phone number if known.

  • Description of the abuse: You will need to provide a detailed description of the abuse you have experienced, including specific incidents, dates, and locations, if possible.

  • Evidence of the abuse: This can include police reports, medical records, photographs, witness statements, or any other documentation that supports your claims.

  • Information about any pending legal proceedings: If there are any pending legal proceedings, such as a divorce or custody dispute, you should provide information about these proceedings.

  • Requests for relief: You must specify what kind of relief you seek, such as an order prohibiting the abuser from contacting you or requiring the abuser to move out of the shared home.

  • Any other relevant information: You may also want to include any additional relevant information, such as whether the abuser has access to weapons or has a history of substance abuse.

  • Provide evidence: You must provide evidence to support your request for an emergency restraining order, such as a police report or testimony from witnesses.

  • Court review of the application: The court will review your petition and evidence to determine whether to grant the emergency restraining order. This should occur the same day you file the petition; if granted, the order will be effective immediately.

  • Serve the order on the abuser: If the emergency restraining order is granted, the abuser must be served with a copy of the order, either by a law enforcement officer or a process server.

It’s important to note that emergency restraining orders are typically temporary and are designed to provide immediate protection in urgent situations. 

In most cases, there will be a later hearing to determine whether to grant a permanent restraining order, which can offer a longer-term protection.

Real-Life Example From Missouri

Over the years, I have had several clients who have been physically and emotionally abused by their partners.

I always counsel them to seek an emergency restraining order after their partner threatens to harm them and their children. I tell them to go to the courthouse and apply for an emergency restraining order.

In our jurisdiction, the court reviews the application on the day it is filed and determines if sufficient evidence exists to grant the emergency restraining order. 

In most cases, as long as the complaint shows a credible threat, the court will issue the emergency restraining order, which prohibits the abuser from contacting the victim and requires the abuser to move out of their shared home. 

Once the order is granted, a copy of the order is given to law enforcement and entered into a statewide computerized system that law enforcement use.  

Law enforcement will serve a copy of the order and the petition on the abuser. The order is valid and enforceable even before it is served on the abuser. 

The order will include a court date for the hearing on the full order of protection. 

In Missouri, an ex parte order of protection will expire after 15 days.

A hearing is held within 15 days to determine if a full protection order should be ordered. If a full order of protection is ordered, it will be valid for at least 180 days and up to a year. 

What Are The Consequences of Violating a Restraining Order

If someone violates a restraining order, there can be severe consequences. Violating a restraining order can result in criminal penalties such as fines, probation, or even jail time. 


Q. Can I get a restraining order against someone who has not yet threatened me?

A. No, you cannot obtain a restraining order against someone who has not threatened you. To get a restraining order, you must show that you have been a victim of abuse, harassment, or violence.

Q. Can a restraining order be extended?

A. Yes, a restraining order can be extended if the court finds that protection is still needed.

Q. What should I do if someone violates a restraining order against me?

If someone violates a restraining order against you, you should contact the police immediately. Violating a restraining order is a crime, and the police can arrest the violator.


In conclusion, restraining orders are vital to protect victims of abuse, harassment, and violence. 

If you are a victim of any of these crimes, seeking help and protection through the legal system is important. Remember that there are valid reasons for obtaining a restraining order and that the consequences of violating a restraining order can be severe.

If you or a loved one is experiencing or has experienced any form of domestic violence or abuse, you can also reach out to the domestic violence hotline in the United States. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE). This hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and is confidential and free of charge. You can also visit their website at for additional resources and information.

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Tim McDuffey is a practicing attorney in the State of Missouri. Tim is a licensed member of the Missouri Bar and Missouri Bar Association.

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