What is a restraining order?
A Restraining Order is an Order of the Court that prohibits an individual from doing certain things, usually contacting the protected party in any way. Restraining Orders can include additional prohibitions and can impose other restrictions on the individual, including protection of their children. In Connecticut, a person seeking a restraining order, called the applicant or plaintiff, can apply to the Court to issue a Restraining Order against the person claimed to be assaulting, threatening, abusing, harassing, following, or stalking the applicant. Civil Restraining Orders are often issued in domestic violence cases.
Civil Restraining Orders can be imposed on the following individuals:
- Spouse or former spouse
- Relatives, including parents and children
- Current or former roommates
- Your child’s parent, regardless of whether you lived together or were married
- Someone with whom you are or were dating
- A caretaker of an elderly individual (over the age of 60)
What happens if a Restraining Order is entered against you?
If a Restraining Order is entered against you, you must not assault, threaten, abuse, harass follow, or stalk the protected party.
If the judge enters a no-contact Order, you must not have contact with the protected party in any way. The Order can prohibit you from communicating with the protected party by phone, email or through third parties.
What else can a judge Order you to do or not do?
When someone applies for a Restraining Order, the applicant can request that the Court order you to abide by certain conditions. These conditions are known as Orders of Maintenance. Orders of Maintenance last for 120 days from the date they are issued or until a judge enters new orders. Orders of Maintenance can be requested when the other party is your spouse, the parent of your minor child or children and/or your roommate.
Orders of Maintenance can require you to give the applicant access to:
- a vehicle
- a checkbook
- documentation of health, automobile, or homeowner’s insurance
- identification documents such as an ID or passport
Orders of Maintenance can also prohibit you from:
- shutting off utilities for the home
- cancelling or changing health, automobile, or homeowner’s insurance
- selling, hiding or disposing of property
- failing to pay rent, mortgage payments, or utilities
- failing to provide financial support for children.
Make sure you understand what you can and can’t do; you must follow the Court’s Order. If you have any questions about the conditions set by the Court, contact an attorney or call the civil clerk’s office at the courthouse where the Order was issued.
What should you do if you are served with notice of a Restraining Order hearing?
If you are served with notice of a Restraining Order hearing, it is important to know that even before there is a hearing for the Restraining Order Application, the Court may have issued a temporary Restraining Order, often referred to as a TRO. This temporary Order goes into effect the day the original paperwork was filed and will remain in effect until the hearing. This means that even though the permanent Restraining Order has not been granted yet, you must abide by the conditions set by the Court until your hearing.
- If you violate any of the terms of the TRO after being given notice of the hearing, you face criminal charges. Violation of a Restraining Order is a serious offense and is considered a class D Felony.
Regardless of whether the Court has issued a TRO, once someone applies for a Restraining Order, the Court will set a court date for a hearing on the Restraining Order Application within 7-14 days after you are served.
- If you own firearms, the hearing will be within 7 days after you are served;
- If you do not own any firearms, the hearing will be within 14 days.
The application will notify you of the location, date and time of the hearing.
If you are served with a Restraining Order, you should contact an attorney to determine what effect this will have on you and how to best address it.
What happens when you go to Court?
When you get to the courthouse, you and the applicant will likely be required to meet separately with a Family Relations representative before the hearing. The Family Relations representative will determine whether an agreement can be reached between the parties so that a hearing will not be necessary. If an agreement cannot be reached, the Family Relations representative will make a recommendation to the judge about whether a Restraining Order should be issued and if so, what conditions should be imposed.
What happens at the hearing?
At the hearing for the Restraining Order Application, the judge will listen to all evidence and arguments from each party, their attorneys and any witnesses. The judge will also receive input from the Family Relations representative.
The judge considers all factors and input from each party, but it is ultimately the judge’s decision whether or not to grant the Restraining Order.
If the Restraining Order is granted, you and the protected party will be given a copy. The Court will then notify the police departments where you live and where the protected party lives. If you have children who are part of the Restraining Order, their school or daycare will also receive notice of the Restraining Order.
How can I prepare for my hearing?
The applicant will most likely bring witnesses and/or documents to the hearing that support his/her application for a Restraining Order.
Some of these documents include:
- text messages
- phone recordings
- medical records
You should also preserve and gather evidence that supports your position. It is important to get as much information together as you can that helps you demonstrate to the judge that you are not a threat or a risk of danger to the applicant. The more information you are able to provide, the stronger your case.
If you think that there are witnesses who can provide information that will help you defend yourself against the allegations in the Restraining Order Application, you should bring them with you to Court. If you are concerned that they will not appear in Court on their own, you can have your attorney coordinate with a marshal to serve them with a subpoena (a subpoena is a document that requires a party to come to Court at a particular time).
Your attorney can work with you to collect necessary documents, interview potential witnesses and help you prepare for your hearing. Your attorney will make sure you understand the restrictions you may face and how to avoid or mitigate them. In some cases, your lawyer and the applicant’s lawyer can talk to each other and may be able to come to an agreement prior to the hearing.
What if the protected party tries to contact you after a Restraining Order has been granted?
Contact your attorney immediately! Any contact or communication with the protected party may be a direct violation of the Court’s Orders. Violation of a Restraining Order is considered a serious crime. Even if the protected party wants to have contact with you or says he or she has changed his or her mind about the Restraining Order, the Order cannot be changed without the Court’s approval. If either party wishes to modify the Restraining Order, he or she can file a motion to modify and schedule a hearing.
If the protected party tries to contact you in any way, tell your attorney immediately and make sure to save all communication, whether they are text messages, phone messages or emails.
What happens if you are charged with Violating a Restraining Order?
Violation of a Restraining Order is a serious offense. It is a Class D Felony and anyone found guilty of this crime faces fines, probation and/or imprisonment.
Do Restraining Orders extend to other States?
Yes. If you are granted a Restraining Order in one state, it will be recognized and enforced in another state.
Can a Restraining Order be modified?
Yes. As referenced earlier, either party can request that the Restraining Order be modified. Contact your attorney to file a motion to modify or dismiss the Restraining Order. You will likely have to go back to Court and the judge will make sure that there is no longer a threat to the protected party’s safety; the judge may grant the modification if he or she finds that both parties are in agreement and/or that there is no longer a threat or risk of danger to the protected party.