Rhode Island Restraining Order Attorney

If you find yourself in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship, there are options to protect yourself. The Restraining Order lawyers at Abilheira Law can help you navigate through the process of securing a restraining order to ensure your safety. In the meantime, answers to frequently asked questions regarding restraining orders can be found below.

What is a restraining order in Rhode Island?

A restraining order is a civil court order, issued by a judge, that offers protection from domestic violence, harassment, and stalking.

How can a restraining order help me?

If you get a restraining order in Rhode Island District Court, the judge can order the defendant to:

  • Stop contacting you, assaulting you, harassing you, or interfering with you in any way at home, on the street, or elsewhere;
  • Leave the household immediately if you live together, unless the defendant is sole owner or legal tenant of the home;
  • Hand over any firearms in his/her possession to the authorities and forbid him/her from buying or possessing firearms.

If you get a restraining order in Rhode Island Family Court, the judge can:

  • Order the defendant to stop contacting you, assaulting you, harassing you, or interfering with you in any way at home, on the street, or elsewhere;
  • Order the defendant to vacate the household immediately if you live together, even if the defendant is the sole owner/tenant of the home;
  • Award you temporary custody of any minor children;
  • Order the defendant to pay child support for up to 90 days;
  • Order the defendant to hand over any firearms in his/her possession to the authorities and forbid him/her from buying or possessing firearms.

In which court do I file for a restraining order?

The first step in seeking a restraining order is determining which court will have jurisdiction over your case. The answer to this question is two-fold. First, you must determine the appropriate court. Second, you must determine the appropriate county.

Step 1: Which Court?
In Rhode Island, restraining orders are handled by three different courts: District Court, Family Court, and Superior Court. Where you will file your restraining order will depend on the relationship you have with the defendant.

Family Court
To file a restraining order in Rhode Island Family Court, the plaintiff (person seeking the order) and the defendant must be related. This includes:

  • spouses or former spouses
  • parents or step-parents
  • children or step-children
  • someone with whom the plaintiff has a child in common
    others related by blood or marriage

The Family Court also has jurisdiction over juveniles. Therefore, the Family Court will hear restraining orders in cases where
the two parties are juveniles and have been in a “significant dating relationship” for the past year.

District Court
The District Court has jurisdiction over restraining orders where the parties are both adults who have lived together within the past 3 years and are not related by blood or marriage and do not have a child in common. This would include those adults in dating relationships and those without romantic ties, like roommates.

Superior Court
All other restraining orders not within the jurisdiction of the Family Court or District Court are handled in Superior Court.

Step 2:Which County?
You should file for a restraining order in the county where you live. The counties include: Providence, Bristol, Kent, Washington, and Newport. Please note that Bristol County is encompassed with Providence County.

Providence Family Court/ District Court
1 Dorrance Street, Providence, RI 02903

Providence Superior Court
250 Benefit Street, Providence, RI 02903

Kent County
222 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886

Washington County
4800 Tower Hill Road, Wakefield, RI 02879

Newport County
45 Washington Square, Newport, RI 02840

How do I file for a restraining order?

When you arrive at the courthouse, you should go to the Clerk’s Office. Make sure to go to the proper clerk- Family Court, District Court, or Superior Court. The clerk will give you all the necessary paperwork to fill out.

The first document you will need to fill out is called a “complaint.” On the complaint, you will be the plaintiff/petitioner and the person you are seeking the order against will be the defendant/ respondent, depending on whether you are in district court or family court. Be sure to have an address and phone number for the defendant, as notice to them is required.

As part of the paperwork, you will also be required to fill out an affidavit. An affidavit is a sworn written statement.
In your affidavit you should be truthful and as detailed as possible. List all incidents of violence, threats, harassment, and/or stalking.
Be specific when describing what occurred and try to include dates. Be sure to tell the judge why you need the courts protection.

After your paperwork is complete, the Clerk will bring you and your paperwork to a judge. The judge will review your affidavit to see if there are grounds for a restraining order. The judge may also ask you questions. The judge will likely issue a temporary restraining order that will remain in effect for 21 days. The judge will also set a date for a hearing for the final order, which will be held within 21 days.

What kind of restraining order can I get?

There are three different kinds of restraining orders in Rhode Island.

1) Temporary Restraining Order or TRO.
A temporary restraining order is the usual route for obtaining a restraining order and follows the process explained above. The purpose of a TRO is to providence emergency, but short term protection until a full court hearing. Again, a TRO will only last up to 21 days. After 21 days, you will be required to have a full hearing to extend the order.

2) Emergency or Ex-Parte Restraining Order.
These restraining orders are handled at a local police department, when the courts are closed, at night, on weekends, and on holidays. The police department will call a judge who will usually grant the order over the phone. Because these restraining orders are only granted in true emergencies, the defendant is not notified. For that reason, the order will expire at the end of the next business day, when you will have to go to court and file the necessary paperwork for a TRO.

3) Final order.
The final order is granted after a full hearing and typically lasts for 1 to 3 years.

What kind of notice is given to the defendant?

Because a restraining order is not valid unless the defendant has been notified, a sheriff from the court will “serve” the defendant after the issuance of a temporary restraining order. They will receive a copy of the paperwork you filed to receive a restraining order, including the complaint and affidavit. The defendant will also be notified of the hearing date.

What will happen at the hearing?

A full hearing will be held within 21 days of the issuance of the temporary restraining order. This will give both the plaintiff (the person seeking the restraining order) and the defendant an opportunity to testify and/or present evidence or other witnesses on their behalf.

It is advantageous for both parties to have an attorney to represent them at this stage of the proceeding. The plaintiff
will have the burden of proof and must prove to the judge that they need the continued protection of a restraining order. The defendant, who could face jail time for a violation, will obviously try to fight against the order.

Do I have to go to the restraining order hearing?

If you are the plaintiff and you do not appear at the hearing (or if you arrive late) the judge will dismiss the restraining order. You will lose the protection of the restraining order because you were not there to “prosecute” it.

If you are the defendant and you do not appear, the restraining order will likely become final. You will forfeit your right to be heard by the judge and the right to challenge the restraining order.

What happens if the defendant violates a restraining order?

The violation of a restraining order is a misdemeanor and the defendant could face up to a year in jail, fines of up to $1,000, and domestic violence counseling.

What should I do if the defendant violates a restraining order?

If the defendant violates the restraining order, you should call 911 immediately. Tell the officers you have a restraining order and the defendant is violating it. It is advisable to keep a copy of your restraining order with you at all times including in your home, workplace, and vehicle. Provide a copy to the police if there is a violation.

Can I extend a restraining order?

To extend your order, you must go back to the court that issued your restraining order before the current order expires and file a renewal petition. This will be similar to the paperwork you filled out initially, but you will need to state a reason why the order should
be extended. You will be given a hearing date. After a full hearing, the judge may extend the restraining order for any period of time that the judge believes is necessary to protect you. It is possible to renew an order more than once.

Can I retract or remove a restraining order?

A plaintiff may ask the court to remove a restraining order. Before a restraining order is removed, the judge will need to hear compelling evidence as to why it should be removed. Judges fear that abusers will force their victims to go to court and ask for the
orders to be removed only to be harmed again in the future. The judge must be satisfied that you are seeking the removal on your own free will and have not been forced to ask that the order be removed.

Do I need a restraining order if I already have a no-contact order?

At first glance a no-contact order (NCO) and a restraining order may look the same, but they are actually quite different. A no-contact order is issued in a criminal case and will remain in effect for as long as the case is pending. Therefore, it will end as soon as the criminal case ends- whether by a guilty plea, trial, or acquittal. Therefore, these orders could be very short lived, or could last for some time. Generally, a restraining order will last longer than a NCO. In addition, a no-contact order will not cover minor children, like a restraining order will. If there are children involved in the relationship who are not covered under the NCO, you may consider applying for a restraining order on behalf of the children. Furthermore, a restraining order can offer additional means of protection
that a no-contact does not, like vacating the home and relinquishing firearms. For these reasons, even if you have a NCO, you may wish to get a restraining order as a longer lasting, more expansive layer of protection.

Should I contact a Restraining Order Lawyer?

It is important to have knowledgeable attorney on your side during this difficult time. You want to ensure that you are adequately represented at the hearing phase. The RI Restraining Order Attorneys at Abilheira Law are experienced in handling these complex cases and have your safety in mind. If you are in need of help, contact Abilheira Law today for a free and confidential consultation, 401-245-5100.