Rhode Island Restraining Orders: Frequently Asked Questions

Restraining Orders can be difficult to navigate.  Today’s blog answers questions that are frequently asked by clients represented by the Restraining Order Lawyers at Abilheira Law.

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 I am the plaintiff and believe that the defendant violated the restraining order?

If you believe that the defendant violated your 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, so that you may show it to the police.

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.

Do I need to hire a Rhode Island restraining order lawyer to help me with a restraining order?

It is important to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side during this difficult time, whether you are a plaintiff seeking a restraining order or a defendant fighting a restraining order.  The Restraining Order Attorneys at Abilheira Law are experienced in handling these complex cases and have your best interest in mind. If you are in need of help, contact Abilheira Law today for a free and confidential consultation.