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Obtaining a Domestic Violence Restraining Order

Legal action is never pleasant, but should you identify yourself as being harassed, stalked, followed, threatened, etc., obtaining a restraining order is imperative to ceasing the inappropriate behavior on the part of the stalker- and for your peace of mind and protection.

A petition for a domestic violence restraining order is obtainable by going to the county courthouse Family Law division and paying about $5 for the forms. The forms take a long time to fill out, as you will need to repeat a great deal of information from form to form. Although the forms can be filled out fairly easily without the assistance of a paralegal, the facilitator's office is generally a great place to start should questions or concerns arise. If possible, use as many dates and details as possible and outline explicitly the behavior on the part of the offending party which concerns you the most.

After you fill out the forms, you will need to take them back to the Family Law division and file them. The clerk will stamp a case number on the forms and will tell you when you may return to obtain the restraining order. The period of time is generally a few hours during which a judge reviews your petition. When you return a few hours later, a court official will call your name and hand you several copies of your restraining order if it has been granted. This is a temporary restraining order, but it is an order. It is important to follow the directions carefully and to take copies of the restraining order to said law enforcement agencies. You will have a choice of having a law enforcement officer serve the defendant with the restraining order or with having an impartial third party serve the order, but this order 1) must be personally served and 2) cannot be served by you or by anyone else listed as protected under the order. It is my suggestion that you opt to have a law enforcement officer serve the papers, as it is the first statement you are making to the defendant that you recognize their behavior as both inappropriate and illegal and will continue to pursue legal action if necessary. You can opt to be notified when the defendant is served with the papers, but generally it takes about 48 hours at the most.

Although it is deeply unpleasant, the restraining order has been stamped with a court date as well. At this point, you will need to go into court and state your reasons for why you need a permanent order restraining the defendant from contact with you and you will need to face the defendant in court. This is generally where most victims become fearful and drop their case against their stalkers (as did I the first time I obtained a temporary restraining order against my stalker). If I can stress anything, it would be that if you have desperate cause to have petitioned for protection, you will receive it- and you need it.

Once the judge grants the permanent restraining order, it is a shield- not a weapon. Go talk to a victim advocate at the county's District Attorney's office for safety planning or contact one of the organizations I have links to for some sort of safety planning. Continue to keep a diary of anything which you feel is perpetrated by the restrained person- note and report everything in this journal. Many stalkers will try to harass their victims immediately after they obtain the restraining order to "show them they haven't been defeated" via hang up calls, anonymous letters, etc. . Make reports to the police immediately. It was the style of my stalker to make numerous hang up calls. After reporting these to my local sheriff's service center, I obtained a set of phone traps which recorded my stalker's home telephone lines and were forwarded to the D.A.'s office for evidence in her prosecution.

Be constant. Record and report everything, no matter how trivial it may seem at the time. Make sure your local law enforcement agencies have a copy of the restraining order on hand and make sure you carry a copy of it with you at all times. I would suggest you carry a copy in your wallet and one in your vehicle.

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Additional Resources

N.O.V.A- National Organization for Victim Assistance. A national advocate in support of victim's rights.
National Victim Center. This site advocates for victims of all crimes, however it has some excellent basic information for stalking victims.