Domestic abuse is a serious and even life-threatening situation—and there are legal remedies to help survivors protect themselves, their children, and their property as they make the brave decision to escape an abusive situation and begin moving forward with their lives. One of the most important tools available to victims of domestic abuse is the restraining order.

Acts of physical violence are themselves criminal offenses subject to prosecution in Rhode Island. While emotional and verbal abuse are not defined as crimes under Rhode Island law, they are recognized as common features of abusive situations and relationships and often recognized as “harassment”, which if it is significant and prolonged may rise to a level sufficient to receive a protective order.. Financial abuse—the withholding of or control over a partner’s financial or material resources—is another feature of abusive situations, but is not a form of abuse which would allow a party to seek a restraining order.

A request for a restraining order may be filed for at any Rhode Island court—Superior, District and Family. If you are married, in a substantive dating relationship or there are children are involved, you must file in the Family Court. The Family Court can issue temporary and emergency orders related to visitation and child support, but they are only temporary in nature, lasting no longer than 6 months

A restraining order can require an abuser to cease abusive behavior, to avoid all contact with the protected party, to vacate a shared household, and/or to surrender firearms licenses and weapons. As mentioned above, Family courts can award emergency child custody and support money to the protected party. Violating a restraining order is a crime; a protected person should immediately call police if a violation occurs.

Restraining orders can be issued against more than just spouses or partners. Protective orders can also be issued against, blood relatives, former or current relatives by marriage, and current or former household members. You should consult with the Court Domestic Abuse Advocates to make sure your file your request in the appropriate Court.

In order to file for a restraining order in Rhode Island, someone experiencing abuse must submit a sworn affidavit describing recent abuse, and any past incidents that establish a pattern of abuse, to a court. This should be done as soon as possible following an abusive incident. Emergency orders may be sought at any police station after business hours and on weekends and the police can generally, and at least temporarily assist to protect a victim.

There is no filing fee for restraining orders, nor will you be charged for certified copies from the court. While it is not necessary to have a lawyer, it is highly recommended. A skilled family lawyer is familiar with the filing process and can request an order specifically tailored to your situation. Moreover, as an abuser may have a lawyer of his or her own, obtaining a lawyer before filing for a protective order helps prepare for legal challenges.

Our lawyers have years of experience in filing for restraining orders in Rhode Island and many other facets of family law practice. Call today to discuss your situation and how we can best help you.