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How to File for a Restraining Order

a person filling out a restraining order

Filing for a restraining order in Illinois involves getting a petition from a circuit court either online or in person and filling it out with as many specific details as possible. You submit it to the court, and if it is approved, arrange for papers to be served to your spouse. You must attend a full court hearing at a later date to get a restraining order (order of protection) that remains in effect for up to two years. These are the basics of how to file for a restraining order.

a person filling out a restraining order

How Does an Order of Protection Work in Illinois?

In Illinois, an order of protection is one form of a restraining order. The aim of the order is to provide protection from an abusive spouse or others who threaten your safety.

The people who can get an order of protection include anyone being abused by a relative or household member and adults with disabilities who are being abused, neglected, or exploited by relatives or household members.

Parents can file for protection orders for both themselves and their minor children. Minors can also file on their own, but getting the order of protection is harder when the minor files against a parent or guardian. If you have children and are divorcing an abusive spouse, your child custody lawyer or divorce attorney can advise you on filing the order.

What Situations Can Lead to a Protective Order?

You can get an order of protection in cases of domestic violence. The abuse can be physical, for example, sexual, choking, punching, tying up, and keeping you awake against your will.

Harassment, such as your spouse creating a disturbance at your workplace, applies, too. Your spouse constantly following you places or calling you at work counts as harassment as well. If your spouse keeps or hides your child from you or threatens to kidnap your child, this could be harassment as well.

Domestic violence also covers intimidation of dependents if you are dependent on your spouse because of your disability, health, age, or other factors. In these cases, an abusive spouse may make you witness physical force, restraint, or other horrors he or she takes against other people.

Willful deprivation might more accurately describe your situation if you are disabled or elderly, and your spouse intentionally denies you medication, food, medical care, or other essentials.

Spouses could interfere with your personal liberty by not allowing you to do things you have every right to do, or forcing you to do things you do not want to do. They interfere by means of threats, actual violent behavior, deprivation, harassment, or intimidation.

An order of protection can lead to your spouse-abuser being denied parenting time. Judges do this if they believe respondents are likely to or already have concealed your child from you, abused the child during visitation, put the child in danger, or acted in ways contrary to the child’s best interests.

In some cases, your spouse might still get parenting time under a restraining order. You have the option to refuse this time if your spouse arrives and is drunk or under the influence of drugs and threatens your or your child’s safety. You can also deny parenting time if your spouse shows up sober but is acting abusively or violently.

How to File for a Restraining Order Against a Spouse

To file for a restraining order against a spouse, you follow five general steps. Your divorce attorney can be a great help as you navigate the process.

1. Request a Petition From a Circuit Court

The order should be filed with the court where the domestic violence or abuse occurred or where the abuser lives.

If you live with your spouse and are asking to retain possession of your home while your spouse leaves, you typically file in the county where the home is. Exceptions exist if you’ve escaped to a different county to protect yourself. In these cases, you can file in a county adjacent to your home county where the house is. Your case would eventually have to be transferred to the home county.

You can download the forms you need online. Some county courts, such as Cook County, even offer online programs that help you navigate the paperwork online. You print out the completed documents and bring them to the right courthouse. (This type of help is not available for stalking and civil no-contact orders, but you can still get the forms online and print them).

If you are filing in Cook County, you can also get help in person at Chicago’s Domestic Violence Courthouse and in suburban municipal districts 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Advocates for sexual assault programs and domestic violence shelters can help. A divorce lawyer is a tremendous asset in such situations as well.

Illinois also has a Domestic Violence Help Line. It is toll-free, operates 24 hours a day, and offers multilingual assistance. Staffers can answer questions and provide referrals to advocates and other people who can assist you.

It helps to bring a picture of your spouse so that servers can identify him or her when serving the order. It’s also beneficial to bring information about whether your spouse owns guns and if so, details on the guns and your spouse’s use of them, your spouse’s car description and license plate number, and addresses for your spouse’s home and workplace.

2. Fill Out the Petition (The Paperwork)

You are the petitioner and your spouse-abuser is the respondent. Be as specific as possible and describe the most recent violent occurrence. Use language such as threatening, biting, slapping, punching, grabbing, or choking, if it applies. Include dates, times, and locations.

You must include your address, but can request that it be confidential. The same principle applies to disclosing the schools your children attend. Shelters usually have post office boxes in addition to street addresses, so you could give the P.O. box instead.

Remember that your Chicago family lawyer can help with this step and others, as can domestic violence advocates.

3. Give the Petition to the Court Clerk and Answer Any Questions a Judge Has During the Review

You might need to sign the paperwork in front of the court clerk for notary purposes. A judge reviews your filing and may have questions. The judge could issue an emergency order and set a court hearing date for the full order (called a plenary order).

4. Avoid Serving the Papers Yourself

Under no circumstances should you attempt to serve the restraining order papers to your spouse. Your lawyer, domestic violence advocate, or court clerk can give you information on serving. For example, law enforcement officials can serve respondents.

The service of process may require your spouse to surrender a child, firearms, or the house. The papers include notice of the hearing date and details on the order of protection. Your spouse must be served before he or she can be arrested for violating the order’s terms.

5. Attend the Hearing to Keep a Valid Restraining Order

Show up to the hearing, or your emergency or interim order will be canceled. You’ll need to start from scratch if you want a new order, and getting it may be harder.

Consult with your divorce attorney about what to expect from the hearing and how to prepare. If your spouse fails to show, the judge can still grant the plenary order, although he or she might opt to set another hearing date.

If the judge grants the order that day, get a copy of it, look it over, and ask the judge any questions you may have. Sometimes, judges grant orders another day, so ensure you get your temporary order extended if that is the case.

How Do I Know What Type of Protective Order to Request?

Illinois has three types of orders of protection: emergency, plenary, and interim. An emergency order is what you get for 14 to 21 days to start with, while a plenary order of protection is more permanent.

A judge grants the plenary type of order after a hearing, in which you (the petitioner) must be present and the respondent (your spouse) has the opportunity to make a case. Your spouse does not have to attend, though, and the order will likely be granted if he or she does not. Plenary orders can remain in effect for two years.

An interim order of protection lasts for up to 30 days after respondents have been served or officials have tried to serve them.

Illinois has a domestic violence order of protection, a sexual assault civil no-contact order, and a stalking no-contact order. In cases of divorcing an abusive spouse or seeking protection from an abusive spouse, the domestic violence order of protection likely applies.

As many as 18 remedies are possible in the process of how to file for a restraining order. They include the judge ordering your spouse to pay financial support, giving you exclusive possession of the home, and requiring your spouse to stay away from you.

Uncontested divorce lawyer Denise Erlich is passionate about helping divorcing couples in the greater Chicagoland area transition to their new life as seamlessly as possible. Ms. Erlich patiently guides her clients through every step of the divorce process and provides clients with candid advice about their case and legal options, so they can make informed decisions about their future.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
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