What good is a restraining order anyway?

Nov 13, 2013, 5:07 PM

In light of Tuesday’s sad news in Phoenix that an estranged husband killed his wife, his daughter and the wife’s brother and then himself, many are probably wondering whether a restraining order is really worth the paper it is written on. Here is the lawyer’s answer — maybe.

Here in Arizona, a restraining order is also called an “Order of Protection” or an “Injunction Against Harassment Order.”

The process is fairly easy to initially obtain one. The petitioner goes to court, fills out an application, is put under oath and then explains to a judge why the order should be issued. A majority of the time, the judge grants the application and issues the order.

The order is not effective until served though. Once it is served, the respondent is entitled to a hearing within 10 days. If a hearing is requested, the parties must appear before the judge and argue. If they do not appear, they lose. If the order is served, not challenged or upheld, then it is effective for one year.

The order is just a piece of paper. It does not come with a bodyguard, a gun or a taser. It is simply a piece of paper. Some argue it is worthless and has no teeth since it cannot really protect someone. That is a valid argument and I suggest to you that there really is no alternative. It all depends on the parties involved.

If the respondent is a somewhat sensible person, they will follow the order. If they do not follow the order they can face felony harassment and/or stalking charges which could include significant prison time.

In my experience, there are two types of cases where a restraining order is involved: Those involving reasonable people who simply lost control and those involving unreasonable persons who are power hungry extremists. In the former, the order can help keep the peace and calm everyone down until enough time has passed for cooler heads to prevail. But in the latter, the petitioners should protect themselves in additional ways such as moving residences, workplaces, obtaining new phone numbers, taking self-defense classes, and/or carrying a taser or mace. Or both. If someone is bent on hurting you, a piece of paper probably will not stop them. That is the reality.

So my answer above remains the same. A restraining order may help the parties and prevent violence or it may not. It really depends on the types of persons involved. In my opinion, as long as it is not being used for vindictive purposes to hurt someone or keep them from their children (without good and just cause) then just leave it in place. It may not have a lot of teeth but it may, at least, make an impression.

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What good is a restraining order anyway?