Restraining orders during the Coronavirus: What you need to know.

Stephanie Cortes
 | 
Many courthouses across the country remain closed, leading some victims of domestic abuse feeling powerless and hopeless.
 
Fortunately, for those seeking protection from abusers, there is help still available in these situations.
 
Here’s what you need to know.
 
Can I get a restraining order now?
 
Although  many courts have closed their buildings, they remain open virtually. Courts have continued to respond to abuse during the pandemic by issuing temporary restraining orders virtually.
 
If you are being physically abused, call the police. If law enforcement is called, the abuser may be arrested. Law enforcement may offer the victim an emergency protective order that is effective for three days. This will protect victims and provide them with suffiencient time to request a domestic violence restraining order through the court.
 
A victim may also file an ex-parte application with the court. The application request that the court grant you a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) without serving the other party due to an emergency. If the court grants the ex-parte application, they can order the abuser to move out of the home, even while the TRO is pending.

Generally a hearing is scheduled within 21 days that the TRO has been issued. In the hearing, which may be virtual or in person depending on the state you live in, the judge will determine if the permanent restraining order should be granted.

How do I know if my court is open?
 
You may find contact information for local courts in your state at WomensLaw’s Courthouse Locations section.
 
You may also find your court address and contact information on your case documents if you have initial orders in place.
 
If you are unable to reach anyone by phone, you can look on your state’s court website and the National Center for State Courts website. They may provide you with updates on how your court is responding to new COVID-19 policies or reopening information.
 
 
Will I have to appear in person?
 
It depends on your courthouse.

As courts begin reopening with new precautions in place, they will begin scheduling hearings for more cases.  

You may find out what court appearances are available by calling your local courthouse or your attorney (if you have one). Additionally, filing locations and hours may have changed with the new COVID-19 precautions in place. Some courthouses may also provide online filing options.
 
Once courts reopen, you will likely be required to attend the hearing in-person.
 
If you cannot attend court in person once they begin reopening, there may be some options available to attend your court hearings remotely or attend a hearing on a future date.
  • You may request for a continuance to change a current hearing date to a date in the future.
  •  You may be able to phone into your hearing.  Some courts may provide you with a phone number to call into your hearings if you are unable to attend.
 How can I go to court if I test positive for Covid-19?
 
If you test positive for COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms, it is suggested by WomensLaw to:
  • Call your doctor and ask to email you a letter immediately that documents your symptoms. It is important to ask your doctor to document that they do not recommend that you attend your court hearing due to your illness.
  • Contact the court clerk where your case is located to inform them about your situation and request an adjournment.
  • Ask the clerk for an email address where you may send the doctor’s note as proof that you are sick and unable to attend.
  • If you are unable to contact the court because you are not well enough, you may have someone else reach out to the court for you.
  • After your send the court your doctor’s letter, it is suggested to follow up with the clerk to make sure your documentation was received and that it was sent to the judge including the other party or their attorney.
The court should postpone your case for a future you date and provide you with time to recover and reduce the COVID-19 spread to other individuals going to court.

I have a temporary order. Can I get a final one?

Some courts have extended Temporary Restraining Orders until they reopen.  

Others are mailing letters to individuals about their cases.

A few courts are informing the public about court statuses by issuing statewide notices.

WomensLaw says, “You may or you may not receive notice from the court about an extension. You should not assume that your order is extended unless you have received a letter that says this, or unless your state has issued a statewide notice about restraining orders.”

Call the court for further guidance on how to extend or maintain your current restraining order. You may find the court’s contact information on your court documentation you received after your initial order was granted. You may also find court information by looking on your courthouse’s website page.

If your order has been violated or if you are in danger, call the police. Law enforcement will generally arrest an individual who violates a protection order or remove them from their home.

When do I need a lawyer?

If you are experiencing abuse, LawChamps attorneys can help you obtain a restraining order. Attorneys at LawChamps can help you file a restraining order application at the court where you reside and assist in filing out the proper court documents and represent your interests in court.
If you are served with a restraining order against you, and you feel it doesn’t have any merit, it is important to defend yourself.

If a restraining order is granted against you, you may be prohibited from contacting and seeing your children. The orders may also negatively impact your living situations, divorce/separation proceedings, and more. A LawChamps family law or criminal defense attorney may represent you in court and ensure your receive a fair hearing in front of the judge.
 
This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.

 
 
 

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