Does It Cost Money to File a Restraining Order?
Reviewed by Carina Jenkins, J.D.
If you're experiencing abuse, harassment or other types of harm at the hands of another person, filing a restraining order can provide vital protection. However, many people worry about the potential costs of filing a restraining order and are unsure whether they need a lawyer to represent them.
So, does it cost money to file a restraining order? This guide covers everything you need to know about the potential costs involved.
A restraining order — also known as an order of protection — protects a person from abuse, threatening behavior or harassment by restricting another person's activities. The person protected by the restraining order is referred to as the "protected person," while the other person is known as the "restrained person." Sometimes, the order extends to the protected person's family and friends.
If someone successfully files a restraining order, it can have severe consequences for the restrained person. Often, the person cannot own a gun while the order is in effect, and it can significantly restrict the person's movements and activities. Violating the terms of a restraining order can result in a fine or jail sentence.
A restraining order can contain several parts.
A personal conduct order prevents the restricted person from carrying out various acts against the protected person. For example, the court may order the restricted person to stop messaging or calling the protected person.
A stay-away order requires the restricted person to remain a certain physical distance from the protected person at all times. These provisions mean that even in a public place, the restrained party can't be near the protected person. If both parties are in the same place, the restrained party may need to leave or face legal consequences.
Typically, a stay-away order also prevents the restricted person from coming within a specific distance of the protected person's home. However, it could also limit proximity to the person's workplace, vehicle and other places they frequently attend.
A residence exclusion, also known as a "kick out" or "move out" order, requires the restricted person to vacate their usual residence. Residence exclusions only apply when the restricted person lives with the protected person, usually in domestic violence or elder abuse cases.
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You usually won't need to pay to file an emergency restraining order. For example, a restraining order is generally free if you need it to protect you from an immediate threat of abuse or another harmful act. Sometimes, police officers attending domestic violence incidents request an emergency protection order on behalf of the victim.
If you don't qualify for an emergency restraining order, you'll usually need to file a temporary or permanent restraining order. How much these restraining orders cost depends on the reasons for requesting the order and the rules where you live. Many courts will waive restraining order costs if the case involves domestic violence, stalking or elder abuse. If the court doesn't waive the fees, you'll usually pay between $100 and $400.
Sometimes, people filing restraining orders are responsible for paying court reporter or stenographer fees. Costs vary, but you should expect to pay between $5 and $10 per page if fees apply in your case.
You can file a restraining order without legal representation. However, it's often best to hire an attorney to represent you if your case involves children or you believe the person you wish to protect yourself from will contest your application.
Some attorneys offer a free or low-cost consultation, while others do consultations at their regular hourly rate. After that, they will usually charge by the hour to advise you or represent you in court.
Generally, attorneys charge between $90 and $500 per hour, although going rates vary depending on where you live. You should expect your lawyer to spend between five and 10 hours working on your case, so hiring an attorney to file a restraining order usually costs between $450 and $5,000 in total.
You may end up paying higher legal costs if you need to alter the restraining order at a later date. For example, nullifying or extending the order usually requires additional time in court, so you'll need to pay your lawyer for extra hours if you want them to represent you.
However, there are legal aid groups and lawyers willing to handle some restraining orders for little or no cost. These pro bono services are more likely to be offered to people who have experienced domestic violence or elder abuse.
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