A restraining order—also known as a protective order, a stay away order of protection, or an order of protection—is an order from the court requiring spouses in the divorce process (or other intimate partners) not to come within a specified distance of the other spouse, not to harass the other spouse, and not to contact the other spouse by phone, e-mail, text, or otherwise. A protective order may also order the spouse against whom it is issued not to carry a firearm—even if the spouse is licensed to do so.
Under some circumstances a court may issue an ex parte (pronounced x-par-tay) temporary protective order that is in effect for a certain number of days. An ex parte protective order is issued in an emergency situation without notice to the other spouse and an opportunity for the other spouse (and the spouse’s lawyer) to respond to the application for a protective order. When the spouse or intimate partner is served with the ex parte temporary protective order it will include notice of the hearing date on which the court will consider the application for the more permanent or full order of protection.
Laws regarding protective orders and the circumstances under which they may be issued vary from state to state but are generally based on proof of family or dating violence, domestic abuse, stalking, harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual assault. These laws are usually located in a state’s statutes—often in the family code or domestic relations code.