What is a Protective Order?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 13 March 2020
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A protective order restricts the contact between individuals. It is believed that the existence of such orders can help reduce violence and fear. They are often sought in instances where a person has been threatened, sexually abused, or is a victim of domestic violence. The person who requests the order is referred to as the petitioner. A respondent is a person that the protective order is issued against.

A person may be motivated to a get a protective order for a number of reasons. For example, she may have been a victim of crime or she may fear becoming a victim. It is important to note that obtaining a protective order is a civil procedure.

No crimes need to have been committed for a person to obtain an order of protection. A person only needs to fear that there is a threat of physical harm. If crimes are committed, a person does not have to press charges to obtain an order of protection. If she does press charges, those will be handled by a criminal court.


A protective order can give law enforcement the power to assist a person in situations where she would otherwise be powerless. For example, the wording in such an order may include the prohibition of harassment. Normally, if a person drives past another person's workplace screaming profanities, there is little, if anything, a police officer can do. If there is an order of protection in place, however, this is likely to be a violation that could lead to criminal charges.

Many people falsely believe that the terms of a protective order are fixed. A judge generally has the authority to outline and to modify the conditions. The order can restrict direct contact, such as calling and visiting. It can also restrict indirect contact, such as sending messages by third parties.

Furthermore, the order can allow certain types of contact for certain reasons. For example, a boss may be allowed to communicate with an employee during business hours for business purposes even if she has an active protective order against him. A judge may also include conditions that are not directly related to contact between the two parties. For example, a person may be ordered to seek counseling.

A protective order can issued to protect a person of any age. If the person who needs protection is under the age of 18, a guardian must file for it on behalf of the minor. The respondent of such an order can generally be any age.

Protective orders do not usually remain in effect forever, but in theory they could. A judge has the authority to decide the length for which the order is necessary. If the order is set to expire and a petitioner believes that there is further need, she can generally renew it.



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