“Restraining orders” themselves are not available in family court. However, there is an option to get an order in family court called a protection order, which is essentially the equivalent of what you might think of as a restraining order – only you don't have to go through the criminal justice system to get it.
A protection order can protect you if you are concerned that you are at risk of family violence. You can also seek a protection order on somebody else's behalf if they are at risk of family violence—this may include children. Family violence doesn't necessarily just include physical violence. It can also include other forms of abuse, which include psychological or emotional abuse. In order to get a protection order, you need to demonstrate to the court that there is a risk of family violence and that you or the person you are applying for the protection order on behalf of is subject to that risk to their security and safety.
Protection orders can also be tailored to your specific needs. Usually, they involve some sort of restriction on the other person's ability to contact you directly or indirectly. But there's often an exception allowing them to communicate with you through counsel or otherwise for the purposes of participating in family law proceedings, as that may be necessary for the future or if there are children involved. There may be an exemption that allows you to communicate in some form about issues related to the children only, and that's usually in the form of email or text message, something written.
Moreover, protection orders can also prevent people from following you or showing up to places where they know that you might be. This could include your work, your home, and your school. These orders can also prevent people from being in possession of weapons. Protection orders are police enforceable which means that if a person breaches the protection order, you can report it to the police and they may charge and arrest that person because breaching a protection order is considered a criminal offence.
Another important point is that you can ask the court for a protection order without notifying the other party. Considering the nature of protection orders, advising somebody that you are intending to seek one against them could cause things to escalate and present a greater risk of family violence. However, you would have to explain your circumstances and your reason for seeking this order without notice. When seeking a protection order without notice, the other person will not find out about it until after the protection order is already in place—this provides some level of security.
In addition, the protection order isn't going to have any criminal implications for the other person unless they breach it. This means that they won't be charged or arrested unless they breach the order. Protection orders themselves state clearly on them that not following a protection order is a criminal offence. The consequences are also clearly stated. Thus, people tend to take these orders quite seriously when they receive them.
If you are interested in seeking more clarity on the nature of protection orders or have questions about requesting your own, our team of competent family law lawyers are here to help. Contact us today.