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Know the Laws: Connecticut

UPDATED January 10, 2017

Restraining Orders (Relief from Abuse Orders)

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A restraining order (also known as a relief from abuse order) is a civil order that protects you from abuse by a current or former family or household member.  

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of domestic violence in Connecticut?

This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a restraining order (also known as a relief from abuse order).

Domestic violence is when you are subjected to one of the following by a family or household member:

  1. a continuous threat of present physical pain or physical injury;
  2. stalking; or
  3. a pattern of threatening.*  "Threatening" includes, but is not limited to, when the abuser:
  • uses a physical threat to intentionally place or attempt to place you in fear of immediate serious physical injury; or
  • threatens to commit any crime of violence with the intention of terrorizing you or with disregard to the fact that the threat can cause you to be terrorized.**

* C.G.S. § 46b-15(a)
** C.G.S. § 53a-62(a)

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back to topWhat types of restraining orders are there? How long do they last?

In Connecticut, there are two types of restraining orders:

A temporary (ex parte) restraining order can be issued on the day you apply for your restraining order if you allege (and the judge believes) that there is an immediate and present physical danger to you.  ("Ex parte" means that the order can be issued without prior notice to the abuser and without the abuser present in court.)   When deciding what to include in the temporary ex parte order, the judge can also consider the report that will be prepared by the family services unit of the Judicial Branch that may include, as available:

  • any existing or prior orders of protection against the respondent that are recorded in the protection order registry;
  • information on any pending criminal case or past criminal case in which the respondent was convicted of a violent crime;
  • any outstanding arrest warrant for the respondent; 
  • the respondent's level of risk based on a risk assessment tool utilized by the Court Support Services Division; 
  • information related to any pending or disposed (resolved) family matters cases involving you and the respondent.*  

If the judge grants you a temporary restraining order, it will last until the full court hearing for the permanent order, which has to take place within 14 days.  However, if you include in your application that the abuser has a permit or eligibility certificate to carry a pistol or revolver, a long gun, ammunition, or that s/he possesses firearms or ammunition, the hearing has to take place within 7 days. If the hearing is postponed, the temporary order can be extended until the hearing takes place.  If the respondent cannot be located/served with the petition and order, your ex parte order can be extended another 14 days while law enforcement attempts to locate/serve him/her.**

A permanent restraining order can be issued after a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to tell your sides of the story.  Permanent orders can last up to one year, but can be extended for additional periods as the judge believes is necessary.***

Note: In Connecticut, a there is also something called a family violence protective order, which is issued by a criminal court judge at arraignment after an abuser has been arrested.  This is different from the civil court restraining orders (also known as relief from abuser orders) that are discussed in this section.****

* C.G.S § 46b-15(b)
** C.G.S § 46b-15(b),(c)
*** C.G.S § 46b-15(g)
**** See CT Judicial Branch website

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back to topWhere can I file for a restraining order?

You can file for a restraining order in the superior court* of the judicial district where you or the abuser lives.** If you are unsure what judicial district you live in, you may want to contact an attorney that is familiar with Connecticut state laws. Please see our CT Finding a Lawyer page for your state for more information.

* C.G.S. § 46b-15(a)
** C.G.S. § 51-345

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back to topHow can a restraining order help me?

A temporary or permanent restraining order may:

  • order the abuser to not threaten, harass, assault, molest, sexually assault or attack you;
  • prohibit the abuser from imposing any restraint upon you or your liberty (freedom);
  • prohibit the abuser from entering your home or the shared family home;
  • grant you temporary child custody or visitation rights;
  • order the abuser to not injure or threaten to injure your animals;*
  • order the abuser not to contact you in any way, including through your home, workplace, etc.;
  • order the abuser to stay 100 yards away from you;**
  • grant you temporary possession of an automobile, checkbook, documentation of health, automobile or homeowners insurance, any documents needed for purposes of proving identity, a key or other necessary specified personal belongings;
  • if you and the abuser are spouses, or if you have a minor/dependent child in common and you live together, the judge may order the following additional things if they are necessary to maintain the safety and basic needs of you or your child(ren).  The judge can prohibit the abuser from:
    • taking any action that could result in the termination of any necessary utility services or necessary services related to your home or the family home;
    • taking any action that could result in the cancellation, change of coverage or change of beneficiary of any health, automobile or homeowners insurance policy that would harm you or the child that you have with the abuser;
    • getting rid of, transferring, hiding, etc., any specified property owned or leased by you;*** and/or
  • anything else that is needed to protect you, your children and/or anyone else the judge believes is appropriate.*

In addition, as part of a permanent restraining order, the judge can order the following additional protections.  The judge can order that the abuser:

  • make rent or mortgage payments on the family home or the home where you live with your and the abuser's minor/dependent child(ren);
  • maintain (keep) utility services or other necessary services related to the family home or the home where you live with your and the abuser's minor/dependent child(ren);
  • maintain (keep) all existing health, automobile or homeowners insurance coverage without any change in coverage or change in the beneficiary; and/or
  • provide financial support for any dependent child(ren) that you have with the abuser (provided that the respondent has a legal duty to support such child or children and the ability to pay), which will last up to 120 days or until another order for financial support is decided by a court, whichever happens first.  Note: The judge cannot enter any order of financial support without sufficient evidence as to the abuser's ability to pay, which must be presented at the hearing.  (If the judge does not make an order for financial support at the hearing, it cannot be done as part of the restraining order later on).****   

* C.G.S. § 46b-15(b)
** See Application for Relief from Abuse
*** C.G.S. § 46b-15(d) 
**** C.G.S. § 46b-15(e)

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Who can get a restraining order

back to topAm I eligible to file for a restraining order?

You can file for a restraining order if you have been subjected to domestic violence, as defined by law, by any of the following people, known as "family or household members"* regardless of the ages of you and the abuser:

  • your spouse or former spouse (including a civil-union spouse);
  • someone you have a child in common with;
  • your parent; 
  • your child;
  • someone you are dating or have recently dated;
  • someone you are related to you by blood or marriage;
  • someone who you currently live with or used to live with;** and
  • if you are age 60 years or older, a live-in caretaker in whose home you are living.***

* C.G.S. § 46b-15(a)
** C.G.S. § 46b-38a(2)
*** See Application for Relief from Abuse

 

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back to topCan I get a restraining order against a same-sex partner?

In Connecticut, you may apply for a restraining order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Am I eligible to file for a restraining order?  You must also be the victim of an act of domestic violence, which is explained here What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Connecticut?

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back to topHow much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?

Nothing. There is no cost to file for a restraining order.

You do not need a lawyer to file for a restraining order.  However, you may wish to have a lawyer, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. If you can, contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected.  If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find information on legal assistance on the CT Finding a Lawyer page. 

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Steps for getting a restraining order

back to topStep 1: Get and fill out the necessary forms.

You can find the forms from the civil clerk at the superior court, but you may want to find them before you go and fill them out at home or with an advocate from a domestic violence organization or with a lawyer. You will find links to forms online on the CT Download Court Forms page. To find contact information for the Superior Court in your area, click on CT Courthouse Locations.

To start your case, you will need to fill out the necessary forms for a restraining order (relief from abuse order), which include an application and an affidavit (sworn statement).  On the affidavit, you will be asked to write about what happened, when, where and who was present.  Remember to use specific language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation.  Include details and dates, if possible.  Note: Do not sign the forms until you have shown it to a clerk, as the court clerk may have to notarize them -- and remember that you may need photo ID for the notary.

Most shelters and other domestic violence prevention organizations can provide support for you while you fill out these papers and go to court. To find a shelter or advocate in your area, go to  our CT State and Local Programs page.

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back to topStep 2: Ex parte hearing

After you have filed the forms with the clerk of court, s/he will bring them to the judge.  If you have checked off the box requesting an ex parte order, a temporary (ex parte) restraining order can be issued on the day you apply for your restraining order if you allege (and the judge believes) that there is an immediate and present physical danger to you.  When deciding what to include in the temporary ex parte order, the judge can also consider the report that will be prepared by the family services unit of the Judicial Branch that may include, as available:

  • any existing or prior orders of protection against the respondent that are recorded in the protection order registry;
  • information on any pending criminal case or past criminal case in which the respondent was convicted of a violent crime;
  • any outstanding arrest warrant for the respondent; 
  • the respondent's level of risk based on a risk assessment tool utilized by the Court Support Services Division; 
  • information related to any pending or disposed (resolved) family matters cases involving you and the respondent.*  

The ex parte order will generally last until the full court hearing for the permanent order, which has to take place within 14 days.  However, if you include in your application that the abuser has a permit or eligibility certificate to carry a pistol or revolver, a long gun, ammunition, or that s/he possesses firearms or ammunition, the hearing has to take place within 7 days.**  

* C.G.S. § 46b-15(b)
** C.G.S. § 46b-15(b),(c); see also Application for Abuse from Relief
 

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back to topStep 3: Service of process

To make sure that the abuser knows about the temporary (ex parte) restraining order, if the court issued one, and about the hearing date, you will need to bring all of the papers that need to be served to a state marshal or any “proper officer” for delivery to the abuser.  (The clerk or someone at a Court Service Center can explain to you who a “proper officer” is or you can get a list of the proper officers who can serve your papers from the clerk of the court or online from the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch website.)  You can choose a state marshal from the towns in which the abuser lives or works and call the state marshal to make the arrangements to serve the papers.  At some courthouses, a state marshal is at the courthouse at certain times during the day to help with service.*  If you want to call your local courthouse to find out which hours the state marshal will be there, see our CT Courthouse Locations page for a list of courthouse contact information. 

The abuser must be served with the papers at least 3 days before the hearing date.  If you include in your application that the respondent has a permit or eligibility certificate to carry a pistol or revolver, a long gun, ammunition, or that s/he possesses a firearm or ammunition, the proper officer who is responsible for serving the respondent should do all of the following:

  • provide notice to law enforcement in the abuser's town to let them know when and where service will take place;
  • send law enforcement in the abuser's town a copy of your application, affidavit, ex parte order, and the notice of hearing;
  • request that a police officer from the law enforcement agency in the abuser's town be present when the abuser is served.**

Remember that it may take multiple attempts to have him/her served.  If you do not know where the abuser lives or cannot give enough information about how to find the abuser, the state marshal may not be able to find him/her to deliver the papers, so it is important to bring any and all identifying information that you have about the abuser to the state marshal.*

After the state marshal serves the abuser, s/he should give you back the original papers with a "return of service," which tells the court when the officer served the papers on the abuser. According to the Connecticut Judicial Branch website, it is "recommended" that you bring these papers back to the clerk of the court at least two business days before the date of the hearing.*

Note: If you are enrolled in a public or private elementary or secondary school, you can ask the clerk to send a copy of your order (ex parte or permanent) to your school and to any special police force at your school if there is one.**

* See State of Connecticut Judicial Branch website's brochure
** C.G.S. § 46b-15(h)

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back to topStep 4: Full court hearing

On the day of the hearing, you must go to the hearing to ask to have your temporary (ex parte) order turned into a permanent restraining order, which will last for up to one year unless the judge orders a different amount of time.  If you were not granted a temporary (ex parte) order but a hearing date was set, you must go to the full hearing if you want to ask the court for a permanent restraining order.* 

Before going in front of the judge on your hearing day, you and the abuser must meet separately with a Family Relations Counselor (FRC) from the Court Support Services Division. There will be a sign-up sheet in the area of the courthouse where the FRC has the meetings and a Judicial Marshal can tell you where that is. The FRC will ask for information about any existing court orders, possession of firearms or permits, history of the relationship, and information on child-related matters. The FRC may make recommendations and may refer you to other agencies for other services. At the end of the meeting, you and the abuser will go to the courtroom to wait for your hearing.*

At this hearing, you and the abuser will both have a chance to present evidence, testimony, witnesses, etc., to prove your case to the judge.  Note: If the victim/applicant is a minor and his/her parent, guardian or another responsible adult ("next friend") has filed the application for the restraining order on his/her behalf, that parent/guardian/next friend cannot speak on the minor applicant's behalf at the hearing unless s/he can show "good cause" as to why the minor applicant is unable to speak on his/her own behalf.  However, the parent, guardian or responsible adult can testify as a witness at the hearing.**

See our Preparing Your Case page for tips on what to expect at a restraining order hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary (ex parte) restraining order may expire.  If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you a permanent restraining order if there is proof that s/he was properly served, or the judge may reschedule the hearing.

It may be helpful to have a lawyer to help with your case, especially if the abuser has a lawyer.  If the abuser shows up with a lawyer or if you were not able to find a lawyer in time for your hearing, you can ask the judge for a "continuance" (a later court date) so that you have time to find a lawyer – and it will be up to the judge to decide whether or not to postpone the hearing.  Go to our CT Finding a Lawyer for free and paid legal referrals.

If you are granted a restraining order by the judge, a copy of the order(s) will be given or mailed to the abuser by the clerk of the court. The clerk will also send a copy of the order(s) or the information in the order(s) to law enforcement within forty-eight hours so that they are notified.*

* See State of Connecticut Judicial Branch website's brochure
** C.G.S. § 46b–15b(b)

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After the hearing

back to topWhat should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some things that you may want to consider when leaving the courthouse.  You will have to evaluate each one and decide if it is safe and appropriate for you to do it. 

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse.  If you see any errors, you can ask the clerk how to correct them.
  • Make several copies of the restraining order as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the restraining order with you at all times.  Leave copies at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks and your phone number.

You may also wish to make a safety plan.  People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school.  Many batterers obey protective orders, but some do not and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  Go to our Safety Planning page for suggestions.

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back to topI was not granted a restraining order. What are my options?

If you are not granted a restraining order, there are still some things you can do to stay safe.  It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic violence organizations in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe.  They can help you develop a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need.  For safety planning help, ideas, and information, go to our Safety Planning page.  To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please visit the CT State and Local Programs page.

If you were not granted a restraining order because your relationship with the abuser does not qualify as a “family or household member,” you may be able to seek protection through the criminal law system if a crime was committed.

You may also be able to reapply for restraining order if a new incident of domestic abuse occurs after you are denied the order.

If you believe the judge made an error of law, you can talk to a lawyer about the possibility of an appeal. Generally, appeals are complicated and you will most likely need the help of a lawyer.  For general information, go to our Filing Appeals page.

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back to topWhat can I do if the abuser violates the order?

Violating a restraining order can be against the law and there are two ways to report the violation.

Through the Police or Sheriff
If the defendant violates the restraining order, you can call 911 or otherwise report it to law enforcement.  In some cases, the defendant can be arrested right away. Tell the officer you have a restraining order and the defendant is violating it.  If the defendant is arrested, the case will go to the district attorney for possible prosecution.  The respondent can be charged with a criminal violation of a restraining order and depending what section of the restraining order is violated, the respondent can face imprisonment of not more than five years or not more than ten years, a fine of not more than five thousand dollars or not more than ten thousand dollars, or both a fine and imprisonment.*

Through the Civil Court System
You may also file a motion for civil contempt for a violation of the order.  Then, there will be a hearing held within five court days of when the motion is served on the abuser (as long as the service is made not less than 24 hours before the hearing).  The abuser can be "held in civil contempt" if s/he does anything that your restraining order tells him/her not to do and the judge can order whatever punishment that the judge believes is appropriate.**   To file for civil contempt, go to the clerk's office and ask for the forms to file for civil contempt.

* See C.G.S. § 46b-15(f)
** C.G.S. § 46b-15(j)

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back to topCan I change or extend my order?

Yes. To modify (change) your order, you would file a modification petition with the clerk and a hearing would be held.

To extend an order, you would file a motion to extend the order with the clerk and a hearing would be held.  The order can be renewed for such additional time as the judge believes is necessary.*  The Connecticut Judicial Branch website suggests filing the motion to extend 2 to 3 weeks before your order is set to expire.**

* C.G.S. § 46b-15(g)
** CT Judicial Branch website's brochure

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back to topWhat happens if I move? Is my order still effective?

Your order is good everywhere in Connecticut and in the U.S.  The federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. Territories and tribal lands.  Different states may have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders.  If you are moving out of state, you may want to call the domestic violence organization in the state where you are going to find out how that state treats out-of-state orders.  Go to our State and Local Programs page and enter  your state in the drop-down menu.  You may also want to call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith and Credit (1-800-903-0111 x2) if you have any questions.

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

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