Legal Information: Rhode Island

Restraining Orders

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November 30, 2023

What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Rhode Island?

This section defines domestic abuse for the purposes of getting a domestic abuse restraining order in family court or in district court. Domestic abuse is when the abuser commits one of the following acts:

  • attempts to cause or causes you physical harm (with or without a weapon);
  • places you in fear of immediate serious physical harm (including threatening you with a weapon);
  • causes you to have sexual relations against your will by force, threat of force, or duress (coercion);
  • stalks you – stalking is defined as either:
    • harassment (behaving or acting in a way that intends to seriously alarm, annoy, or bother you, and which serves no legitimate (valid) purpose. His/her actions must reasonably cause you to suffer substantial emotional distress or to be in fear of bodily injury); or
    • maliciously and repeatedly following you with the intent to place you in reasonable fear of bodily injury; or
  • cyberstalks you (sends any communication by computer to you for the sole purpose of harassing you or your family).1

In addition, a domestic abuse restraining order can be granted in family court on behalf of a minor child who is sexually exploited by anyone, regardless of his/her relationship to the child.2

To figure out which court you have to file in (district court or family court), go to Am I eligible? Do I file in family court or district court?

1 RI Gen. Laws §§ 8-8.1-1(4), (5)(iv)-(vii), (6), (8); 15-15-1(3), (4), (9)
2 RI Gen. Laws § 15-15-3(a)

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