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Legal Information: Rhode Island

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of November 30, 2023

What types of restraining orders are there? How long do they last?

Both family court and district court offer temporary restraining orders and final restraining orders. These restraining orders may go by different names in different counties. They may also be called protective orders. Here are the differences between the orders:

Emergency Order
An emergency order is an ex parte temporary order that can be granted if the courts are closed and you need immediate protection.1 (Ex parte means one-sided, without the abuser being notified or present.) If you need an emergency restraining order, you can contact your local police department for help. A judge may grant you a temporary order over the phone to a police officer. If you receive an emergency order over the phone, it expires at the close of the next business day. You will have to go to court to get a standard temporary order, which will last for up to three weeks, until your full court hearing for a final restraining order.

Temporary Order
Temporary ex parte restraining orders are designed to offer you emergency protection until the full court hearing for your final restraining order. To get a temporary ex parte order, you would file your complaint in court during normal court business hours. The judge must believe (after reading your affidavit and verified complaint), that immediate and severe injury, loss, or damage will happen to you if you don’t get a restraining order that day. A temporary order generally lasts for up to 21 days. The court can extend it if the final court hearing gets adjourned beyond the 21 days.2

Final Order
A final restraining order can be issued only after a full court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to present evidence and testimony to prove your sides of the story.2 If the abuser doesn’t appear at the hearing, you can still get a final restraining order as long as s/he was given proper notice of the hearing. A final restraining order lasts up to three years. You can also later file to have it extended for the length of time that the judge believes is necessary to protect you.3 See How do I change or extend my order?

1 RI Gen. Laws § 15-15-4(b); § 8-8.1-4(b)
2 RI Gen. Laws §§ 8-8.1-4(a)(2); 15-15-4(a)(2)
3 RI Gen. Laws §§ 8.8-1.3(i); 15-15-3(m)(2)