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Legal Information: Rhode Island

Restraining Orders

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Updated: 
November 19, 2019

Am I eligible? Do I file in family court or district court?

Your eligibility in filing for a restraining order depends upon whether you meet the legal definition of domestic abuse and what your relationship is to the abuser. Your relationship also determines whether you file in family court or district court.

Family Court
You can be eligible to file for a restraining order in family court if:

  1. you or your minor child has been the victim of an act of domestic abuse, as defined by law, committed by:
    • a spouse or former spouse;
    • a parent or step-parent;
    • a child or step-child;
    • a present or former family member;
    • someone related to you by blood or marriage (e.g., a brother-in-law or uncle);
    • someone with whom you have a child in common; or
    • someone you have dated seriously or been engaged to within the past one year, if at least one of you is a minor. (If you are both adults, you would file in district court.) Note: It is up to the court to decide whether your relationship is “serious enough” to qualify for a restraining order. The judge will look at factors such as:
      • the length of time of the relationship;
      • the type of relationship you had; and
      • how often you both interacted with each other.1
  2. your minor child is the victim and the abuser is not related to your child by blood or marriage; for example, if your boyfriend harms your child;
  3. the domestic abuse is committed between or against minor children of serious dating partners; or
  4. anyone, regardless of the relationship, has sexually exploited a minor child. In that case, the minor child can qualify for a restraining order.2

District Court
You may be eligible to file for a restraining order in district court if you or your minor child has been the victim of an act of domestic abuse, as defined by law, as long as:

  1. you or your child is the victim and you and the abuser are/were cohabitants, which means that all of the following are true:
    • you are not related by blood or marriage;
    • do not have a child together;
    • you are both adults (or emancipated minors); and
    • you lived together at some point within the past three years. Note: You do not have to be romantically involved with the abuser – the person could be a roommate, for example; or
  2. you or a child in your custody is the victim and the abuser is someone you are or have been in a serious dating or engagement relationship with in the past one year if you are both adults. Note: It is up to the court to decide whether your relationship is “serious enough” to qualify for a restraining order. The judge will look at factors such as:
    • the length of time of the relationship;
    • the type of relationship you had; and
    • how often you both interacted with each other.3

If you are not eligible for a family or district court restraining order, you may be able to get protection through a no-contact order or a workplace restraining order. See What if I don’t qualify for a restraining order? for more information.

1 RI Gen. Laws § 15-15-1(4), (7), (10)
2 RI Gen. Laws §§ 15-15-3(a); 15-15-1(7), (8)
3 RI Gen. Laws § 8-8.1-1(1), (3), (5)