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What is a Temporary Restraining Order and how can it protect a child?


There are several situations where a temporary restraining order can be filed, but the Temporary Restraining Orders, Temporary Injunctions, and Temporary Orders in Child Custody Emergencies toolkit is intended ONLY for an emergency situation where a child has been harmed or is at risk of being harmed and a protective order is not more suitable to protect the child.  

A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is a court order that tells a person not to do certain things such as harming a child, leaving the state with a child, or being around a child.  

The TRO kit could be useful in an emergency situation when you need a court order to protect a child quickly, but the child does not qualify for a protective order.

Note: If a child has been a victim of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or family violence, and is in fear of being harmed again or likely to be harmed again, a protective order may be another available legal option. A protective order may provide better protection than a TRO because it is criminally enforceable. However, a judge may not always be willing to grant a protective order to keep a child safe from a parent. This is because conservatorship (including TROs) can provide a lot of protection without completely cutting the parent out of the child's life. A protective order may not be appropriate for many situations where a child is in danger, such as where a parent has a substance addiction,lives in an unsafe environment, or is not providing for the child's basic needs. 

But not all child abuse or child neglect situations meet all the requirements where a court is allowed to grant a protective order. If you have questions about whether a protective order is more appropriate to protect a child, please consult an attorney. Call the Family Helpline at 844-888-6565 with your CPS-related questions. Look for help aDomestic Violence: Free Legal Help for Victims and Survivors.

While most other family law issues require you to serve (give legal notice to) all other parents or conservators before you can set a hearing and talk to a judge, a TRO can be granted “ex parte”—meaning the other parent does not have to be given advance notice that you are asking the judge for a TRO. This means that a TRO can be granted by a judge very quickly—often on the same day that you ask for it.

A TRO is only good for 14 days, so it can work as a quick fix to address an emergency situation, and gives you some more time to serve the parents or other conservators, collect additional evidence, and set another hearing to talk to a judge.

The next hearing should be set within 14 days of when the judge grants your TRO, and will be your chance to ask the judge to convert the TRO into a temporary injunction, and to enter additional temporary orders for custody, visitation, and child support. This next hearing is also the other parent or conservator’s chance to come to court and tell the judge their side of the story and ask for something different.