How To Get a Temporary Restraining Order

Also known as a "TRO," a temporary restraining order is a court order that limits someone from taking a specific action. A TRO is enforced by police or court officers.

What Is a TRO?

A TRO is a type of legal injunction that restricts the actions of an individual or business. Because individual rights are primary in the U.S., the bar is high for requesting and getting permission for a TRO. There are several types of TRO, and they may have different names in various states across the country. Rules about TROs vary by state, but they follow some general principles. Depending on where you are, a TRO may refer to an injunction, a protective order, or a restraining order.

A TRO is a civil injunction that carries criminal penalties if violated. Protective orders are most common in domestic abuse situations in which one person fears violence. Violating a protective order is generally a criminal offense, but the offense's severity is determined on a case-by-case basis. There are different types of TROs or protection orders that apply to different situations.

Examples of TRO include a couple considering divorce when one partner seeks to sell a property they own. The other partner can request an injunction or TRO to prevent the sale until the divorce court determines the second partner's share (if any) in ownership. 

Certain TRO provisions are automatically triggered during a divorce proceeding. Generally, when a couple files for divorce and is waiting for their hearing, there is an automatic injunction preventing both from selling assets or making other moves that the divorce process governs.

A TRO can also be a cease and desist order that restrains a person from harassing a coworker or visiting a site (store, school, neighborhood) where they are a nuisance. Whether a TRO shows up in court records  depends on the case and the venue: family court records that include protective orders are not always available to the public due to privacy issues (particularly when juvenile children may be named). Police records are more likely to divulge information about restraining orders if a person is arrested for violating one. People records that show a person's address, place of business, and assets may turn up a restraining order as part of court or arrest records.

The state of Connecticut makes this distinction: a protective order may be issued against someone who is part of a criminal trial and who has been stalking, harassing, or threatening. This type of protective order lapses when the trial ends. At the same time, the state reserves restraining orders for domestic situations in which one person threatens or abuses another who is also part of the same family group.
what is a tro

Who Can Get a TRO?

Anyone who can prove an immediate need for a TRO to a judge may receive one. The standard is "a preponderance of the evidence," meaning that the evidence favors the petitioner, which is lower than what is necessary for a trial.

Courts generally expedite emergency orders (outside the regular docket schedule, which can take months). The petitioner must reasonably prove that they are in immediate danger of irreparable harm. An initial order is temporary, about 10-14 days, depending on the jurisdiction. A hearing determines whether the order should be extended or made permanent. The hearing allows both sides to be heard, and the judge or magistrate determines the need for an extension.

Can You Get a TRO Against Someone Outside of Family

Protective orders, which seek to block an individual from violence against a domestic partner or family member, are usually not the same as a TRO. Restraining orders or injunctions may be called different things in different states. For instance, in California, there is a civil harassment restraining order that orders one person to stop stalking, threatening, or harassing another, but they don't have to be in the same family.

A TRO is usually a civil injunction, while a protective order can be a criminal injunction, particularly if it's part of another case. Various types of protective orders apply against someone outside of family: a protective order (also known as a restraining order in some states) can affect coworkers (but in many states, it must be requested by the employer), classmates, or neighbors. A TRO can be issued to stop a business from a specific action, such as digging a pipeline through an environmentally sensitive area.

How To Get a TRO?

In order to get a TRO, follow this process:

1. Find or download the correct paperwork from the correct court. Most injunctions not concerning physical violence or threats are civil and therefore handled in district court, perhaps by a magistrate. Ask the clerk's office to confirm the correct venue.

2. Compile proof that the injunction is the only way to prevent irreparable harm.

3. Attend the preliminary hearing and present evidence of the emergency nature of your petition.

4. Carry the order with you in case of a violation (call the police immediately). If the situation has not improved by the time the TRO lapses, apply for an extension or a permanent restraining order.

Further consequences can follow a domestic abuse order or personal protective order. In many states, the petitioner can seek to have the defendant's firearms removed. A felony-level protective order violation will also appear on a person's criminal record for years.

How Long Do Temporary Restraining Orders Last?

The length of a temporary restraining order depends on the location where it was issued. In some places, it can be as short as five to seven days; in others, it's two weeks to a month. The U.S. Constitution compels courts to act swiftly on these matters; they do not want to limit a person's liberties unnecessarily, so they try to determine the urgency and legitimacy of a TRO as quickly as possible. In Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, a TRO lasts about ten days. In California, a TRO lasts up to 25 days.


It's essential to understand your state's laws about harassment and abuse, which restraining orders seek to end. A court will only issue restraining orders with significant evidence, and a court will take a violation of a restraining order seriously.

Many restraining orders result from personal relationships: within families or acquaintances. Still, others can limit the ability of businesses to conduct operations until the legality of their actions is investigated.