How Restraining Orders and Protective Orders Can Affect Your Divorce


Protective Orders v. Restraining Orders

Television, movies, and books play fast and loose with the terms “restraining order” and “protective order.” In Utah, there is a difference between the two. Presumably, there is a difference between the two in other states, but each state may have its own phraseology, laws, and procedure.

Protective Orders

Utah courts issue protective orders based on a showing that domestic violence or abuse has occurred or is substantially likely to occur. They prohibit certain persons from coming to certain residences, places of work, schools, etc. They may also prohibit certain types of contact or behavior. In Utah, a person can ask a Utah court for a protective order against any person who can be defined as their cohabitant.

Cohabitants include current/former spouses, significant others, relatives, roommates, etc. If the situation seems especially serious, the court will issue a temporary protective order and schedule a hearing to discuss whether a more permanent protective order should be signed. Law enforcement officers have the authority to immediately arrest, without warrant, someone who has violated a protective order.

Templates of the court forms necessary to ask for a protective order or fight against a protective order are available on the UT Courts website. Self-representation is possible, but it is wise to hire an attorney to give you advice, help you prepare the forms relevant to your situation, and appear in court with you.

Protective orders can be transferred from state to state. Persons with a protective order who are relocating to a state in which the protective order was not originally issued will want to have readily available copies of the protective order and will want to contact the local court or a local lawyer to inquire as to what they must do to register the protective order locally.

Restraining Orders

Restraining orders are specific orders often included in divorce decrees and other similar or related decrees, judgments, and orders. A court may order the parties going through a divorce to not sell their assets while the divorce case is ongoing. The court may also order the parties not to bother each other or engage in some other behavior that the court has determined is inappropriate or harmful.

The primary difference between a protective order and restraining order is that the police will not arrest somebody who is accused of violating a restraining order. If one party violates the restraining order, the other party will need to complain to the court and ask the court to find the violating party in contempt of the court’s order. Jail time, an award of attorney fees, or other remedies may result if the person who violated the restraining order does not have a good explanation.