If you have been a victim of physical abuse or threatened abuse, you may be able to get a restraining order under the Oregon Family Abuse Prevention Act. This law allows you to obtain protection from domestic violence without having to file for a divorce or legal separation (although you can do so if you wish). For persons at least 65 years old or people with disabilities, the law provides additional protections. See information about protection of elders and people with disabilities, along with other elder law information.
NOTE: A judge cannot give you a restraining order solely for threats to take your children, rude behavior, verbal or emotional abuse, or damaged property unless you were in fear that you were about to be physically injured.
The order is effective for one year. However, the abuser may request a hearing within 30 days after he or she was served with the order. If the abuser does not do that, then the restraining order will remain effective. After the 30-day period, the abuser may only request a hearing dealing with modification of custody or parenting-time provisions or requesting less restrictive terms regarding ouster.
Yes, if a person in your situation would reasonably fear further acts of abuse without renewal. You should make your request before the restraining order lapses. The abuser may request a hearing on your renewal request. A renewal may also be requested by a child who was younger than 18 when the original order was granted but reached 18 before the order lapsed.
You must file for a restraining order in the courthouse in the county where either you or the respondent live. Getting a restraining order is free.
There are two different methods of filling out restraining order forms to take to your local courthouse.
There are traditional paper forms. Use a blue or black ballpoint pen and write clearly. Answer each question carefully and tell the truth. Do not write in the parts of the papers that say “Judge’s Initials.” You will need to sign in front of a notary or court clerk. Bring ID (photo ID is best). If available, a court facilitator or advocate may be able to help you with the forms. They cannot answer legal questions. You can purchase the paper forms at your local courthouse or you can download them here: https://www.courts.oregon.gov/programs/family/domestic-violence/Pages/restraining.aspx.
The second option is available at the same link. This option is called iForm. It asks you a series of questions and uses your answers to complete the forms for you. Like the traditional paper forms, these electronic forms also need to be printed out and filed in person at the courthouse. Here is the link again: https://www.courts.oregon.gov/programs/family/domestic-violence/Pages/restraining.aspx.
A time will be set for the judge to look over your papers. The judge may ask you some questions. If the judge gives you the restraining order, court staff will make copies for you. You will need to have one of the copies hand-delivered to the other person by a sheriff’s deputy (free in Oregon), a private process server or any adult, as long as that adult lives in the state where the papers are served. You may not serve the papers yourself.
The server is required to complete and file with the court a declaration of service. There is a form for this in the packet, but some servers use their own forms. Talk to the court clerk about ways to get the respondent served. The respondent cannot be punished for not following the restraining order until after he or she receives a copy of the order. A copy of the restraining order and proof that it has been served must be filed with the local sheriff’s office. It will then be entered into a statewide law enforcement database so all Oregon police agencies will know the order is in effect. The order will then be enforceable throughout the state of Oregon.
In a few cases, the judge may wait to make a custody order and will set a hearing to get more information about the children from you and the respondent. You must go to that hearing or the order will probably be dismissed (dropped). Otherwise, the respondent has 30 days from the date of service to request a hearing. If the respondent does not request a hearing, the restraining order will stay in effect. If the respondent does request a hearing, it will be held very quickly. You may have as little as two days to get ready to go to the hearing. If the hearing is scheduled more than a few days away, the court will send you notice of the time and date of the hearing in the mail. If there is not enough time to mail you a notice, the court may contact you by telephone. Be sure the court always has your current contact addresses and contact phone numbers so you get notice of any hearing. You also can call the court to check to see if a hearing has been set. Remember, you must go to the hearing or the order will probably be dropped. If you cannot go to the hearing due to an emergency, call the court clerk right away. It may be helpful to have an attorney represent you at the hearing, but it is not required.
You do not have to disclose your current residential address. You may have gone to a safe place that is not known to your abuser. If so, you may want to use a so-called "contact address"— that is, an address other than where you are actually staying. If you decide to do this for your safety, you also are agreeing to allow your abuser to serve his or her court papers on you at that address. You must check for court papers at that address regularly so long as you list that address with the court since it is the address where your abuser must send copies of anything he or she files. If you miss a court deadline because you have not checked for court papers at that location, the other person will win whatever he or she was asking for in the papers delivered to that address.
The purpose of the hearing is to decide whether or not the restraining order will remain in effect, and if it does remain in effect, if the order will stay the same or change in some way. The judge may decide not to change the order even if both sides agree that they want the same changes. At the hearing, you must prove that you have been abused and that you are in danger of further abuse. Some judges will ask you to present your case first, and other judges will ask the other side to present their case first. Either way, be prepared. You should be ready to give your own testimony, call your witnesses for in-person testimony and give the judge any evidence you have (such as photos of your injuries). Your witnesses may also be questioned by the other side. If you are worried about your safety, you may ask for a sheriff's deputy to be present in the courtroom.
The respondent must request the hearing within 30 days of being served, and the hearing must be held within 21 days after the court receives the request for hearing. If temporary child custody is an issue, the hearing must be held within 5 days after the request. In addition, if there are exceptional circumstances that would affect custody, either party can request that the hearing take place within 14 days.
You can call the police. The officer must arrest the respondent if there is a good reason to believe a violation has happened. The respondent can be charged with contempt of court. If found guilty of contempt, the respondent can be fined, placed on probation, or put in jail. It is best that you carry a copy of the restraining order with you at all times and that you not contact the other party. A restraining order does not guarantee your safety. You can take other steps to stay safe. A domestic violence or sexual assault program can help. Organizations like the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence have more information.
If the police are called to make an arrest, they are required by law to do so if they have “probable cause” to believe that the restraining order has been violated. The restraining order also sets a bail, usually $5,000, for violations of the order. After being processed at the jail, the abuser could be released without posting bail if he or she appears likely to reappear in court. A condition of the release will probably be that the abuser does not have any contact with you. Otherwise, the abuser will be held in jail until 10 percent of the bail is paid, or until the bail is lowered in a court proceeding, or until a hearing has been held on whether or not the restraining order has been violated.
If the person who has abused you is arrested for violating the restraining order, a court hearing may be set to have the person found in “contempt of court” for violating the restraining order, or criminal charges can be filed. If the respondent is found in contempt of court, the maximum punishment could be a fine and/or up to six months in jail. Other possible punishments could be a warning, probation, a suspended sentence or a sentence of less than the maximum. Your local district attorney is required to represent your interests at the contempt hearing if you cannot afford to hire your own attorney.
You must file papers at the courthouse to ask the judge to drop the order. The order remains in effect until the judge dismisses it. It may take a few days for law enforcement to get notice of the dismissal. In a small number of situations, the parties may agree to dismiss the restraining order and enter into a limited no-contact agreement to facilitate communication between the parties with respect to the children and parenting time only. This should only be done if it is safe to do so, and it would be best to speak with a lawyer first.
Any time after a restraining order has been entered, you or the respondent can file papers to ask the court to change or remove terms affecting custody and parenting time, respondent’s removal from the house, respondent’s restrictions from other places, or contact between you and the respondent. Forms to modify a restraining order are available at the courthouse or online.
If you ask for a change that removes or makes a term less restrictive, the judge may sign an order changing the terms without requiring a hearing. Otherwise, the judge will sign an order for the other person to appear (“Order to Show Cause”). Some courts set a hearing when you file the papers. Some courts do not set a hearing until the respondent has been served and given 30 days to respond. Check with the court that issued the order to be sure you follow the right process.
If you have questions about how the law works or what it means, you may need to talk to a lawyer. You are not required to have a lawyer to obtain the restraining order, but you can have a lawyer represent or help you if you wish. If you need help finding a lawyer, you may call the Oregon State Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service at 503.684.3763 or 800.452.7636. If you believe you cannot afford a lawyer, ask the referral service if there is a legal aid program in your area that might be able to help you.
If you have a disability and need an accommodation, or you are unable to speak English and need a foreign language interpreter, you must tell the court as soon as possible, but at least four days before your hearing. Tell the clerk that you have a disability and what type of assistance you need or prefer, or which language you speak.
Often, a restraining order is obtained in the course of a divorce or legal separation, but you do not have to file for divorce if you only want a restraining order. However, if you want to combine a restraining order with a divorce or legal separation, you probably should see a lawyer for advice.
If you do not have a restraining order and you are the victim of domestic violence, you should call your local police agency. If the police are called to the scene and have probable cause to believe abuse has occurred between spouses, former spouses, or adults who are living together or who used to live together, the police are required to arrest the abuser. The police will give you information on how to obtain a restraining order in your county. If your abuser is arrested, you should go to the district attorney’s office the next working day, first thing in the morning, to file a criminal complaint against the abuser, and you may want to get a restraining order too.
Some counties also have shelters for people who have been abused. Contact an information and referral network in your area for more information.
Legal editor: W. George Senft, August 2018