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Do you know a woman who is being abused? A legal rights handbook

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What is a restraining order?

A restraining order is a family court order that says what a person cannot do. What is included in the order depends on your situation. For example, it can say one or more of these things:

  • your partner cannot come within 500 metres of you and your children
  • your partner cannot talk to or contact you or your children except through an agency or another person
  • your partner cannot come within 500 metres of your home and work

You might be able to get a restraining order even if your partner has never been charged with a crime, if the charge has not been dealt with, or the criminal court did not find him guilty.

Your lawyer can ask the court for a restraining order. If you need a restraining order right away, go to your nearest family court and ask for help from the duty counsel or advice counsel lawyer. You might also be able to get help from a Family Court Support Worker.

A restraining order is made in family court. But breaking any of the conditions in the order is a criminal offence. If your partner breaks any of the conditions, he can be arrested by the police, charged, and held for a bail hearing.

Bail hearing: when the person charged with a crime goes to court after they have been arrested. At court, they ask a judge or a justice of the peace to decide whether the police can continue to keep them in jail, or whether they must let them go.

The person may be let go with "conditions" that they must follow. For example, the court might order them to stay away from their partner.

One advantage of a restraining order is that it can be made for a certain period of time, even for several years.

Who can apply

You can usually only apply for a restraining order against your partner if at least one of these is true:

  • you were married to your partner
  • you lived together with your partner for any period of time
  • you have a child with your partner

If none of these situations apply to you, you could ask for a peace bond. Anyone can apply for a peace bond.

Peace bond: a peace bond is a type of court order that is a signed promise to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.

Conditions in a restraining order

Think about what kind of protection you need. For example, you can ask the judge to order your partner to stop calling you, or stop having his friends or relatives call you for him. Sometimes, the judge might order that your partner cannot come within a certain distance of your home, workplace, or the children's school. All of these conditions and others can be part of a restraining order.

Applying for a restraining order

To apply for a restraining order, you will have to fill out some written documents, including an application and a Canadian Policy Information Centre Restraining Order Information Form. This form includes information about your partner that makes it easier for the police to identify him. The judge marks a box beside the conditions that apply to your case. The judge might also write in any additional conditions.

If you are applying for a restraining order without a lawyer and you need more information, you can read A Self-Help Guide: How to make an application for a restraining order. You can view this guide at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/family/guides/restraining_order. If you need help with this application, contact a shelter or community legal clinic or talk to duty counsel.

After you get a restraining order

Keep a certified copy of the restraining order with you at all times. The police need to see the restraining order before they can do anything if your partner does not follow it.

You might also want to give a copy to others. For example, if there is a condition that your partner cannot contact your child, you should give a copy of the restraining order to your child's school so that they can show it to the police if your partner tries to pick up your child from school.