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Where Do I Obtain a Restraining Order in Rhode Island?
Rhode Island Family Court Jurisdiction
If the restraining order is against your husband or wife or ex husband or ex-wife or against a family member by blood or marriage then it should be filed in Rhode Island Family Court. If there is a pending Rhode Island divorce, then the restraining order against a spouse should be filed in Family Court. If the restraining order is against a person who you have a child with, then the restraining order should be filed in Family Court. A Restraining order filed by a Juvenile or against a Juvenile must be filed in Family Court. A restraining order brought by a parent on behalf of the minor children against another parent must be pursued in the Family Court.
There are two types of Family Court restraining orders, "Complaint Protection from Abuse" and a civil restraining order. In a Complaint Protection from Abuse, the Court has jurisdiction to issue a restraining order for up to 3 years. Violation of a Rhode Island Complaint protection from abuse restraining order is a crime. A violation of a civil restraining order is not a crime but is punishable by contempt. Please note that civil restraining orders are not nearly as effective as a complaint protection from abuse restraining order and when sought are typically part of a divorce.
In a Complaint Protection from Abuse, the Family Court can award temporary child support, visitation, and temporary custody of the children. The Court can also award visitation and in some instances may order supervised visitation. The Court can order that the Defendant vacate forthwith and remain out of the household. The Court can also order that a person take batterers classes or drug and alcohol counseling. The Court can order drug and alcohol testing. The Court can also order the Defendant to Surrender possession of all firearms / guns to the Police department.
Rhode Island District Court Jurisdiction
If the restraining order is against a current boyfriend or girlfriend or an ex boyfriend or girlfriend who you had a substantive dating relationship within the prior year but you have no child with, then Rhode Island District Court is the proper Forum. If you have a child with your current or ex boyfriend/ girlfriend then the restraining order should be filed in the Family Court.(see above) A restraining order against a current roommate can be filed in District Court. Violation of a District Court Restraining order is a crime.
Rhode Island Superior Court Restraining orders
If you are seeking a restraining order against a prior friend, neighbor, landlord or anyone else then the restraining order must be filed in Superior Court. Violation of a Superior Court restraining order does not constitute a crime. Violation of a Superior Court Restraining Order is punishable by contempt which could potentially lead to a period of incarceration.
What is the difference between a restraining order and a no contact order?
A No Contact order is an order issued as a result of a criminal charge. A no Contact order issues at an arraignment either at the police station or at Court. Violation of a no contact order is a crime in itself and may constitute a violation of Probation or a filing. A no contact order expires when the case is over (dismissal or not guilty finding) and at the end of any probation, filing or suspended sentence. A Restraining order stays in effect until the date designated on the restraining order.
If there is a no contact order protecting me should I also obtain a restraining order?
A no contact order expires when a case is dismissed, a person is found not guilty or after any sentence expires. The No Contact order will expire when a probation or filing or suspended sentence is over. If you feel you need protection in case the no contact order expires and are in fear of the person then you may consider seeking a restraining order in addition to the no contact order. If there are issues concerning child support and visitation then you may want to seek a restraining order in addition to a no contact order.
In Rhode Island, no-fault grounds include irreconcilable differences and living separately for at least three years. Fault grounds include impotency, infidelity, cruelty, desertion of either partner for at least five years, or shorter at the court's discretion, alcohol or drug abuse, husband's refusal to provide support for his wife for at least one year, or any other conduct seen as a violation of the marriage covenant, such as abuse.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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