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does a restraining order go on your record

If you have a restraining order filed against you, or one is pending, you may have wondered: does a restraining order go on your record?

Like many laws, states differ and there are no blanket, one-size-fits-all answers. In fact, whether or not a restraining order goes on your records depends on a number of factors including the state where the restraining order was issued, whether it is a civil or criminal matter, and what type of background check is being run on you (restraining order background checks are more likely to expose a restraining order tied to a criminal charge such as violating the restraining order).

Nonetheless, you may still be worried whether or not this information will be made available to others, in particular potential employers or other important parties. So, if you’re wondering, ‘does a restraining order go on your record,’ the following information can help you determine the answer for your specific situation.

What is a Restraining Order? And Will a Restraining Order Go on My Record?

A restraining order, sometimes known as a protective order, is an official legal order issued by a court to prevent an individual from taking certain action, such as contacting or approaching another. These can be issued to protect individuals, businesses, jurisdictions, groups of people, or even the general public in certain circumstances.

Typically, restraining orders result from stalking, sexual assault, domestic violence, and related threatening or harmful actions. While they are issued by a court, they are most often filed by an individual, rather than law enforcement.1

In the United States, each state has their own respective laws, filing process, and enforcement policy concerning domestic violence restraining orders, and what sort of actions will go on a criminal record. Some states may have also have specific policies in place for restraining orders, related to offenses such as sexual assault and stalking. It is important to understand the applicable policies in place in your state and jurisdiction, whether you are the one filing the restraining order, or the one it is being filed against.

You may still be wondering: does a restraining order go on your record and become visible on public records?

In the initial stages of filing a restraining order, a temporary order is typically issued by a judge. At this stage, the order is only visible to law enforcement, so that police officers can ensure that it is followed and enforced. Depending on the state, these temporary orders can last about anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.2

On the day that the temporary order expires, both you and the person filing the order will have a court hearing before a judge. Both parties must appear in court for the hearing to occur. If the party filing the order does not appear in court, the case is often dropped. Therefore, the restraining order if often denied for this reason. As a result, the incident will be expunged, or completely wiped off of your record, for good. However, if the court hearing occurs and results in a permanent restraining order, it will likely be on your legal record, and could be visible to others in a background search. So, does a restraining order go on your record, in this case, (when it’s permanent), typically yes. 

What Are the Types of Orders? Which Ones Can Be Seen on a Background Check?

A restraining order can differ by the length of time it is issued and on the severity of the situation or offense. For example, a judge may grant emergency restraining order in situations concerning domestic abuse, where the judge believes the victim is in immediate danger. This type of order only lasts a few days and acts as a placeholder. This allows the victim to have time to prepare to file a permanent order, while still being protected from a potential abuser.3

No-contact orders may also be issued by a judge once there is legitimate proof a crime was committed, which then prevents the individual accused of wrongdoing from contacting the victim in any way. This includes contact in person, online, on the phone, or in any other medium.  If the individual absolutely must contact the victim, it must be done through a third-party, such as a lawyer. In the case of parental disputes, even if you have children with the person who has filed against you, you must still only communicate through your lawyers, to ensure you do not violate the terms of the order.

When restraining orders involve parties who live together or who are related, and involve some form of abuse, they are known as domestic violence orders. These can last longer than others, sometimes up to several years.3

Depending on the state, there can be either civil or criminal restraining orders, to demonstrate the type of action you are being prevented from taking. If you have a criminal restraining order, preventing an offense such as assault, this will be visible on a background check, and therefore to an employer or other party conducting a check.2

However, if your restraining order is a civil matter and is not designed to prevent criminal activity, it may not come up on a background check, even if it appears on your personal record. If your employer conducts a surface level background check, screening mainly for criminal activity, you will likely pass. However, if you violate a civil protection order, it will be considered a criminal offense, and that will certainly show up during a criminal history check.4

What Can I Do if Someone Has Falsely Requested Restraining Orders Against Me? (Is a Protection Order the Same?)

You do have options if you believe someone has unjustly requested a restraining order against you. If you believe that a restraining order filed against you is uncalled for or untruthful, you must take immediate action before it becomes permanent. It is highly recommended that both parties obtain a lawyer to assist in this process.

Before your court hearing, find a lawyer who you trust to help defend you against this form of legal action, since it can impact your ability to pass a background check and disqualify you from opportunities later in life. Because the laws surrounding restraining orders differ per state, it is important to seek legal advice immediately, since it is a confusing process.

At times, restraining orders can result in criminal charges. While the order in itself is not a criminal charge, the individual filing one against you may choose to press charges afterwards. Similarly, the police may also file charges themselves, without the victim’s involvement, if a law has been broken, and orchestrate an arrest.

Remember, if a judge granted a temporary restraining order against you, it does not mean that it will be permanent. Ensure that you do attend the court hearing and are prepared so that you have a fighting chance against the order becoming permanent, and having a lasting negative impact, especially if the claims are fabricated.

In many states, restraining orders are also known as “protection orders.” This term is typically used in situations of domestic violence or abuse, stalking, or assault. Often, protection orders involve situations between partners or spouses, and sometimes even children. In many cases, protection orders can be used to remove an abuser from the home of a victim, or grant the victim full-custody of any shared children to prevent further harm.3

For instance, in New York, Family Court often issues “orders of protection”, to settle familial issues and protect involved parties. These type of orders can change visitation rights concerning children, require the payment of spousal support, require individuals to seek medical or mental treatment, and more. It is important to understand what your respective rights are you in your specific state concerning restraining orders, especially when it is a family matter.

These types of restraining orders are typically handled in family courts, rather than criminal court.

How Long Will a Restraining Order Stay on My Record?

Each restraining order may have a different length, depending on the judge’s decision and the applicable laws in that jurisdiction or state.

For example, in New York, domestic violence orders can last up to 5 years. On the other hand, certain restraining orders which involve the criminal court may last up to 8 years.5

Similarly, in California, domestic violence orders can also last up to 5 years. However, criminal restraining orders are also capped at 5 years, unlike in New York.6

If you’re still unsure if your restraining order will be revealed on public record, you should run a background check on yourself to see what it reveals. Knowing how to do a background check on yourself can be an important step before applying for a job or seeking federal assistance. This preliminary check can help you learn more about what is on your record, without having this information divulged to a potential employer or other party. In addition, there are other ways to know if charges are dismissed, do you have a criminal record. Learning about any erroneous or inaccurate information in your criminal history allows you to clean it and remove it before it can harm you.

Ultimately, it is important to research the applicable laws concerning restraining orders for your respective state. There are many resources, particularly for women, to help guide them in what legal protections they have.7

Remember that a restraining order can have different implications depending on the state where the order was issued, whether it is a civil or criminal matter, and what type of background check is being run on you.
Knowing the answer to the question, ‘does a restraining order go on your record, can help you avoid any pitfalls that come from failed tenant background checks or employment criminal history check.