A harassment restraining order is not a family law action, but in circumstances may be used against a family member. It is sometimes used when one of the criteria for an Order for Protection, which is a family law action, is not met.
Harassment Restraining Order Criteria
Harassment, under the statute, is: “a single incident of physical or sexual assault or repeated incidents of intrusive or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that have a substantial adverse effect or are intended to have a substantial adverse effect on the safety, security, or privacy of another, regardless of the relationship between the actor and the intended target”. There are two other possible harassment bases, but they are not typical and will not be discussed here.
So, in order to qualify for a harassment restraining order, there needs to be one act of physical of sexual assault or repeated incidents of intrusive or unwanted acts, words, or gestures. The incident(s) must also have an adverse effect on safety, security, and privacy or are intended to have one of those effects.
Also, unlike an Order for Protection, which requires a familial or familial-like relationship, a Harassment Restraining Order can be brought against anyone who meets the criteria.
And these criteria are important to know if a harassment restraining order is being considered. For example, a single unwanted act is not enough to qualify unless it rises to the level of assault. Also, if there are repeated actions, they must impact the safety, security or privacy of the target, so just calling someone bad names wouldn’t qualify.
Judges see many petitions for harassment restraining orders that don’t meed the necessary criteria and will immediately dismiss such actions. If you are considering seeking a harassment restraining order, make sure you are able to specifically state what the behaviors of the other person were, how many there were, when they were, and why they had one of the adverse effects described above.