An order of protection, commonly referred to as a restraining order, is an important defense against harassment and violence. Knowing how to file a restraining order in Arizona before you need one can help you protect yourself and your loved ones.
This article is not intended to be legal advice. You can contact the Arizona Legal Center (ALC) today to learn more about your rights in your situation. Note that when you first contact the Arizona Legal Center, a law student (and not a practicing attorney) will handle your intake.
What’s the purpose of an Arizona restraining order?
A restraining order is also known as an order of protection when it relates to a family member or domestic partner, and injunction against harassment, when the parties are unrelated, or generally as a protective order. In simple terms, this is a civil order that prohibits any contact between the person filing a restraining order and the defendant named in the petition.
There is no fee to file a restraining order, but you must meet certain conditions. Under Arizona law (as noted in Title 13-3602), a restraining order will not be granted unless:
- The petition is verified and filed in writing
- The person it is filed against is over 12 years old (unless the order is granted by the juvenile division of the superior court)
- The petition is only filed against one person
How does a restraining order help?
A restraining order prohibits the defendant from certain contact with the victim. It may limit contact to telephone, text messaging, and/or email, or it could prohibit contact of any kind. In addition, the court has the right to prevent the defendant from the following:
- Using the joint residence, if applicable
- Owning or carrying a firearm
- Committing any offenses as defined under the domestic violence statute (Title 13-3601(A))
- Taking possession of or staying in contact with any animals in the primary residence (i.e., the family dog stays with the petitioner)
- Setting a limit on the distance a defendant must keep between him or herself and another person or place
The court may also require the defendant to complete a domestic violence program or other intervention program. The restraining order may have other conditions attached to it as well.
Defendants who violate any of the terms of the restraining order are subject to arrest, prosecution, and jail. While a restraining order does not guarantee your safety, it does prohibit the defendant from coming near any site listed on the order, and limits or completely prohibits contact between you and the defendant.
There are legal consequences for its violation.
Can I get a restraining order?
The following people can file for a restraining order:
- Adults over 18
- Parent or guardian on behalf of a minor child
- A third party who is acting on behalf of a petitioner who is unable to file on their own behalf
Any court in the state of Arizona may issue and enforce a restraining order for residents in the state.
How can I file a restraining order in Arizona?
There are four steps to filing a restraining order in Arizona.
Step 1: If possible, consult an attorney
You do not need an attorney to file for a restraining order. However, consulting a lawyer can make the process easier.
Attorneys can help you fill out forms and advise you on which protective order is appropriate to your situation. Visiting a free legal clinic like the Arizona Legal Center is a great place to start. Our volunteers will be able to walk you through the process and explain your rights under the law.
Your county court may also have suggestions for free legal advice. Another option is to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for legal support and recommendations if your situation involves domestic violence.
Step 2: Fill out the appropriate forms
Protective order forms are available in five languages and can be filed in any court in Arizona.
In Maricopa county, you will fill out the required paperwork using a computerized Domestic Violence prompt system. This paperwork will include a petition. The petition names all protected parties. It also outlines the reasons you are seeking a restraining order.
Step 3: Appear before a judge
After you file the paperwork, you will appear before a judge to answer questions regarding your petition.
They may ask you questions about specific incidents in the petition. This part of the process can be emotionally difficult. If possible, bringing someone to support you in court can be crucial.
Step 4: Serve the order of protection
If the judge grants the restraining order, legally you must notify the defendant. You will serve them with the Petition for the Order of Protection and a copy of the signed Order of Protection through a process server or a member of law enforcement. A restraining order is not valid until it is served upon the defendant.
You have one year to serve the defendant before the restraining order is invalid. In Phoenix, if you know where the defendant is located, the Protective Orders Coordinator will work with the Phoenix Police Department to file the order on your behalf at no charge to you.
If the defendant cannot be served immediately, it is important to keep a copy of the signed Order of Protection with you at all times. If the defendant approaches you before the order is served, call 911 and let them know that you have a restraining order against the defendant.
How much does it cost to get a restraining order?
There is no fee to file a restraining order in a court in the state of Arizona. If you choose to hire a private process server, expect to pay between $45 and $100.
If you need to get out of a dangerous situation, the Arizona Department of Economic Security’s Domestic Violence Program can help.
Find numbers for the National Violence Hotline and the Shelter Line for Maricopa county, along with specific numbers for domestic violence partnerships across Arizona here.
When you are ready, give the Arizona Legal Center a call. We are a free legal clinic that is dedicated to helping the Arizona community.
The Arizona Legal Center provides free legal aid and consultations in Arizona only. We provide low-cost access to fee-for-service cases when determined appropriate by an attorney at the Center, but generally do not undertake full-scope representation.