What is a restraining order and what does it do?
A restraining order (also known as a protective order, order of protection, or many other names) is a court order requiring that your boyfriend or girlfriend, past or present, stop "abusing" you. The order may also state that your boyfriend or girlfriend cannot contact you, has to stay away from you, and may include many other protections. The requirements for getting a restraining order, exactly what protections you can get from a restraining order, and how "abuse" is defined are different in each state. In addition, not all states allow minors to get a restraining order on their own without an adult's help. Check our Restraining Orders pages for your state on this site to find out more.
Am I eligible for a restraining order even though I am under 18?
In many states, you can apply for a restraining order even if you are under 18 but you may need an adult (usually a parent or legal guardian) to file the order on your behalf. Other states allow minors to file on their own without involving a parent or another adult. Most states that allow minors to apply for restraining orders on their own require that you are at least 16 years old. A few, however, let minors of any age, or sometimes minors 12 or older, go to court without an adult. In the Restraining Orders section of our website, in every state we have the question "Can a minor apply for a restraining order?" In many states, we also have the question "Can I apply for a restraining order against a minor?" Click on those questions in your state to find out if you can apply on your own or if you need a parent/guardian.
Even if your state requires an adult to assist you in applying for an order, but you don't want to get your parent/guardian involved or s/he will not help you file for the order, you may still have some other options. In some states, the law allows what is referred to as a "next friend" to apply for you, which could be a trusted adult other than a parent/guardian. In other states, a judge may appoint what is called a "guardian ad litem," which is someone to represent your interests during the litigation (court proceeding). It could be a lawyer or a non-lawyer. In some states a judge must approve of the adult who you choose to go to court with you instead of your parents (called a guardian ad litem).
For help, you may want to contact a domestic violence organization or a lawyer. There are free legal services available through different organizations and many states have specific organizations that represent only teens. Another idea is that you may want to call the clerk of the court in your county and ask what the procedure is for a minor filing an order and if s/he can file alone. Go to the Places that Help tab at the top of this page to find a list of state and local domestic violence programs, free legal services, and courthouse locations and contact information for your state. To ask someone at WomensLaw.org a specific question, you can go to our Email Hotline.