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Legal Information: Rhode Island

Restraining Orders

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Updated: 
April 27, 2018

How can a restraining order help me?

The things that a judge can order in a restraining order depends, in part, on who you are filing against and which court you are filing in (district court or family court). To figure out which court you have to file in, go to Am I eligible? Do I file in family court or district court?

If you get a restraining order in district court, the judge can order the abuser to:

  • stop contacting you, assaulting you, harassing you, or interfering with you in any way at home, on the street, or elsewhere;
  • vacate (leave) the household immediately if you live together, unless the defendant has sole legal interest in the household (i.e., s/he is the only owner or legal tenant of the home);
  • not buy or receive (or attempt to buy or receive) any firearms while the order is in effect and hand over any firearms in his/her possession within 24 hours of receiving notice of the protective order. The abuser would then have to file proof with the court with 72 hours that s/he properly surrendered the firearms or that s/he does not have any firearms. The firearms can be given to the Rhode Island state police or local police department or to a federally-licensed firearms dealer.* For more information about what happens after surrendering the firearms, go to If the abuser's gun is taken away as part of my restraining order, what will happen to it?

Note: These firearms restrictions do not apply if the abuser is a peace officer (law enforcement officer), active member of the military, or in any other position where s/he is required by law or departmental policy to carry departmental firearms while on duty. For these defendants, they can have a firearm only during the course of their employment and at all other times, it must be stored at the place of employment.**

If you get a restraining order in family court, the judge can:

  • order the abuser to stop contacting you, assaulting you, harassing you, sexually exploiting you (if you are a minor child), or interfering with you in any way at home, on the street, or elsewhere;
  • order the abuser to vacate the household immediately if you live together; Note: Unlike in district court, it doesn't matter if s/he has sole legal interest in the home;
  • award you temporary custody of your minor children;
  • ordering either you or the abuser to pay child support for up to 90 days (only after notice to the respondent and a hearing); and
  • not buy or receive (or attempt to buy or receive) any firearms while the order is in effect and hand over any firearms in his/her possession within 24 hours of receiving notice of the protective order. The abuser would then have to file proof with the court with 72 hours that s/he properly surrendered the firearms or that s/he does not have any firearms. The firearms can be given to the Rhode Island state police or local police department or to a federally-licensed firearms dealer.*** For more information about what happens after surrendering the firearms, go to If the abuser's gun is taken away as part of my restraining order, what will happen to it?

Note: These firearms restrictions do not apply if the abuser is a peace officer (law enforcement officer), active member of the military, or in any other position where s/he is required by law or departmental policy to carry departmental firearms while on duty. For these defendants, they can have a firearm only during the course of their employment and at all other times, it must be stored at the place of employment.****

* RI Gen. Laws § 8-8.1-3(a),(m)
** RI Gen. Laws § 8-8.1-3(k)
*** RI Gen. Laws § 15-15-3(a),(k)
**** RI Gen. Laws § 15-15-3(b)