What Is A No-Contact Order?

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

A no-contact order can be issued for one of many reasons – from minor altercations between couples to serious, criminal charges of stalking and sexual harassment. Other circumstances in which no-contact orders may be filed include high-intensity divorces and separations or neighborly disputes. So, what is a no-contact order, exactly? Below, we’ll answer many of your questions about what a no-contact order entails, how it is implemented, and what the consequences of violating one may be.


What Is A No-Contact Order?

Many people use the terms “no-contact order” and “restraining order” interchangeably, but they are actually a bit different. A no-contact order¬†prohibits a person from being in physical or verbal contact with another person, whether that is face-to-face or over the phone/internet. This type of order is filed when an action has already taken place. For instance, if there is a domestic abuse charge, a no-contact order would prohibit the abuser from coming into contact with the victim.¬†A restraining order also prohibits two people from coming into contact, but there is one main legal difference. With a restraining order, a dispute or crime does not have to take place first – it can simply be used as a preventative and protective action.

When A No-Contact Order Is Needed

A no-contact order is requested when a petitioner feels that are in danger. Usually, the petitioner has been a victim of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse. Besides victims of abuse, stalking victims are able to petition courts for no-contact orders. The stalking must have consisted of unwanted correspondence (letters, emails, phone calls, etc.), repeatedly over a period of time.

What Does A No-Contact Order Specify?

After a no-contact order is filed, the court will specify the details, like how many feet or yards away the individuals must stay from one another. The defendant cannot see the petitioner at work, school, and home and must cease all communication with the victim. The order will usually specify a certain period of time that the order is in place. At the end of the period, the petitioner may ask the courts to extend the order. The judge can also lift the order if they feel the petitioner is no longer in danger. If broken, the defendant may receive a fine, or jail time with a felony or misdemeanor charge.


Civil No-Contact Order vs. Domestic Violence No-Contact Order

There are two kinds of no-contact orders that can be filed, a civil no-contact order and a domestic violence no-contact order. A civil no-contact order is agreed upon when the two individuals in the situation aren’t family members or romantically involved. Typically, the offender is an aquaintence or complete stranger (i.e. a stalker or abuser).

If the victim is in immediate danger, a temporary no-contact order can be filed to speed up the process of making the agreement official. However, to implement a permanent no-contact order, there must be a court hearing first.

In the case of a domestic violence no-contact order, the victim and the defendant must either be:

  • Husband and wife
  • Domestic partners
  • Parents of the same children
  • Living together currently or in the past
  • In-laws
  • Step-relatives
  • Parents of adult children

Many states have specific laws for domestic violence no-contact orders. If children are involved, the judge may grant a temporary custody order to a certain parent or relative, as long as the defendant is removed from the home. A hearing can decide if a permanent no-contact order must be placed.


How Are They Implemented?

Most states require the person who is requesting the no-contact order to petition the court for an emergency hearing. At the hearing, the courts will hear the reasons behind the petitioner’s request, and the court usually grants a temporary no-contact order. The temporary order is not into effect until the order is served to the other party. The full hearing usually occurs within 30 days of the emergency hearing, which is when it is decided if the order stays in place and for how long.

Looking for information on restraining orders, not no-contact orders? Check out our article What Happens If Someone Breaks A Restraining Order?

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