What happens to a restraining order respondent who misses the hearing?

What happens if you’re a restraining order respondent and you miss the hearing?

There are a few possibilities, and I will address them in the order of what I think would be most likely to occur if A) the restraining order can legally and lawfully be extended; B) the request to extend the restraining order was properly made in compliance with the applicable laws and rules; C) you received proper notice of the hearing; D) you did not appear at your hearing; and E) you are unable to prove that your absence was due to circumstances utterly beyond your control: 

  • the request to extend the restraining order would be granted; or 
  • the court may (but likely won’t) continue the hearing to a later date to give you a second chance to appear; 
  • if you are ordered to appear at the hearing and don’t appear, that could constitute contempt of court, which would Authorize the court to issue a warrant for your arrest to compel you to appear at the hearing (After it is rescheduled to a later date). I’ve never seen a court issue a warrant to compel someone to appear at a hearing for a restraining order or to renew or extend a restraining order because it’s easier for the court simply to renew and extend the protective order than to go to the trouble of having a warrant issued to track you down and compel you to appear in court. And the court can easily justify the decision to extend the protective order due to your failure to appear: 1) you didn’t appear to challenge the request, so one can infer that you have no objection the request; and 2) if you don’t appear in court to defend yourself and/or make objections to the request, then you’ve forfeited that opportunity, and you can’t be surprised if and when the court grants the request. 

I am amazed at the number of people who believe missing hearings is no big deal. If I were ordered or directed to appear in court for a hearing that could have as profound an effect upon me as a restraining order, wild horses couldn’t drag me away from appearing in court, and not just on time, but appearing a few minutes early, to ensure that nothing happened or happened to me in my absence. For two reasons: 

  • A restraining order can have dire effects on your rights to free association and travel and other rights. You want to ensure that you defend those rights to the extent that the state has no valid basis to infringe and interfere with them. 
  • If the restraining order is not only extended but also modified or amended in ways you’re not aware of (because you weren’t there to hear about it), you could innocently find yourself violating the modified/amended order but still being sanctioned or even criminally prosecuted for doing so. You wouldn’t be able to use ignorance of the law (or in this case ignorance of the court’s orders provisions) as a defense.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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