Article by Daniel A. Levy, Esq.
As part of my Family Law practice, I regularly represent people who were served with a temporary restraining order (“TRO”). And one of the first questions that clients ask me is, “how long is this going to take?”
A temporary restraining order is typically a quick and easy document for people to file. And the temporary restraints in the TRO could be extremely disruptive and harmful for the defendant. The restraints could force a person from their home, deprive them of access to valuable property, deprive them of access to their children, etc. Certainly, a person who has a good defense to a TRO would want the matter resolved quickly.
Due to the fact that a TRO is so disruptive, the default rule is that a hearing will be scheduled for 10 days after the TRO is originally issued. And the purpose of the hearing is for the judge to determine if the restraints in the TRO should be made permanent.
Many times the hearing really does happen 10 days after the TRO is issued. But many times it happens some time later – even significantly later. This is due to several reasons. Most of the time neither party has an attorney when a TRO is filed. The court will always grant a reasonable adjournment so that either party could take the opportunity to retain counsel. When attorneys do get involved, there is the possibility that one or both of them are simply not available on the hearing date due to previously-scheduled court appearances. Also, there are times when the defense attorney needs additional time to investigate the allegations and/or procure records, photos, and other documents for use at trial. There are also times when witnesses (like a police officer) is not available for a hearing date and matter gets adjourned. And finally, the courts will only block off limited time for any specific TRO trial. If the testimony simply takes longer, or if the judge cannot dedicate all of the their time during that slot to your case because something emergent comes up, then the trial will be continued on a later date.
Those are a lot factors that could delay a hearing well past the 10 day period that the statute contemplates. While I have seen TRO’s get tried within 10 days, I have seen plenty of cases where the trial is not finished until 60 days after the TRO was filed.
And this is all assuming that the defendant was served with the TRO right away. The court cannot have a hearing before the defendant is served. Therefore, if it takes an extended period for the police or sheriff’s department to serve the defendant, it will be delayed that much longer.