If you fear for your own safety, you can apply for a restraining order to protect yourself and/or your children from the person threatening you. A restraining order means that another person can be ordered not to contact you in order to protect your life, health, freedom and peace.
The person on whom a basic restraining order has been imposed, cannot meet the person being protected or otherwise contact or try to contact this person. It is also forbidden to follow or observe the person being protected.
Extended restraining order also applies to being in certain areas, such as the vicinity of the permanent residence, holiday residence or workplace of the person being protected or of another comparable place specified separately in court.
A technical monitoring of a restraining order will be possible as of October 1, 2023, to enhance the effectiveness of the extended restraining order. The court can impose the restraining order by an official with powers of arrest if it is necessary to prevent an offence against life, health, or liberty. In these situations, the severeness of the threat and the circumstances of the person being monitored are considered. In these cases, for instance, a technical monitoring device can be installed on the person on whom the restraining order has been imposed and the person must also carry a tracking phone, allowing the Prison and Probation Service of Finland to ensure compliance with the restraining order.
The person on whom an inside-the-family restraining order has been imposed has to leave the shared residence and not return there. The person cannot either meet or otherwise contact the person being protected. It is also forbidden to follow and observe the person being protected. The inside-the-family restraining order can also be imposed as an extended order in which case it also applies to certain other places, as in the vicinity of the permanent residence.
A restraining order can be applied by anyone who has reasonable grounds to feel threatened or harassed. The prosecuting, police or social welfare authority can also apply for a restraining order for the person that needs protection.
Typical situations where restraining orders can be applied includes violent behavior of a spouse, a former spouse or a partner, threats or harassment and situations where an adult child attempts to extort money from an older parent or abuses the parent. Restraining orders can also be imposed when the person being protected and the person on whom the restraining order is imposed live in the same residence.
How do you apply for a restraining order?
Normally you apply for a restraining order from the district court via a separate application. When you apply for the restraining order, you have to provide the following information:
- the type of threat or harassment you have experienced or are about to experience
- who you believe is threatening or harassing you
- your perception of continuous harassment or threats in the future
- if there are witnesses or evidence related to the case
Strong written evidence
- crime reports
- medical certificates
- copies of the medical record
- records from the social welfare authority
- records from the shelter
- e-mails and text messages
- notes of received and attempted phone calls: number of calls, at what time and the content of the calls
It is important that you immediately write down events and that you gather any potential evidence and contact information to witnesses to support your application for a restraining order. A criminal report that has been filed because of violence, harassment, threats, or crimes against freedom also supports the application of the restraining order. If the police have visited the crime scene in these situations, you should mention this in the application.
When processing the restraining order case, it is important how carefully you have made the application. You can ask your attorney or the Victim Support Finland for help with the application.
Temporary restraining order
If the need of a restraining order is urgent you should consider applying for a temporary restraining order. The purpose of a temporary restraining order is to break the spiral of violence, the stalking or other serious harassment as quickly as possible. A technically monitored restraining order cannot however be imposed as temporary.
You can apply for a temporary restraining order from the police, the prosecutor, or the district court. Typically, you apply for temporary restraining orders from the police or the district court. The police or another official with powers of arrest also have to impose a temporary restraining order on their own initiative if the need to protect a person whose life or health is in danger is considered to really require it.
When the temporary restraining order is imposed by an authority it takes effect immediately. The case is processed more thoroughly in the next few days in the district court where the case is processed and decided, whether the restraining order will be imposed and for how long (see Duration and renewal of the restraining order further down on this page).
Content of a restraining order
The restraining order does not prevent communication that takes place for legitimate and specific reasons. Communication is allowed, despite the restraining order, in case of e.g., a joint child suddenly gets ill. Predictable situations – such as picking up a child from the other parent for a meeting – should be taken into consideration already in the decision concerning the restraining order.
The imposing of a restraining order does not have legal effects on the custody of children, meeting them or child support. If the restraining order protects the child from their own parent, supervised meetings can still be possible. The practical arrangements on how and how often the meetings between the child and the parent will take place during the restraining order will then be decided as a part of the restraining order process.
The requirements of imposing an inside-the-family restraining order are stricter than in a normal restraining order. The restraining order can only be imposed to prevent an offence against life, health or liberty or a threat of such an offence. A restraining order will not be imposed in case of an offence against privacy or harassment.
In an inside-the-family restraining order, the parties’ financial obligations are not affected, such as payment of rent, the ownership or rental of an apartment or the distribution of the household goods.
Duration and renewal of the restraining order
The validity of the restraining order is considered on a case-by-case basis. The basic and the extended restraining order are valid for a period determined by the district court, however, for at most one year. An inside-the-family restraining order can be imposed for at most three months and a technically monitored restraining order for at most six months.
The renewal of a restraining order is applied for at the district court. The renewal of the restraining order can be applied for before the current order expires. The basic and the extended restraining order can be renewed for at most two years if necessary. An inside-the-family restraining order and a technically monitored restraining order can be renewed for at most three months.
Processing of a restraining order in the district court
The application of the restraining order is processed urgently. The case is processed like a criminal case in court, where the investigation of the case is reviewed, and the present parties and potential witnesses are heard. The imposition of a restraining order is based on the circumstances, the personal experience of threats and potential testimonies from witnesses. A violent act can be considered as a significant reason but is not a prerequisite for a restraining order. Harassment or threats against a person at home, in the workplace, or in public places can also be sufficient grounds for imposing a restraining order.
If you yourself or with the support of your legal assistant apply for a restraining order or if you otherwise are listed as an applicant in the application, you must be present as the applicant of the restraining order in the district court when the case is processed. If the police, on your request, impose a temporary restraining order you must be present yourself in the district court, but if the police have imposed a temporary restraining order on their own initiative, your presence at the trial may not be necessary. However, if you are able to attend in person to tell about the need for the restraining order and the circumstances that led to the restraining order, it can be of significant benefit to confirm the restraining order. You should discuss the case with the authority that imposed the temporary restraining order.
Even if the person on whom the restraining order is imposed does not show up in court, the district court can still decide the restraining order case. The restraining order takes effect immediately after is has been imposed – regardless of whether it is appealed to the Court of Appeal. If the restraining order later is found to be unnecessary, you request the district court to cancel it. The parties cannot agree on terminating the restraining order.
What does an application for a restraining order cost
No court fees are charged for applying for a restraining order.
The district court can appoint an attorney for the person who applies for the restraining order or the person that is meant to be protected by the order, if there is a suspicion of an offence against the protected person’s life, health or freedom, and the appointment of the attorney must be considered justified considering the seriousness of the suspected offence, the personal circumstances of the protected person, and other factors. The fees for such attorney are paid from state funds.
If the restraining order is applied for based on harassment, the applicant is responsible for any costs related to the attorney. In such cases it is possible to inquire about legal aid. The applicant’s income and wealth, as well as the nature of the case, affect the possibility to get legal aid. The legal protection insurance normally does not cover the costs of restraining order cases. Applying for a restraining order should not be waived, even if you do not have the possibility of using the services of an attorney. In practice, restraining order cases are processed so thoroughly by the district court that an attorney may not be necessary.
In certain cases, if an application for a restraining order is considered having no grounds and is made to cause trouble, the losing party may be ordered to partially or fully reimburse the reasonable legal costs of the opposing party.
Referring parties in a restraining order case to support services
The police or the prosecutor must ask the person protected by a temporary restraining order whether he or she agrees that the contact information is given to a provider of support services. When permission is granted, the police must promptly give the contact information of the protected person to the support service.
You can ask for advice and support from the Victim Support Finland in all restraining order cases, such as matters related to obtaining an attorney and a support person for the trial.
The police or the prosecutor also must inform the person on whom a restraining order has been imposed about available support services.
Violation of a restraining order
All restraining orders are registered in the police’s special person register. If the threatening, harassment or other such continues after the restraining order has been imposed, it should be reported to the police. If the police are called to the scene, it is important to mention about the imposed restraining order.
Violation of the restraining order and/or the temporary restraining order can be punished with a fine or with at most one year of imprisonment. Violating a restraining order is an indictable offence, whereas the prosecutor has the right to take the case to court, despite the will of the protected person.
A person on whom a restraining order has been imposed can also be convicted for violating the order if he/she violates the obligations specified in the decision on the technically monitored restraining order and thereby prevent the implementation of the technical monitoring.
Criminal cases related to violating a restraining order must be processed urgently if the violation is not considered minor overall. In practice, this means that the police investigation and the prosecutor’s consideration of charges must be conducted urgently so that the case can be processed more quickly than usual, even in the district court.