How to Protect Yourself with a Restraining Order Against a Neighbor

If you are experiencing civil harassment from a neighbor, you may be able to file a restraining order for your protection.
Written by Kathryn Mae Kurlychek
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
If you’re experiencing harassment from a neighbor, you may be able to file a restraining order for your protection and have your case heard in civil court. To do so, you’ll have to fill out forms with your local court, then attend a hearing where you’ll need to prove the restraining order is necessary.
We all want to like our neighbors—or at least get along with them. But neighborly disputes over property lines, flags, signs, and more can disrupt more than just your day—they can disturb your overall sense of peace and safety. It’s especially hard to feel that way in your own home, and if the thought of running into your neighbor scares you, it may be time to file for a restraining order. 
Highly-contested and brimming with tension, neighbor harassment cases can feel confusing and hard to take on. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it alone—here to help is
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Can I get a restraining order against my neighbor?

While it depends on the situation you’re in, it is possible to get a restraining order against your neighbor. According to a study completed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, neighborly feuds aren’t uncommon—nearly 14% of participants reported experiencing neighbor harassment

What qualifies as harassment? 

The technical definition of harassment categorizes it as a pattern of conduct performed in continuity for the express purpose to harass, annoy, or disturb the emotional peace of another person. But what exactly does that look like in the every-day? 
Examples of behaviors that qualify as neighbor harassment include:
  • Credible threats of violence
  • Harassing calls or messages left over some time
  • Repeated calls to your place of work
  • Stalking
  • Assault (including sexual assault)
  • Damage to property or abusive graffiti
  • Pointing a camera directly into your home
  • Continued disturbances or disruptions (e.g. noise complaints)
  • Contacting third-party members about you (such as family, friends, and other neighbors)
If you find that one or more of the examples on the list above resonate with you, you may qualify for a civil harassment restraining order, or CHRO, to help protect yourself from your neighbor. But be warned—neighbor disputes are among some of the most highly contested, and taking matters to court may bring about an entirely new host of problems.

The specifics of CHROs

Civil harassment can be understood as abuse from someone with whom you do not have a close relationship—like a neighbor, for example, although it could also come roommate or acquaintance. In this way, it differs from domestic violence, which is characterized as abuse from a person with whom you have a close relationship, such as a family member or spouse. 
Moreover, civil harassment requires repeated, intentional acts of harassment that greatly disturb or disrupt the victim’s emotional peace. Examples of instances that are not likely to be found as harassment include:
  • Repeated calls to law enforcement
  • Verbal altercations that do not involve threats of harm
  • Allowing a dog off-leash around your leashed dog

The burden of proof

In a civil harassment case, you’ll need to prove “without a substantial doubt” that your neighbor is harassing you—which is a much more stringent term than simply proving “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Therefore, to successfully file for a CHRO you’ll need solid evidence of the harassment and should be able to prove that it falls under the umbrella of civil harassment, specifically. 
A court of law needs to be able to see that your proximity to your neighbor is a threat to your safety—so document the harassment as it occurs, whether it be by videoing, taking audio recordings, filing police reports, or ensuring you have a witness when possible. 
Keep in mind,if you file for civil harassment and lose, the court may order you to pay your neighbor’s attorney fees—so having evidence is paramount to making your case.

Temporary restraining orders (TROs) vs. CHROs

Civil harassment restraining orders are one type of protection against a dangerous neighbor—but it’s not the only kind. For example, if you’ve filed for a restraining order against your neighbor, the judge may first issue you a temporary restraining order or TRO until the hearing takes place, at which time the judge would then decide whether to extend it to a permanent restraining order. 
Below, we’ve included a brief table on the most common types of protective orders you’re likely to see:
What it’s issued for
How long it lasts
TRO (temporary restraining order)
Temporary restraining orders are usually issued after a complaint is filed and before the hearing date
Between 20 and 25 days
PRO (permanent restraining order)
This type of order is an extension of the TRO, and will be granted at the hearing if the judge rules in your favor
Can last up to 5 years after the hearing date
EPO (emergency protective order)
This type of restraining order can only be ordered by law enforcement. Police must ask the judge to approve an EPO, which is typically used in cases of stalking for immediate safety concerns
7 days
CPO (criminal protective order)
This type of order is colloquially dubbed a “stay-away” order and sets limits on how close in physical proximity another person can be to you. It’s issued by criminal courts during some investigations.
Will usually last the duration of the investigation
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Effects of having a restraining order

What, exactly, does having a restraining order do, and how can it protect you? Generally speaking, restraining orders restrict (or restrain) a dangerous person’s activity, particularly around you
The exact details of a restraining order can vary since they’re typically tailored to the experiences of the victim and the type of harassment that’s occurring. For example, if your neighbor harasses you with unwanted calls and messages, you could file for a restraining order that protects you from being contacted via phone. Depending on the content of those calls or messages, the order may also be extended to physical proximity, other modes of contact, etc. 
Here are some other examples of how having a restraining order can help protect you:
  • Your neighbor won’t be allowed to contact you 
  • Your neighbor won’t be allowed to contact your family members 
  • Your neighbor won’t be allowed near you or your family members, no matter where you go
  • Your neighbor won’t be allowed near your school or place of employment
  • Your neighbor won’t be allowed to have a gun
In some cases, a restraining order can force your neighbor to move until the order is lifted—if, for example, the proximity between your homes is less than the minimum distance specified by your restraining order. 
Of course, the piece of paper that your restraining order is printed on won’t protect you by itself—but it will create serious legal and financial consequences for violating its terms, including arrest, fines, and possible jail time. 

Filing for a restraining order against your neighbor

If you believe you’re in a situation that qualifies for a civil harassment restraining order, file with your local court and explain your reasoning for the restraining order. Your court may also have local forms you’ll need to fill out in addition to the standard ones—you can check with your court’s self-help desk or clerk to find out which forms you’ll need. 
Once you’ve filled out the necessary forms, don’t rush to submit them—have them reviewed, and make a couple of copies (we’d recommend making at least five copies) to keep on hand. Then, file them with the court clerk, and the judge will decide in the following weeks whether to issue a temporary restraining order until the time of the hearing.
Pro Tip Your lawyer will be able to help you through the process of filing forms with your local court.

What comes next?

Submitting your forms is the first step to acquiring a restraining order that will help protect you from your neighbor. But what comes next? Here’s what to expect: 
  1. If the judge decides to make the temporary restraining order, a hearing date will be set
  2. Before the day of the hearing, you’ll need to have your neighbor served with a copy of all the paperwork, including the temporary restraining order.
  3. In the meantime, you and your neighbor must both abide by the TRO.
  4. At the hearing, the judge will decide whether or not to extend the TRO to a permanent restraining order.

How to protect yourself with the right home insurance

Filing for a restraining order against your neighbor can help protect you and your loved ones from threats of harm and property damage. Having
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