Can a Child File a Restraining Order Against an Abusive Parent?

By Mike Broemmel

Updated November 28, 2018

Teenage Daughter Arguing with Her Parents

Buccina Studios/Photodisc/Getty Images

A mechanism exists for a child who is victimized by an abusive to access the court system to obtain a restraining order, according to the American Bar Association Section of Family Law. Although a child cannot petition a court herself in any type of legal proceeding because she is not of age, another adult can pursue a case on her behalf.

Interested Party

An adult with a recognized legal interest in a child who is abused can file a petition for a restraining order on behalf of that minor. Typically this is the other parent. However, it also can be a grandparent, aunt, uncle or another relative who interacts with the child and knows of her circumstances.

Guardian ad Litem

In the absence of a parent or another relative positioned to take action on behalf of the child, the court can appoint what is known as a guardian ad litem to pursue a restraining order for the child. A guardian ad litem is an attorney with experience in cases involving child protection issues.

Time Frame

If there is a reasonable belief that a child is abused by a parent, an emergency temporary restraining order can be issued by a judge without a prior hearing, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. An adult with a legal interest in the child, a social service worker or a member of law enforcement presents a statement under oath to a judge on behalf of the child to obtain this type of decree. Depending on the age of the child, a judge may question him in chambers.


A common misconception is that only a law enforcement official or a staff member from a social services agency can pursue a restraining order on behalf of a child. Other individuals have standing to appear in court on behalf of a child in a restraining order matter.

Expert Assistance

If you are the parent of a child who you believe is being abused by the other parent, or if you are related in some other manner to such a child, consider obtaining legal representation. Time is of the essence in obtaining a restraining order for a child in such a situation. The American Bar Association maintains resources to assist you in finding both lawyers to hire as well as organizations that provide no-cost representation in certain situations.