DC Civil Protection Orders | Protecting Your Family from Domestic Abuse

A civil protection order is a remedy designed to protect a survivor of interpersonal, intimate partner, or intrafamily violence. Civil protection orders can also be filed by roommates or people living together and sharing a common space as well as by victims of stalking or sexual assault – regardless of whether the victim had any kind of relationship with the stalker.

A civil protection order can result in a person being forced out of a home, losing at least temporary custody of their children, or losing their job, especially if they carry a firearm. Local family courts can justify granting sole custody to the protected party if a court finds that domestic violence (a criminal offense) was either threatened or committed against the protected party.

DC civil protection orders can protect you and your children after suffering an incident of family violence. A lawyer from our firm can improve your understanding of when these orders are appropriate as well as when to pursue a case in family court.

Qualifying for a Civil Protection Order

A civil protection order can help a survivor of domestic abuse protect herself or himself before a crime occurs. According to Code of the District of Columbia §16-1003, any person who believes that they are at risk of suffering family violence, or any person threatened with violence, may petition the domestic violence division for a civil protection order.

In order to obtain a civil protection order, parties must allege that they are or were in a romantic, sexual, or dating relationship or partnership (or have or had a partner in common), have shared a mutual residence, are related by blood or marriage or legally (by adoption, for example). A petitioner who alleges stalking or sexual assault need not have a relationship with the alleged offender.

Next Steps

After a person files a petition in court, a judge will usually hold a hearing on the same day to determine whether the petitioner is eligible for a temporary protection order. If so, the court may grant a temporary protection order for a period of 14 days. During this time, the alleged offender must usually stay away from and not have any contact with the petitioner. These hearings are usually ex parte, which means that only the petitioner gives testimony.

Once this 14-day period expires and the alleged offender is served, the court will hold a subsequent hearing to determine whether a civil protection order should be entered. At that time both parties may testify and both have the opportunity to present evidence to support or refute allegations of domestic abuse. While both may testify, it is also possible that neither testifies and the case settles with the entry of an order but without admission of wrongdoing. If the case does not settle and instead the judge hears the evidence in a trial and finds good cause to believe that the alleged incident occurred, DC Code §16-1005 allows the presiding judge to order the offender to:

  • Refrain from committing or threatening to commit abuse
  • Seek mental health counseling or attend a domestic violence intervention program
  • Leave a shared home
  • Order that a party may only have supervision through the court’s supervised visitation center
  • Pay the protected party’s legal costs or attorney’s fees

DC civil protection orders can remain in effect for up to one year, but they can be extended in some cases. One of our attorneys can help you obtain a civil protection order if you are a survivor of violence or, if you have been wrongfully accused, we can argue against the issuance of a civil protection order or in favor of a more lenient order.

Ask an Attorney about DC Civil Protection Orders

DC civil protection orders allow survivors of domestic violence to seek safety from abusive family members, romantic partners, and roommates. A judge may require the restricted party to surrender property, leave their home, or refrain from contacting the protected party. The impact of household violence can also affect a party’s divorce or child custody case.

Working with an experienced attorney from our firm can be substantially beneficial in obtaining a DC civil protective order. Our team can work to argue in favor of or against the imposition of a protection order. Consider reaching out to a lawyer today to discuss your options.