Civil protection orders in DC last for up to one year. Depending on the recency of the incidents alleged, the seriousness of the situation, whether the petitioner has feared for their safety or that of a household member, and whether the petitioner is able to testify that they are immediately endangered by the respondent, the petitioner may also be eligible to for a temporary protection order. Temporary protection is issued in the same civil protection order case and serves as a protection for two weeks until the civil protection order hearing date.

A temporary protection order lasts approximately 14 days or less and provides immediate relief. By law, a temporary protection order lasts 14 days unless there is a holiday or some kind of exception or court closure for weather, in which case the temporary protection order lasts until the next business day when the court is open. After that, the petitioner must appear at the civil protection hearing to prosecute their case and obtain the longer lasting relief of a civil protection order. It is important to note that the length of a civil protection order in DC cannot exceed one year; however, civil protection orders can be extended, for good cause, by motion before they expire.

A respondent who has been properly served with a temporary protection order and notice to appear at a civil protection order hearing must also appear. If a properly served respondent fails to appear, a bench warrant may be issued for their arrest.

How Long do Ex Parte Orders Last?

If the petitioner is willing and able to testify on the  day that they file for a temporary protection order that they fear for their immediate safety, they may be granted a temporary protection ex parte, which means that relief is granted to the petitioner based on their testimony alone, without hearing from the respondent, and without presenting much evidence.

This kind of proceeding is particularly helpful for someone who, for example, feels like they cannot return home because the respondent is there or may return to the home. In that case, the petitioner can take the temporary protection order to the local police station and ask an officer to escort him or her back to the home to make sure that he or she gains entry safely. The locks can be changed, the respondent will have to leave the home, and the police can be there to make sure the respondent takes only the belongings that he or she needs.

Because the respondent may be ordered to vacate their home after only the petitioner has had a chance to testify, the temporary protection order is designed to only last for a couple of weeks until the civil protection order hearing date. At that time, the parties can fully litigate the case, and the respondent has the opportunity to testify (or not) and to present a defense and supporting evidence.

Long-Term Legal Protection

The civil protection order can last for up to one year, and it may be modified or vacated. It is not possible in the District for civil protection orders to be entered beyond a one-year period; however, for good cause shown and prior to the expiration of the order, a civil protection order may be extended for an additional year.

If you are seeking to extend the length of a civil protection order for any amount of time, you should consult with a DC attorney. The success of a motion to extend may depend on how egregious the initial offense was and what evidence the petitioner presents in favor of an extension.

Case Specific Time-Frames

Every civil protection order is entered in increments of up to one year. It is also possible to have a civil protection entered for a shorter period of time, or, if the petitioner and the respondent resume their relationship after the order has been entered, then either party may file a motion to vacate the order.

A petitioner seeking to extend, modify, or vacate an order may benefit from speaking with a lawyer. A petitioner may also benefit from talking with a lawyer about filing a motion for criminal contempt if the respondent has violated a temporary or permanent civil protection order.

A petitioner reaches out to a respondent with an order against them in an effort to goad the respondent into violating the civil protection order may not be held in criminal contempt, whereas the respondent may be. If you are a respondent and the petitioner is contacting you, you should consult one of our attorneys immediately, because there are serious potential criminal consequences for a respondent who violates a civil protection order. Violation of a civil protection order in even the most minimal or inoffensive way may result in criminal prosecution, a fine, or incarceration.

If you have an order entered against you, you should consult with one of our experienced lawyers who may be able to advise you about filing a motion to vacate a civil protection order in DC.

Some courts understand coercive control, the domestic violence dynamic, and the nature of power and control better than others.

Whether you are not sure if the verbal or emotional abuse, intimidation, or manipulation you are suffering may warrant filing for a civil protection order or even if you know that you are a survivor of domestic violence, you may benefit from consulting one of our experienced attorneys.

Whether you are ready to leave a long-term relationship or marriage because you have children with the offender or because you are economically dependent on the perpetrator, you may benefit from knowing your rights and options, including free short or long-term housing and other services provided for survivors by DC’s Crime Victims Compensation program.

It may take many times before you are able to successfully leave an abusive relationship. It is common for survivors to file for civil protection orders, not show up to court, file for them again, have them entered, and then return to court to request that the orders be vacated – only to come back to court once again to ask that the court enter an order.

Determining when to file for an order and the appropriate length of time for a civil protection order to be entered can be difficult and stressful without the guidance of a DC lawyer who understands domestic violence dynamics as well as the law. Our team is also familiar with the particular judges who would be hearing your civil protection order case if it goes to trial.

Is There a Limit on the Amount of Times You Can Extend a Civil Protection Order?

There is technically no limit on the amount of times you can request a civil protection order or request that your current order be extended. A local family court may be less inclined to view a petitioner as credible or in need of the court’s protection if they are initiating contact with the respondent from whom they have previously requested protection, but that fact alone does not justify denying relief. DC family law judges may also be more understanding of the number of times that a survivor may need to go to court to file for a civil protection order, especially when your lawyer can explain the situation.

An attorney can help the court understand all the factors that were involved in your decision to seek a civil protection order and present expert testimony to educate the court about domestic violence dynamics generally, which may help a judge be more sympathetic to your situation. If you are concerned about an unsuccessful history of filing for protection, let a lawyer from our firm help you understand the significance of the length of a civil protection order in DC.