Understanding Civil Protection Orders in DC | Important Considerations

In order to obtain a civil protection order in DC, the petitioner must show that the respondent committed a criminal offense against the them. A petitioner may seek a civil protection order regardless of whether a stay-away is ordered in a criminal proceeding.

For instance, a husband commits an act of abuse, such as an assault or threats, against his wife who calls the police. If the police arrest the husband, the government in DC and, specifically the Office of the Attorney General, may or may not go forward with prosecution.  The wife, who is the victim, could still go forward with seeking a civil protection order against him regardless of whether the Office of the Attorney General prosecutes the husband.

In a criminal proceeding, the government has the discretion to proceed with the case. In many cases, because of the government’s burden to prove that a criminal offense occurred beyond a reasonable doubt, the government declines to prosecute. Many victims do not understand that they do not have a choice to “press charges” against the offender.

In a civil protection order case, however, the petitioner can hire a lawyer to pursue the case and obtain even greater relief such as alimony or spousal support if the parties are married. The petitioner could also request possession of the marital home even if it is the sole and separate property of the respondent. The petitioner can seek an order awarding them temporary sole legal and physical custody as well as child support.

The petitioner can seek an order prohibiting the respondent from harassing, assaulting, threatening, or stalking them or their children. The order can include that the respondent stay away from the petitioner, their home, workplace, and vehicle, and that the respondent have no contact with them or that the contact be limited to communication only involving children in common.

Understanding civil protection orders in DC and consulting with an experienced lawyer can make the difference in whether your case is successful. You should consult a lawyer who may be able to help you draft the allegations in your petition strategically so that you can obtain a temporary protection order quickly and win your civil protection order case. Civil protection order matters are designed to be heard within two weeks from the date of filing the petition. While the case involves a comparatively short time frame, it may be incredibly complex, especially where it involves married couples or the custody of children. You should consult a lawyer from our firm immediately if you are a survivor of intimate partner or domestic violence or if the police or anyone else suggests that you file for a civil protection order

Potential Outcomes of Civil Protection Order

It is important to understand that there are several possible outcomes associated with civil protection orders in DC. You can ask that the respondent admit to committing an intrafamily offense or a criminal offense against you and, if the respondent pleads guilty in a criminal case, then that guilty plea may be referenced in your civil protection order case.

Most civil protection orders may be settled by consent. A respondent, while not admitting to wrongdoing or to committing an intrafamily offense or any other crime against you, may still agree to all of the relief that you request, such as staying away from you and agreeing that you have custody of children in common.  This outcome is called consent without admissions to the civil protection order. The respondent consents to the order being entered against them; however, the respondent does not admit to the allegations in the petition you filed.

The resolution to a civil protection order case by consent without admissions is a great way of obtaining all of the relief without having to go through a trial. The perpetrator may agree to vacate shared property and that you have custody of any children in common. The order may provide for supervised visitation with children in common or only for visitation or contact that keeps you and the children safe. Retaining an experienced attorney can help you come up with a safety plan and think through various provisions to include or exclude in the order regarding contact or visitation with children in common.

Under a civil protection order, the respondent may be ordered to seek mental health counseling or to attend a domestic violence intervention program. Those services are monitored by a Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, meaning that a probation officer will monitor whether the respondent is completing a court-approved domestic violence intervention program, mental health and /or substance abuse counseling, or treatment.

Another important provision in a civil protection order is that the perpetrator is ordered to relinquish any firearms that they possess and  their right to carry firearm – even one required in connection with their work as an officer, in the military, or as a security guard, for example A civil protection order may therefore carry far-reaching employment consequences beyond the maximum time limit, which is one year.

Restrictions on Contact for Civil Protection Orders in DC

A civil protection order can order the respondent to refrain from contacting the protected party, and it can even include an order to vacate a home shared with the petitioner. Alternatively, an order can provide that the respondent may only contact the protected party in the way that they wish to have contact with the perpetrator, or the order may limit communication to certain subjects, such as visitation with a child in common.

If you have a child in common with the respondent and, for example, you are not seeking to prevent your child from visiting them, you can seek a civil protection order that includes specific custody and visitation provisions. The respondent may be allowed to communicate with you only via text or email, for example, and only once a week or at whatever interval you decide that they should have visitation.

Of course, one of the most important provisions to understand in a DC civil protection order is that you, as the petitioner, are asking the respondent to stay away from you, your work, your home, and your vehicle. If you are married to the respondent or in a domestic partnership, you can even ask the court to order that they vacate a shared home, regardless of whether it is marital property or the sole property of the respondent, or an apartment that you rent together.