En Español
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or (TTY) 1-800-787-3224

Know the Laws: Kentucky

UPDATED March 13, 2015

Protective Orders / Domestic Violence Orders

Print this page
View All

Emergency protective orders (EPO) and domestic violence orders (DVO) provide protection from harm by a family member or someone you are in a relationship with.

Basic information

back to topWhat is a protective order / domestic violence order?

A protective order is a paper which is signed by a judge and tells the abuser to stop the abuse or face serious legal consequences. It offers civil legal protection from domestic violence to both female and male victims.   In KY, an immediate temporary order is known as an emergency protective order (EPO) and a final, long-term order is known as a domestic violence order (DVO).


Did you find this information helpful?

back to topWhat is the legal definition of domestic violence in Kentucky?

This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a protective order.

Kentucky law defines "domestic violence and abuse" as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between "family members" or "members of an unmarried couple:" 

  • physical injury;
  • sexual abuse;
  • assault; or
  • putting someone in fear of immediate physical injury, sexual abuse, or assault.*

Destruction of physical property alone is not considered domestic violence, unless it is combined with threatening behavior.  To read the exact wording of the law, you can read it on our KY Statutes page.

Note: You cannot get a protective order against a boyfriend/girlfriend who you do NOT have a child with and have NEVER lived with, since that does not fit the definition of a "member of an unmarried couple."  To read the exact defintions of "family members" or "members of an unmarried couple," go to Who can get a protective order?

* KRS § 403.720

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topWhat types of protective orders are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of orders:

Emergency Protective Orders (EPOs). When you go to court to file for a domestic violence order, you can also ask for an emergency protective order (EPO). This can be done without a full court hearing and without your abuser present (this is called ex parte). If you are granted an EPO, the abuser will be notified that you have an order against him/her and the date and time of the hearing for your domestic violence order.

An EPO is not effective or enforceable until it has been served on the abuser or until the abuser has been given oral notice by law enforcement of the fact an EPO has been issued, what its terms are, where the abuser can get a hard copy of it, and when s/he needs to be in court.*  If the sheriff is not able to complete service on the abuser (i.e., if s/he can't find the abuser), you can ask the judge for a continuance to postpone the court date and to extend your EPO.  An EPO can only be continued to attempt service for up to six months from the date it was issued.  If the respondent has not been served within the six-month period, the emergency protective order will be dismissed "without prejudice," which means you could re-file.**

Whether the judge grants you an EPO or not, you will be given a court date for a hearing, usually within 14 days of filing your petition. At the hearing, you and the abuser have a chance to be present and tell your sides of the story.

Domestic Violence Orders (DVOs). A domestic violence orders (DVO) is a longer-term version of an EPO and can offer some more protections than an EPO. A DVO can only be issued to you after you have had a full court hearing, where you and the abuser both have the opportunity to tell your sides of the story to a judge. You must attend that hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your EPO may expire and you will have to start the process over.

Like EPOs, domestic violence orders are not effective or enforceable until they have been served on the abuser. A DVO can last for up to three years. You may also extend your DVO for another three year-year period and the amount of times the order can be extended is limitless.***  See How do I change or extend my protective order? for more information on this process.

* KRS § 403.735(6)
** KRS § 403.740(4) & (6)(a),(b)
*** KRS § 403.750(2)


Did you find this information helpful?

back to topIn what county do I file for the protective order?

You can file for an emergency protective order or a domestic violence order in district court in the county where you live permanently or temporarily. *

However, if you have left the home and want to keep the address where you are staying confidential, filing in that county would likely not be a good idea since it would alert the abuser to the fact that you are living in that county.

* KRS § 403.740(1)

Did you find this information helpful?

back to top