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Know the Laws: Kentucky

UPDATED September 21, 2017

Protective Orders / Domestic Violence Orders

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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 domestic violence order is a paper that is signed by a judge and tells the abuser to stop the abuse or face serious legal consequences.  In Kentucky, an immediate ex parte temporary order is known as an emergency protective order (EPO) and a final, longer-term order is known as a domestic violence order (DVO).


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

Note: If you want to get protection against a boyfriend/girlfriend with whom you do not have a child or with whom you have never lived, you may qualify for an interpersonal protective order.  (Those relationships do not fit the legal definition of a "member of an unmarried couple" to qualify for a domestic violence order.)  To read the exact definitions of "family members" or "members of an unmarried couple," go to Who can get a protective order?  

* KRS § 403.720(1)

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

There are two types of orders:

Emergency Protective Orders (EPOs). An emergency protective order (EPO) can be ordered without prior notice to the abuser (ex parte) if the judge believes there is an immediate and present danger of domestic violence and abuse.*  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 or by the court about the existence of the EPO and what its terms are.*1  Generally an EPO will last for 14 days until your hearing for a domestic violence order.*2  If law enforcement is unable to serve the abuser prior to the hearing, the judge can postpone the court date and extend your EPO for another 14 days.  (The EPO can be extended multiple times over a six-month period while law enforcement attempts service.  However, at the end of the six-month period, if the respondent cannot be located to be served, the emergency protective order will be dismissed "without prejudice," which means you could re-file.)*3

Domestic Violence Orders (DVOs). A domestic violence order can only be issued 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.  If the judge believes that "domestic violence or abuse has occurred and may again occur," s/he can order a DVO.*4   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 or until the abuser has been given oral notice by law enforcement or by the court about the existence of the DVO and what its terms are.*1  A DVO can last for up to three years.  You may also extend your DVO for additional three year-year period(s).*5  See How do I change or extend my protective order? for more information on this process.

* KRS § 403.730(2)(a)
*1 KRS § 403.745(1)
*2 KRS § 403.730(1)(a)
*3 KRS § 403.735(2)
*4 KRS § 403.740(1)
*5 KRS § 403.740(4)

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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 the county where you live or a county to which you have fled in order to escape abuse.*  A petition can be filed in the district court, the circuit court, or in family court (if a family court has been established in your county).**

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 § 403.725(2)
** KRS § 403.725(6)(a)

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back to topHow can an EPO and a DVO help me?

An emergency protective order (EPO) and a can do the following:

  • order the abuser to not commit acts of domestic violence and abuse against you;
  • order the abuser to have no contact with you or with anyone else specified in the order (including face-to-face, telephone, written, electronic, through a third party, etc.);
  • order the abuser to stay away from you or anyone else specified in the order (for a distance of up to 500 feet)
  • order the abuser to not come within a certain distance of any specified residence, school, or place of employment;
  • order the abuser to not sell or destroy any of your property or any property you share with him/her;
  • order the abuser to leave the home you share;
  • give you temporary custody of your children; and/or
  • provide you with any other protection necessary to eliminate future domestic violence.*

A domestic violence order (DVO) can do the following:

  • order everything that an EPO can order - listed above; and, additionally:
    • award you temporary child support; and/or
    • order that either or both of you receive counseling services available in the community.**

Note: A DVO can be amended (after you file a request and the judge holds a hearing) to require the abuser to wear a GPS device if the abuser has committed a substantial (serious) violation of a domestic violence order and if the judge believes that the GPS device would increase your safety.*** 

* KRS §§ 403.730(2)(a)(1); 403.740(1); see also the petition on the Kentucky Courts website
** KRS § 403.740(1)
*** KRS § 403.761(1)

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