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Know the Laws: Kentucky

UPDATED November 26, 2012

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.

Who can get a protective order / domestic violence order

back to topWho can get a protective order?

You can seek court protection from acts of domestic abuse done to you or your minor child by any of the following people:

  • a current or former spouse;
  • a parent or step-parent;
  • your child or step-child;
  • a grandparent;
  • a boyfriend / girlfriend who you currently or formerly live(d) with "as a couple;"
  • a boyfriend / girlfriend who you have a child with (regardless of whether you ever lived together); or
  • if the child is the victim, a child can file against any person living in the same household with the child regardless of the relationship between the child and the abuser.  (In other words, the child does not need to be related to the person in any way).*

Note: The definition does NOT include a boyfriend / girlfriend who you do NOT have a child with and have NEVER lived with.*

If you are a minor (under 18) trying to get a protective order against someone in your family, you will need an adult family member to file for an order on your behalf.**

In Kentucky, you may apply for a protection order against a current or former same-sex partner who you have lived with or have legally adopted a child with.  However, judges do not always rule consistently in these cases.  Please talk to someone at a local domestic violence organization for help determining how a judge is likely to rule on your case.  To find help, please click on the KY Where to Find Help page.

* KRS § 403.720(2)
** KRS § 403.725

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back to topCan I get a protective order against a same-sex partner?

Maybe. In Kentucky, you can file a protective order against an intimate partner, but only if you lived together or currently live together.*

If you are victim of stalking or harassment, there may be other legal options for you. Assault, stalking, and harassment are against the law. If one of these crimes is being committed against you, you may report it to law enforcement. If charges are pressed against the perpetrator, a judge may be able to order him/her to stay away from you. To find help in your state, please click on the KY Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.

* KRS §§ 403.720, 403.725

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

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

  • order the abuser to have no contact with you (including face-to-face, telephone, written, electronic, through a third party, etc.);
  • order the abuser to not commit acts of domestic violence and abuse against you;
  • order the abuser to not sell or destroy any of your property or any property you share with him/her;
  • order the abuser to not come within a specified distance of the residence, school, or place of employment of you, your child, your family member, or the member of an unmarried couple protected in the order;
  • order the abuser to stay away from you or your child (for a distance of up to 500 feet)
  • order the abuser to leave the home you share;
  • give you temporary custody of your child or 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.**
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.

Note: EPOs and DVOs cannot order the abuser to wear a GPS device - this can only be ordered after a court determines that the abuser has committed a substantial (serious) violation of a domestic violence order.***

* KRS § 403.740(1)
** KRS § 403.750(1)
*** KRS § 403.750(1)(j)

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back to topWhat can I do if I don't qualify for a protective order?

In Kentucky, protective orders do not cover:

  • victims of stalking and harassment;
  • a victim of abuse whose abuser is someone other than:
    • a family member;
    • someone you live with as a couple or have lived with as a couple; or
    • someone you have had a child with.

However, assault, stalking, and harassment are against the law. If one of these crimes is being committed against you, you may report it to law enforcement and/or file a criminal complaint at the district court clerk’s office in the county where the abuse occurred.  See Criminal Complaints for more information.

To read the legal definitions of stalking and harassment, go to our KY Statutes page.  You can also visit our Staying Safe page for ways to increase your safety.

Protective orders also do not cover many types of emotional or mental abuse.  If you're being mentally or emotionally abused,  please contact a domestic violence organization in your area.  Visit the KY State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab at the top of this page.

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back to topHow much does it cost to file for a protective order? Do I need a lawyer?

There is no cost to file for a protective order.

You do not need a lawyer to file for a protective order. However, you may wish to have a lawyer, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. If you can, contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected.  If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find information on legal assistance on the KY Finding a Lawyer page.  Domestic violence organizations in your area also may be able to help you through the legal process and may have lawyer referrals. To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please visit the KY State and Local Programs page.

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