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UPDATED April 18, 2011

Military Protective Orders

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This page includes information about military protective orders and their protection on military bases.  For help please see the Military page in the National Organizations section of this website.

Basic Info about Military Protective Orders (MPOs)

back to topWhat is a military protective order (MPO)?

Unit commanders may issue military protective orders (MPOs) to an active duty Service member to protect a victim of domestic abuse/ violence or child abuse (the victim could be a Service member or a civilian).  To qualify, you must be the spouse/ ex-spouse, current or former intimate partner, or have a child in common with the abuser.  A victim, victim advocate, installation law enforcement agency, or FAP clinician may request a commander to issue an MPO.* 

MPOs may order the abuser (referred to as "the subject") to:

  • have no contact or communication (including face-to-face, by telephone, in writing, or through a third party) with you or members of the your family or household;
  • stay away from the family home (whether it is on or off the installation);
  • stay away from the children's schools, child development centers, youth programs and your place of employment;
  • move into government quarters (barracks);
  • leave any public place if the victim is in the same location or facility;
  • do certain activities or stop doing certain activities;
  • attend counseling; and
  • to surrender his/her government weapons custody card.*

Commanders may tailor the order to meet your specific needs.*

An MPO is only enforceable while the Service member is attached to the command that issued the order.  When the Service member is transferred to a new command, the order will no longer be valid.  If the victim still believes that the MPO is necessary to keep him or her safe, the victim, a victim advocate, a FAP staff member may ask the commander who issued the MPO to contact the new commander to advise him or her of the MPO and to request the issuance of a new one.** The commander who issued the MPO is supposed to recommend to the new command that a new MPO is issued when the Service member is transferred to a new command and an MPO is still necessary to protect the victim.***

Civilian abusers cannot be subject to MPOs.  They may only be subject to a civil protection order issued by a state or tribal court.  However, a commanding officer may order that the civilian abuser stay away from the installation.*

Make sure that you get the MPO in writing from the commanding officer so that you can have it with you at all times.

* "The Military Response to Victims of Domestic Violence, Tools for Civilian Advocates," published by the Battered Women's Justice Project, www.bwjp.org
** Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, Incorporating Change 1, September 20, 2011
*** Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, Incorporating Change 1, September 20, 2011, section 6.1.2.7

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back to topAm I eligible to get a military protective order (MPO)?

You are eligible to file for a MPO against an active duty member of the military who has abused you or your children and who is your spouse/ ex-spouse, intimate partner you live(d) with or someone you have a child in common with.  An MPO will be ordered if the commander agrees to it.* 

* See Military OneSource

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back to topCan victims in same-sex relationships receive help?

Yes.  The Family Advocacy Program's ("FAP") policy has been changed from prior years to include people in same-sex relationships.*  

Victims in same-sex relationships (and heterosexual relationships) who are civilians and not married to the active duty service members are eligible for limited services from FAP (risk and danger assessment, safety planning, etc.) but would be referred to community-based resources for ongoing services.  They are not eligible for medical services because they are not beneficiaries of the military health system.

Victims in same-sex domestic violence situations can also apply for and receive an MPO.  See our Military Protective Orders page for more information on MPOs.

* See DoD Instruction 6400.06 (Incorporating Change 1, September 20, 2011)

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back to topFor how long is an MPO valid?

MPOs are generally short term and can last as little as 10 days.*  An MPO is generally issued for the period of time that it will take the FAP to investigate your claims and to provide the commander additional information.  The victim advocate at your installation will know how long it generally takes for the FAP’s CRC to provide the commander with the results of their investigation so you may want to ask the commander to take that time frame into account when issuing the MPO.

Your MPO may or may not have an expiration date.  However, whether it has an expiration date or not, the commanding officer may review the MPO at any time to change it or dissolve (end) it.*

Also, an MPO is only enforceable while the Service member is attached to the command that issued the order.  When the Service member is transferred to a new command, the order will no longer be valid.  If you still need the protection of an MPO, the commander who issued the MPO should contact the new commander to advise him or her of the MPO and recommend that a new one be issued.**

* "The Military Response to Victims of Domestic Violence, Tools for Civilian Advocates," published by the Battered Women's Justice Project, www.bwjp.org
** Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, Incorporating Change 1, September 20, 2011, section 6.1.2.7

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back to topWhat will the process be like for getting an MPO? Will I have to be in the same room as the abuser?

Unlike civilian court, there is no trial or hearing.  You will not have to appear in front of a judge.  You will not have to testify in front of the abuser or even be in the same room as him/her.

The commander is the one who decides whether or not to issue an MPO.  The commander may or may not meet with you before issuing the MPO.  Often times, the victim advocate at the FAP may call the commander on your behalf to ask for the MPO.  If the commander does want to meet with you before granting the MPO, you might go to his/her office or meet him/her at the FAP or the local precinct.  If the commander has a reasonable belief that an MPO is necessary to protect you, one will be issued.

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back to topWhat can I do if I am not granted an MPO?

Most likely the commander will issue an MPO if recommended by the FAP as part of its review of the case.  However, if you are not granted a MPO, you might still be eligible for a civil protective or restraining order issued by your home state, or the state you are currently living in.  Unlike civil protective order proceedings, there is no real appeal process in the Military if you are denied an MPO or if you disagree with the decision of the commanding officer.  You can seek assistance in a variety of ways if the MPO is denied, and you can continue to inform the commander of further abuse, but you cannot "appeal" the decision. 

Visit the Restraining Orders page for your state on this website to find out if you may be eligible for a civil restraining order.

Please note that even though there is a law requiring military bases to enforce protective orders and civil restraining orders, this law may not be fully enforced.  See Are MPOs and civil protective orders (CPOs) valid where ever I go?

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Military Protective Orders and Civil Protective Orders

back to topAre MPOs and civil protective orders (CPOs) valid wherever I go?

The answer is different for each type of order.  An MPO will not be directly enforced off the installation by civilian courts or police.  However, local police often have an agreement (called a "memorandum of understanding" or "MOU") with the installation to detain (hold) someone who may have committed a violation until military police can respond.  Regardless of whether there is a response at the time of the incident, it can still be a violation of a command order to violate the MPO off the installation and the commander can (but does not have to) discipline the service member for any violation.* 

According to military rules, Service members are supposed to follow a CPO even while on the installation.  Commanders and law enforcement officers are supposed to take all reasonable measures necessary to ensure that a CPO is given full force and effect on all installations that are within the jurisdiction of the court that issued such order.  Active duty Service members who fail to follow a CPO may be subject to administrative and/ or disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.**  The civil court judge who issued the CPO can also punish the abuser for a violation of the CPO even if it occurred on base.  Also, civilians who violate a CPO, including Department of Defense civilian employees, may be barred from the installation.***

DoD Instruction 6400.06 (Incorporating Change 1, September 20, 2011), section 6.1.2.6
** DoD Instruction 6400.06 (Incorporating Change 1, September 20, 2011), sections 6.2.1.3; 6.1.3.3.1
*** DoD Instruction 6400.06 (Incorporating Change 1, September 20, 2011), sections 6.1.3.4; 6.1.3.3.2

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back to topDo I need both an MPO and a civil protective order?

It may be a good idea to try to get both a military protective order (MPO) and a civil protective order (CPO) so that you are protected to the fullest extent.  If you already have a CPO, you can still ask for an MPO.  The terms of an MPO cannot contradict (go against) the terms of a CPO.  An MPO can possibly place more restrictions on the abuser than a CPO and it could apply to the Service member even while s/he is overseas (unlike a CPO).*

Most military families leave the installation frequently to shop, attend school, work, visit friends, or go to restaurants and some might live off of the installation.  Given the limitations on MPO enforcement off the installation, it may be best to consider seeking a civilian protective order as well as an MPO.  Although in most communities, the civilian police are asked to detain (hold) a service member who violates an MPO until s/he can be turned over to the military police, local civilian authorities may not realize that they do have the power to act when an MPO is violated.  Therefore, a civilian protective order is often recommended.

The victim advocate in the FAP and the local civilian domestic violence agency can both be resources to explain the process for applying for a CPO in your area.  You can also talk to a lawyer off the installation to see if you are eligible for a CPO and/ or to seek representation in the court hearing.  Go to the Finding a Lawyer page and enter your state into the drop-down menu.

Note: Proceedings surrounding MPOs may not be confidential depending on what military installation you are on.  So if you are concerned about your privacy or safety, it is best to consult a local domestic violence agency to discuss your options when seeking a civil or military protective order.

* Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, Incorporating Change 1, September 20, 2011, sections 6.1.2.5.3; 6.1.2.5.1

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How to I Get and Enforce a Military Protective Order (MPO)?

back to topWhat are the steps for getting an MPO?

Probably the best place to start is with a victim advocate on the installation, the FAP, or at the local domestic violence program, if there is one that is familiar with your installation's practices.

Once an MPO is issued, it should be written and you should receive a copy of the MPO from the commander.*  Be sure to ask for a written copy if you don't receive one.  Most commanders use the recommended form, which can be found here.

The military police, the JAG office, the Provost Marshal's Office, or FAP are also resources you can contact for guidance.   See also I am being abused. How do I get help in the military system? for other possible resources. 

* See Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, Incorporating Change 1, September 20, 2011, section 6.1.2.3

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back to topHow much does it cost to get an MPO?

It does not cost anything to get an MPO.

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back to topWhat should I do if the abuser violates the MPO? How will the abuser be punished?

If the abuser violates your MPO, you can call the military police (the Installation Law Enforcement Office).  If you are off the installation, you can call 911 and ask them to contact Installation Law Enforcement.*  You may also want to contact your victim advocate and/or your FAP counselor if you have one.

A violation of an MPO is the same as disobeying a direct order, which is a serious offense within the military.**  The abuser can be prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice -- under Article 90, Assaulting or Willfully Disobeying Superior Commissioned Officer or Article 92, Failure to Obey Order or Regulation.***

Depending on a number of factors, a violation of an MPO may result in non-judicial punishment, court-martial proceedings or other disciplinary measures.

Note: Remember, if the abuser violates a CPO, you can call 911 and s/he can be arrested by the civilian police and prosecuted by the courts.  Also, if the civilian police notify Installation Law Enforcement about a Service member's off-base violation of a CPO, Installation Law Enforcement is supposed to notify the Service member's commander.*

* Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, August 21, 2007, section E4
** "The Military Response to Victims of Domestic Violence, Tools for Civilian Advocates," published by the Battered Women's Justice Project, www.bwjp.org
*** Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, August 21, 2007, section 6.1.2.6

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