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Know the Laws: Michigan

UPDATED August 16, 2016

Domestic Relationship Personal Protection Orders

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A domestic relationship personal protection order ("PPO") is a civil order that  provides protection from harm by a family member, household member, someone with whom you have a child in common, or someone you have dated or are dating.

Basic information

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

This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a domestic relationship personal protection order ("PPO").

A judge can issue a domestic relationship PPO when the judge believes that a current or former spouse, someone you have a child in common with, someone you are/were dating, or someone who lives/lived in the same household as you may commit 1 or more of the following acts:

  • Entering (unlawfully) onto premises;
  • Assaulting, attacking, beating, molesting, or wounding you;
  • Threatening to kill or physically injure you;
  • Unlawfully removing minor children from you when you have legal custody of them and removing them is not permitted in the custody or parenting time order;
  • Purchasing or possessing a firearm;
  • Interfering with your efforts to remove your children or personal property from premises that are solely owned or leased by the abuser;
  • Interfering with you at your job or school or acting in a way that harms your job or school relationship or environment;
  • Having access to information in records concerning a minor child of both you and the abuser that will tell the abuser about the address or telephone number of you/your child or about your work address;
  • Committing stalking or aggravated stalking against you (even if s/he is not arrested for those crimes);
  • Injuring, killing, torturing, neglecting (or threatening to injure, kill, torture, or neglect) an animal in which you have an ownership interest, with the intent to cause you mental distress or to exert control over you;
  • Any other specific act or behavior that interferes with your personal liberty or that causes a reasonable fear of violence.*

* MCLA 600.2950(1),(4)

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back to topWhat is a domestic relationship PPO and what types are there?

"Domestic relationship personal protection order" is the name Michigan uses for restraining orders in cases of domestic violence.  A domestic relationship personal protection order (PPO) is a civil court order that is designed to stop violent and harassing behavior and to protect you and your family from an abuser. To qualify, you must have a specific relationship with the abuser and s/he must have committed or be likely to commit specific acts -- see What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Michigan? for more information.

When you apply for your PPO, a judge can issue you an ex parte domestic relationship PPO without a full court hearing and without the abuser present.  The judge has to decide whether or not to grant your request for an ex parte order within 24 hours of when you file the petition.**  An ex parte PPO should be issued (and effective) without prior notice to the abuser or his/her attorney if you can clearly show that immediate and irreversible injury, loss, or damage will result from the delay that would be required to notify the abuser or that the notice will itself cause you harm before a PPO can be issued.*  An ex parte domestic relationship PPO is valid for at least 182 days (approximately 6 months).  The abuser can request a hearing to modify (change) or rescind (cancel) the PPO.***  If the judge issues you a PPO after this hearing, it would be called a final domestic relationship PPO.

* MCLA 600.2950(12)
** MCR 3.705(A)(1)
*** MCLA 600.2950(13)

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back to topHow can a domestic relationship PPO help me?

In a domestic relationship personal protection order, a judge may order the abuser to:

  • Not enter specific premises;
  • Stop assaulting, attacking, beating, molesting or wounding you;
  • Stop threatening to kill or physically injure you;
  • Not remove minor children from you when you have legal custody of them and removing them is not permitted in the custody or parenting time order;
  • Stop stalking you;
  • Stop contacting you or harassing you at your work place, residence, school, day care (you must specifically request these places);
  • Not buy or have in his/her possession a firearm; 
  • Not interfere with your efforts to remove your children or personal property from premises that are solely owned or leased by the abuser;
  • Not interfere with you at your job or school or act in a way that harms your job or school relationship or environment;
  • Not have access to information in records concerning a minor child of both you and the abuser that will tell the abuser about the address or telephone number of you/your child or about your work address;
  • Not commit stalking or aggravated stalking against you;
  • Not do (or threaten to do) any of the following with the intent to cause you mental distress or to exert control over you: injure, kill, torture, or neglect an animal in which you have an ownership interest; not remove the animal from your possession or take/keep the animal; and
  • Not do any other specific act or behavior that interferes with your personal liberty or that causes a reasonable fear of violence.*

Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.

 * MCLA 600.2950(1)

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Who is eligible for a personal protection order

back to topWho can get a domestic relationship personal protection order?

You may be eligible to file a domestic relationship PPO against:

  • your current or former spouse;
  • someone with whom you have a child in common;
  • someone you are dating or used to date; or
  • anyone who lives in your home or has lived in your home.*

If you do not qualify for a domestic relationship PPO, you may qualify for a non-domestic stalking PPO.  See Non-Domestic Stalking Personal Protection Orders for more information. 

If your children are being abused, you should know that:

  • Unemancipated children are not eligible to file for a domestic relationship PPO against a parent.
  • A parent cannot file for a domestic relationship PPO against the other parent on her child's behalf if the child is a victim of abuse unless the parent is also the victim of abuse. If both a parent and her child are experiencing abuse, the parent may file for a domestic relationship PPO. This domestic relationship PPO may protect the child(ren) as well.
  • If your child is experiencing abuse but you do not qualify for a domestic relationship PPO, you may want to consider speaking with an advocate at your local domestic violence organization (see MI State and Local Programs) and/or talking to a lawyer to understand all options that may be available to you.  Go to our MI Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.

 * MCLA 600.2950(1)

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back to topCan I get a domestic relationship PPO against a same-sex partner?

In Michigan, you may apply for a domestic relationship personal protection order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Who can get a domestic relationship personal protection order?  You must also be the victim of an act of domestic violence, which is explained here What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Michigan?

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back to topCan I get a domestic relationship PPO if I am under the age of 18?

If you are a minor (under 18*) you can get a PPO with the assistance of a "next friend." The "next friend" can be a parent or other trusted adult over the age of 18 who will file for the PPO on your behalf. If you are between the ages of 14 - 17, you may be able to appoint a "next friend" to file on your behalf.  If you are 13 or younger, then the court will appoint a "next friend" for you.**

It is best to contact the clerk of court in your area or a local domestic violence organization for more information on how a minors gets a personal protection orders.  Depending on the county the process and forms may be different, but the law is the same. For a list of local organizations in your area, please go to MI State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab on the top of this page. For a list of courthouses, please go to MI Courthouse Locations.

* MCR 3.702(6)
** MCR 3.703(F)

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back to topCan I get a domestic relationship PPO against a minor?

It is possible to get a domestic relationship PPO against a minor if you meet all other requirements.*  If the respondent (abuser) is under 18 years old, his/her parent, guardian, or custodian must also be served a copy of the order in addition to serving the minor.** 

Note:
The criminal consequences that minors under age 17 may face for violating a PPO could be different than the consequences for people age 17 and older.***

* MCR 3.703(C)
** MCLA 600.2950(18)
*** See MCLA 600.2950(11)(a)(ii),(23)

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back to topWill I have to face the abuser in court to get a PPO?

Maybe.  A judge can issue you an ex parte domestic relationship PPO without a full court hearing and without the abuser present.  An ex parte domestic relationship PPO is valid for at least 182 days (approximately 6 months).  Once the PPO is issued, the abuser will be notified that you have an order against him/her.*

The abuser has the right to file a motion to modify (change) or rescind (cancel) the ex parte personal protection order and request a hearing within 14 days of being served with the order (unless s/he has a good reason to extend the time to file the motion).**  If the abuser does request a court hearing, a hearing will normally be set for some time during the following 14 days*** and you may have to face the abuser at that hearing.  (If the abuser is licensed to carry a gun due to his/her job, such as a job in law enforcement, the hearing will take place within 5 days instead of 14).****  You must attend that hearing if you want to keep your PPO.  If you do not go to the hearing, a judge may take away your PPO.

If the abuser does not request a court hearing, you will probably not have to go back to court. However, you should check with a domestic violence organization or legal resource in your community - the court in your area might have its own rules about this.  To find an organization in your area to for legal help please visit MI State and Local Programs or MI Finding a Lawyer.

You may have additional court hearings if you want to change or extend your PPO, or if the abuser violates the PPO. The abuser may come to those hearings. See How do I change or extend my domestic relationship PPO?

* MCLA 600.2950(13)
** MCLA 600.2950(11)(g),(13)
*** MCLA 600.2950(14)
**** MCR 3.707(A)(2)

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back to topHow much does it cost to get a domestic relationship PPO?

There is no fee to get the forms for a PPO* but it seems that some counties may charge a fee to file the forms in court. Michigan law specifically says that fees cannot be charged to file a motion to modify, terminate, extend, or to enforce a personal protection order if it is violated** and Michigan law states that a fee cannot be charged to start a civil action for a PPO*** (but as of 2017, some counties are still charging to file a PPO). 

When it comes to service, the petition and order can be served by anyone who is not a party to the case who is over 18. However, if you want law enforcement to serve it, service of domestic relationship PPO may cost anywhere from $10.00 to $100.00 depending on the travel costs associated with locating the respondent.****

* See MCLA 600.2950b(4)
** MCR 3.707(D); MCLA 600.2529(1)(e)
*** MCLA 600.2529(1)(a); MCL 3.703(A)
**** See PPO Instructions on Michigan Courts website

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back to topDo I need a lawyer?

Although you do not need a lawyer to file for a domestic relationship PPO, it may be to your advantage to seek legal counsel.  This is especially important if the abuser has a lawyer.  Even if the abuser does not have a lawyer, it is recommended that you 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 and domestic violence agencies on the MI Where to Find Help page. The domestic violence agencies in your area may be able to help you with the forms if you cannot find a lawyer.  In addition, the law allows court staff to help you fill out the forms (if you request it) and to explain the proper way to serve the papers but the law does not require the court staff to do so.*  Your will find contact information for courthouses on the MI Courthouse Locations page.

* MCLA 600.2950b(4)

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Steps for getting a PPO

back to topStep 1: Go to court to get and file the petition.

You can go to the family division of the circuit court to get a petition during normal business hours, Monday through Friday. To find the courthouse in your area, go to MI Courthouse Locations.

You may also get a sample petition online on our MI Download Court Forms page.

At the courthouse, tell the clerk of court that you want to file a petition for a personal protection order. Let the clerk know whether you are filing for a domestic relationship PPO (or a non-domestic PPO). 

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back to topStep 2: Bring photo ID for you and information about the abuser.

It may be helpful to bring the following information about the abuser, if you have it:

  • a photo (to help law enforcement serve the PPO)
  • addresses of residence and employment
  • phone numbers
  • a description and plate number of the abuser's car
  • information about his/her history of drugs or gun ownership.

Remember to bring some form of photo identification of your own (a driver's license or other identification that includes your picture) since you may likely have to show that when you sign your petition in court.

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back to topStep 3: Fill out the necessary forms.

The clerk will provide you with the forms that you need to file. On the complaint form, you will be the "petitioner" and the abuser will be the "respondent."  You can write about the most recent incidents of violence, using descriptive language - words like "slapping," hitting," "grabbing," threatening," "choking," etc. - that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Be specific.

It may also be necessary to inform the court about any previous court action you have taken against the abuser, including any criminal cases involving the abuse.

Be sure to give a safe mailing address and phone number - and ask to keep your home address confidential if the abuser doesn't know where you live. If you are staying at a shelter, you may want to ask the shelter if they have a Post Office Box that you can use.

If you need assistance filling out the form, you may want to ask the clerk for help. Some courts may have an advocate that can assist you. Another option is to find help through one of the domestic violence agencies or legal organizations listed on our MI State and Local Programs page or MI Finding a Lawyer page under the Where to Find Help tab on the top of this page.

You can also find some of the forms you will need from our MI Download Court Forms page.

Note: Be sure to sign the forms in front of the court clerk.

Once you have completed your paperwork, return it to the clerk. The probation department will then run a "check" of the abuser's criminal and protective order history.

A clerk will look the forms over and assign your case a judge and case number. The whole process can take up to several hours.

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back to topStep 4: The "ex parte" hearing

When your case number is called, you will be brought to the judge's chambers for an ex parte hearing.  At this hearing, the judge will read your petition and ask you why you want a PPO. The abuser will not be present for the ex parte hearing.  At the end of this hearing, the judge can grant you an ex parte domestic relationship PPO that will be valid for at least 182 days.* 

If the judge grants an ex parte PPO, the court clerk will give you a copy of the order.  Review the order before you leave the courthouse to make sure that the information is correct.  If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk how you can correct the order before you leave.

Be sure to keep your PPO with you at all times. You may want to keep copies in your car, workplace, or at your children's daycare or school if they are included in the order.

An ex parte domestic relationship PPO is enforceable anywhere in Michigan as soon as it is signed by a judge - even before it is served on the abuser.**  You should know that your order may not be enforceable outside of Michigan until the abuser has been served with papers that tell him about the PPO. If you plan on leaving Michigan before the abuser has been served, please speak with an advocate at a domestic violence organization in your area to figure out a safety plan.  Go to our MI State and Local Programs for organizations near you.

* MCLA 600.2950(13)
** MCLA 600.2950(12)

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back to topStep 5: Service of process

The abuser must be "served," or given papers that tell him/her about your domestic relationship PPO.

The clerk will send the order to the police, or give you other instructions on how to get the paperwork served.  The police will then attempt to find the abuser and serve him/her notice of the domestic relationship PPO, as well as the paperwork to request a hearing if s/he wants one.  The abuser may also be served by certified mail, return receipt requested, by an adult other than you, or by a professional process server.*  Check with the clerk to be sure of the proper instructions for service.  If the abuser is a minor (under 18), his/her parent, guardian or custodian must also be served.* 

In most counties, there is no charge to have the authorities serve the abuser (although some sheriff's offices may charge a fee for service and mileage).   You cannot serve the papers on the abuser yourself.

* MCLA 600.2950(18)

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back to topStep 6: What will I have to prove at the hearing?

As the plaintiff requesting a domestic relationship personal protection order, you must:

  • Prove that the abuser has committed acts of domestic violence (as defined by the law) against you
  • Convince a judge that you need protection and the specific things you asked for in the petition.

See the Preparing your Case section under the Preparing for Court tab at the top of this page for ways you can show the judge that you were abused.

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back to topStep 7: The hearing

The abuser has the right to file a motion to modify (change) or rescind (cancel) the personal protection order and request a hearing within 14 days of being served with the order (unless s/he has a good reason to extend the time to file the motion).* If the abuser does request a court hearing, a hearing will normally be set for some time during the following 14 days.** 

You must go to the hearing, if the abuser requests one. If you do not go to the hearing, a judge might take away your ex parte PPO. If you do not show up at the hearing, it may be harder for you to get another PPO in the future.

If the abuser requested a hearing, but does not show up, the judge may continue with the hearing without the abuser or s/he may order a new hearing date.

Continuance. You have the right to bring a lawyer to represent you at the hearing. If you need more time to find a lawyer (especially if you show up to court and the abuser has a lawyer and you do not), you may ask the judge for a "continuance" to set a later court date so you can have time to find a lawyer for yourself.  Go to our MI Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.

* MCLA 600.2950(11)(g),(13)
** MCLA 600.2950(14)

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After the hearing

back to topWhen will my PPO go into effect?

As soon as a judge signs a PPO, it can be enforced anywhere in Michigan.  Once the abuser has been served with paperwork notifying him of the PPO, it can be enforced throughout the country.*

* MCLA 600.2950(9)

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back to topWill someone be able to search on the Internet to see that I have a PPO?

Probably not.  A new law that went into effect in September 2014 makes it clear that courts are prohibited from making available to the public on the Internet any information regarding the registration of, filing of a petition for, or the issuance of PPO if such publication would be likely to publicly reveal the identity or location of the party protected under the order.*

* MCR 3.705(C)

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back to topWhat should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some ideas of what you can do:

  • Make several copies of the PPO as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children's school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.
  • Take steps to safety plan, including possibly changing your locks, if permitted by law, and your phone number.

Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving the order.   People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school.   Many batterers obey protective orders, but some do not.  It is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  Click on the following link for suggestions on Staying Safe.  Advocates at local resource centers can assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support.

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back to topWhat can I do if the abuser violates the order?

You can call the police, even if you think it is a minor violation. It can be a crime and contempt of court if the abuser knowingly violates the order in any way.  A judge can punish someone for being in contempt of court if you file a violation/contempt petition in the court where you got the order to report the violation to the judge. In addition, the police can arrest him/her.  If the police witnessed the violation or have probable cause to believe the violation occurred, they are supposed to arrest him/her.  If the police are not involved or do not arrest him/her or file a criminal complaint against him/her, you still have the right to go to the District Court and take out a criminal complaint against the abuser.  It is a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge number in case you want to follow up on your case.

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back to topCan a PPO be changed, terminated or extended?

You can file a motion to modify (change) or terminate the personal protection order and request a hearing at any time after the personal protection order is issued.*  You can file an ex parte motion to extend your order, without a hearing, by requesting a new expiration date. The motion must be filed with the court that issued the PPO at least 3 days before the order is set to expire (and the court must act on the motion within 3 days after it is filed).  However, even if you don't file the motion to extend on time, you may still be able to start a new PPO proceeding against the abuser.**  There are no fees to file a motion to modify, terminate, or extend a personal protection order.***

Note: The respondent (abuser) has the right to file a motion to modify or terminate an ex parte personal protection order or an ex parte order extending a personal protection order within 14 days after being served with, or receiving actual notice of, the order.  If the respondent files any other motion to modify or terminate a personal protection at any other time, s/he must first show that there is "good cause" to do so.****

For any other changes, call the clerk of court to find out how you can include them on your order. You can find this contact information on the MI Courthouse Locations page.

* MCR 3.707(A)(1)(a)
** MCR 3.707(B)(1)
*** MCR 3.707(D)
**** MCR 3.707(A)(1)(b)

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back to topWill my PPO still be valid if I move?

Your domestic relationship PPO can be enforced anywhere you go in Michigan, and anywhere within the United States or its territories. If you move within the state, it may be a good idea to let the law enforcement in your new area know about your order.  To read more about this please visit our Moving to Another State with a PPO page.

Additionally, the federal law provides what is called "Full Faith and Credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. Territories and tribal lands.  Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders.  You can find out about your state’s policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor in your area.

If you are moving out of state, you may want to call ta domestic violence program in the state where you are going to find out how that state treats out-of-state orders.  Go to State and Local Programs and enter your new state for contact information for local domestic violence organizations.

If you are moving to a new state, you may also call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111 x 2) for information on enforcing your order there.

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back to topWhat can I do if a domestic relationship PPO is not issued against the abuser?

If the court refuses to grant a domestic relationship PPO, the judge must state in writing the specific reasons s/he refused to issue a personal protection order.  If a hearing is held, the judge must also immediately state on the record (so that it is in the transcript) the specific reasons s/he refuses to issue a PPO.  If you believe that an error was made in denying you the order, you may want to show the transcript to a lawyer to ask if there are any legal grounds to appeal the decision.  You can read some basic information about appeals on our Filing Appeals page and for legal referrals, you can go to our MI Finding a Lawyer page.

If you are not granted a PPO, there are still some things you can do to stay safe. It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic violence resource centers in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe. They can help you devise a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need. To find a shelter or advocate in your area please visit our MI State and Local Programs page under the Where to Find Help tab on the top of this page.

Also, if an additional incident occurs, you may decide to re-apply for a PPO based on the new incident.

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