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Know the Laws: Utah

UPDATED June 22, 2016

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A protective order is a civil order that provides protection from a current or former dating partner, a member of your household, or someone you have a child in common with.

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of abuse in Utah?

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

Abuse, for the purposes of filing for a protective order in Utah, occurs when a “cohabitant

  • purposely causes you physical harm;
  • tries to cause you physical harm; or
  • makes you afraid that you will be physically harmed.*

Note: If you are being abused by someone who you dated but with whom you never lived, you may be eligible for a dating violence protective order (which lasts for 180 days) – see the Utah Courts website for more information.  If you are seeking a protective order only for your child (and not also for yourself), your child may be eligible for a child protective order, which you can read more about on the Utah Courts website.  If you do not qualify for a domestic violence protective order, you may be able to get a civil stalking injunction.  You can read more about this typr of order on our Stalking Injunctions page.

* UT ST§ 78B-7-102(1)

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

There are two types of protective orders in Utah.  The first is called an ex parte protective order, which is designed to give you immediate protection.  The second type is referred to simply as a protective order.  We refer to it as a full protective order below so that it is easier to see the difference.

Ex Parte Protective Order
An ex parte protective order is designed to temporarily protect you from the abuser until you can have a court hearing for a full protective order.  Ex parte is a Latin term that means “from one side.”  Basically, it means that the abuser is not present when your petition is presented to the judge and does not receive prior notice that you are requesting the order.

A judge will grant you an ex parte order if s/he believes that  one is necessary to protect you (and any other “protected parties” in your petition) from harm.*  If the judge grants an ex parte protective order, s/he will set a date for a hearing within 20 days after the order is issued.*1  If the judge does not grant you an ex parte order you can still request to have a hearing for a full protective order.*2

A full protective order can be issued only after the abuser has an opportunity to attend a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to tell your sides of the story.  The abuser must have proper notice of the hearing for the full protective order to be granted.  If s/he decides not to attend, a full protective order can still be granted by the judge (and you still may be required to testify about the incidents in your petition).*3 

The length of time that the full protective order lasts depends on the terms of the order.  The civil part of the order, dealing with property, custody, etc., will either expire in 150 days or be reviewed by the judge in 150 days (and then possibly extended).  The criminal part of the order, which deals with the abuser staying away from you, not contacting you, not abusing you, not having firearms, etc., can last forever. (Note: The protective order clearly divides up which sections are considered civil and criminal, as you can see on the Utah Courts website here.) After two years, the abuser can file in court ask for the order to be dismissed. *4  For more information, go to Can the order be dismissed by me or the abuser?  Can I modify the order?

* UT ST § 78B-7-106(1)(a)
*1 UT ST § 78B-7-107(1)(a)
*2 UT ST § 78B-7-107(3)
*3 UT ST § 78B-7-106(3)
*4 UT ST § 78B-7-106(6); see Utah Courts website

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back to topHow can a protective order help me?

In an ex parte protective order, the judge can order that the abuser:

  1. stop committing or threatening to commit domestic violence or abuse against you and any family or household member named in the order;
  2. stop harassing, calling, contacting, or communicating with you in any way, including indirect contact;
  3. be excluded from (leave) your home;
  4. stay away from your vehicle, home, school, work, and any other place you and the family/household members named in your order go often;
  5. not purchase, use, or possess a firearm or other weapon specified by the judge (Note: To order this, the judge must find that the abuser’s use or possession of a weapon may pose a “serious threat of harm to you”); and
  6. give you use of an automobile or any other personal items and order that law enforcement accompany you to your residence to make sure that you are safe while getting possession of these items;
  7. not interfere with or change the your phone, utility or other services;
  8. not use alcohol or illegal drugs before or during visitation;
  9. not take the children out of Utah.*

    An ex parte protective order can also include any of the following:
     
  10. grant you temporary custody of any minor children you share with the abuser;
  11. order an attorney to be a guardian ad litem  for any minor children to represent their interests;
  12. order anything else the judge decides is necessary for your safety and the safety of your family or household members; and
  13. order you and the abuser to provide financial documents at the hearing for a final protective order if you requested child support or spousal support**

    In a full protective order, the judge can order:
     
  14. all of the protections in numbers 1-12, listed above;
  15. and the following additional protections:
    • make arrangements for parenting time (with or without supervision by a third party) or deny parenting time if it is necessary to protect the safety of you or your child;*** and
    • child support and/or spousal support .****

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

* UT ST§ 78B-7-106(2)(a)-(e); see the temporary protective order form
** UT ST§ 78B-7-106(2)(f)-(h)
*** UT ST§ 78B-7-106(3); see the protective order form
**** See UT ST§ 78B-7-106(7)

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back to topIn which county can I file for a protective order?

You can file a petition at the district court in the county where you live, in the county where the abuser lives, or in the county where the abuse took place.*

* UT ST § 78B-7-104

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Who can get a protective order

back to topWho can file for a protective order?

You can get a protective order for yourself and your minor child against a “cohabitant” who is at least 16 years old who commits abuse against you.  A “cohabitant” is defined as:

  • your current or former spouse;
  • someone you live with or have lived with as a couple;
  • a person related to you by blood or marriage;
  • a person with whom you have a child in common;
  • someone with whom you are expecting a child (if one of the parties is pregnant); or
  • a person with whom you live/lived in the same home.*

Note: “Cohabitant” does not include:

  • (a) the relationship of natural parent, adoptive parent, or step-parent to a minor; or
  • (b) the relationship between natural, adoptive, step, or foster siblings who are under 18 years of age.**

* UT ST § 78B-7-102(2)
** UT ST § 78B-7-102(3)

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

Yes, as long as you meet the requirements explained in Who can file for a protective order?*

There may also be other legal options for you as well.  To find help in your state, please go to our UT Where to Find Help  page.

* See UT ST § 78B-7-102(2)

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back to topCan I get a protective order if I am a minor?

Maybe.  To file for a protective order on your own, you (the minor) and the person the protective order is against must be at least 16 years old (or married or emancipated).*  If you are under 16, an adult can file a child protective order on your behalf in juvenile court.**  For more information on child protective orders, see the Utah Courts website.

* UT ST § 78B-7-102(2)
**UT ST 78B-7-202(1)

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back to topCan I get a protective order against a minor?

Maybe.  You may be able to get a protective order against an abuser who is 16 years or older or someone who is under 16 but is legally emancipated or married.*

If both the petitioner and the abuser are under 16 years of age, an adult may file for a child protective order on behalf of a child in juvenile court.  For more information on child protective orders, see the Utah Courts website.

* UT ST § 78B-7-102(2)

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

Nothing.  There is no filing fee to get a protective order.*

Although you do not need a lawyer to file for a protective order, it may be to your advantage to have a lawyer.  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 organizations on the UT Where to Find Help page.  In addition, the domestic violence organizations in your area may be able to answer some of your questions or help you fill out the necessary court forms.  If you are not represented by an attorney, the clerk is required to provide assistance with filling out the forms and filing your paperwork.**  You will find contact information for courthouses on the UT Courthouse Locations page.

* UT ST § 78B-7-105(3)
** UT ST § 78B-7-105(2)(c)

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back to topWhat if I do not qualify for a protective order?

If you do not qualify for a protective order, 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 develop a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need.  For safety planning help, ideas, and information, go to our Staying Safe page.  You will find a list of Utah resources on our UT Where to Find Help page.

If you were not granted a protective order because your relationship with the abuser does not qualify you for one, you may be able to seek protection through a stalking protective order.  You may also be able to report any criminal behavior to the police.
Note: If you were denied an ex parte protective order, you can still request to have a hearing for a full protective order.*  At the hearing, you may want to present evidence and witnesses to help prove to the judge why you need a protective order.  See Preparing Your Case for more information on how to go about this.  It may also be helpful to have a lawyer.

* UT ST § 78B-7-107(3)

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Steps for getting a protective order

back to topStep 1: Go to a district court and request an application.

Go to the district court in the county where you live, where the abuser lives, or where the abuse took place.*  You can find a court near you by going to our UT Courthouse Locations page.  Find the civil court clerk and request a petition for a protective order.  You may also find links to petitions online by going to our UT Download Court Forms page.

* UT ST§ 78B-7-104

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back to topStep 2: Fill out the necessary forms.

The clerk will give you with the forms that you need to file.  On the protective order form, you will be the "petitioner" and the abuser will be the "respondent."

Carefully fill out the forms.  Write about the most recent incidents of violence and the physical harm that you suffered, using descriptive language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, choking, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation.  Be specific.   Include details and dates, if possible.  It will also be important to write any previous incidents of abuse and any other court action you have taken against the abuser.

If you need assistance filling out the forms, ask the clerk for help.  Some courts may have an advocate that can assist you.  If you do not have a lawyer, the clerk is responsible for providing you with assistance in filling out your protective order form.*  A domestic violence organization may also be able to provide you with help filling out the forms.  See UT State and Local Programs for the location of an organization near you.

Note: Be sure to sign the forms in front of the court clerk.  Once you have completed your paperwork, return them to the clerk. 

* UT ST § 78B-7-105(2)(c)

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back to topStep 3: A judge will review your application.

After you finish filling out your application, bring it to the court clerk.  The clerk will forward it to a judge.  The judge may wish to ask you questions as s/he reviews your petition.  The judge will decide whether or not to issue the ex parte order.

If the judge grants you an ex parte order, 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 to correct the order before you leave.  Be sure to keep the order with you at all times.  You may want to keep copies in your car, workplace, or child’s daycare.

If you seek a full protective order, the judge will set a date for a hearing within 20 days.*  You will be given papers that state the time and date of your hearing for a full protective order.

* UT ST § 78B-7-107(1)(a)

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back to topStep 4: Service of process

The abuser must be served with a notice of hearing and with any protective order that a judge has granted you.  The order is not valid until the abuser has been served with it.  The clerk will send the order to the county sheriff for service.*  The sheriff or other law enforcement officer will then attempt to find the abuser and serve him/her with  the ex parte order (if the judge gave you one) as well as notice of the scheduled hearing for the full protective order. **

* UT ST § 78B-7-106(4)
** UT ST § 78B-7-106(8)

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back to topStep 5: The hearing

It is very important that you attend the court hearing.  If you do not go to the hearing, your ex parte order will expire and you will have to start the process over.  If you absolutely cannot attend, contact the court immediately and ask how you can get a "continuance" for a later court date.

If the abuser does not attend the hearing, the court may issue a "default judgment" against him/her and you may receive a full protective order in his/her absence.  The judge also may decide to pick a new hearing date to give the abuser another chance to come to court.  If this happens, be sure to ask the judge to extend your ex parte order if you have one.

At the hearing, you may have the chance to testify in court and present evidence and witnesses to prove the abuse and harassment you have experienced.  The abuser may also be allowed to be present evidence and testify in the hearing to defend himself/herself.  You may want to get a lawyer to represent you at that hearing, especially if you think the abuser will have one.  See the UT Finding a Lawyer page for a listing of free and paid lawyers.  If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, you can visit our Preparing Your Case section for ways you can show the judge that you were abused.

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After the hearing

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

Here are some things you may want to consider doing.  However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation.

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse.  If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to correct the order before you leave.
  • If you are concerned that the abuser will harass you when you leave the courthouse, ask the court officer if s/he would escort you to the door of the building.  If you are afraid the abuser may follow you once you leave the courthouse, explain this to the court officer.  The court officer might hold the abuser there for a few minutes while you leave so that you can get a head start, which would make it difficult for the abuser to trail you.  This could be especially important if you are living in a shelter or confidential location and you do not want the abuser to know where you are staying.
  • Make several copies of the protective order 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.
  • You may wish to consider 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 also assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support as well.

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back to topI did not get a protective order. What can I do?

If you are not granted a protective order, 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 may be able to help you come up with a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need.  You will find a list of Utah programs on our UT State and Local Programs page.  You will also find information on safety planning on our Staying Safe page.

If you were denied an ex parte protective order, you can still request to have a hearing for a final protective order.*  At the hearing, you may want to present evidence and witnesses to help prove to the judge why you need a protective order.  See Preparing Your Case for more information on how to go about this.  It may also be helpful to have a lawyer.

You can also reapply for a protective order if a new incident of domestic abuse occurs after you are denied the order.

If you do not qualify for a domestic violence protective order, you may be able to get a civil stalking injunction.  You can read more about what this on our Stalking Injunctions page.

* UT ST § 78B-7-107(3)

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

It is a crime and contempt of court if the abuser knowingly violates the order.  Your protective order should indicate which violations are considered a criminal offense and which violations require you to return to court for a civil contempt proceeding.*  You can call the police or sheriff for criminal violations.  An abuser can be arrested, fined and jailed for criminal violations  of the order.

Make sure a police report is filled out, even if no arrest is made.  If you have legal documentation of all violations of the protective order, it could help you have the protective order extended or modified.  It is also a good idea to write down the name of the responding officers and their badge numbers in case you want to follow up on your case.

If the police do not make an arrest in response to a violation of your protective order or the violation is not a criminal offense, you may still file for civil contempt against the abuser yourself in a district court. 
If you feel that that an arrest should have been made by the police but they failed to do so, you can file a complaint through the attorney general’s victim advocacy council.  You can find the complaint form on the Office of the Attorney General website. 

* UT ST § 78B-7-105(1)(b)(ii)

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back to topCan I modify the order?

If you want to have your order modified (changed), you will have to go back to the court where you received the order and file a motion for another hearing.  See the UT Courts website for the necessary form to modify a protective order.

The court can immediately grant the modification ex parte (without the abuser there) if it is necessary to protect you or your children.  Otherwise, the judge will set a date for a hearing where you can make your case for why you are requesting the modification.*  Remember, if the judge does not grant your modification ex parte, you can still request a full hearing on your motion.  Before the hearing, the abuser will be served with a copy of the motion and a request to be present at the hearing.**  You must attend this hearing and tell the judge why the change is necessary.

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back to topCan the order be dismissed by me or the abuser?

Generally, a request for the order to be dismissed will not be permitted until two years have passed since the order was issued.  After two years, the abuser can file a motion in court to ask the judge to dismiss the criminal portions of the order (the civil portions may have only lasted for 150 days after the order was issued).  After holding a hearing at which both you and the abuser can be present, the judge would decide whether to dismiss the order.  Note: Make sure you inform the court if you move so you can be sure to receive notice of any hearing.*

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule:

The judge could dismiss the civil protections in an order at any time if one party files a petition to do so and the other side is properly served and has a chance to appear at a hearing.  However, if either party files in court to dismiss the criminal protections of the order within the first two years, a judge will only do so if you (the victim) personally appears in court and give specific consent to the criminal provisions of the protective order being dismissed (or you must do so in a sworn affidavit).**

The court can dismiss a protective order after one year if the judge finds that:

  • the reason that the protective order was issued no longer exists; and
  • you have repeatedly acted in a way that goes against the terms of the protective order in order to intentionally or knowingly cause the respondent to violate the protective order.  The judge will assume that this is your way of demonstrating to the court that you no longer have a reasonable fear of the respondent.***

* UT ST § 78B-7-106(6)(c)
** UT ST § 78B-7-106(10)
*** UT ST § 78B-7-105(5)(c)

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back to topWhat happens if I move?

Your protection order is good anywhere in the state of Utah.  Additionally, 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 all 50 states, 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.  You can also find information on our website under Moving to Another State with a Protective Order or Enforcing Your Out-Of-State Order in the state you have moved to (choose your new state from the drop-down menu on the left of the screen).

If you are moving to a new state, you may want to call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111, ext. 2) if you have questions about enforcing your order in another state.

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

* 18 U.S.C. §§ 2265-2266

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