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Know the Laws: U.S. Virgin Islands

UPDATED November 22, 2016

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

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A restraining order in the Virgin Islands is a civil order that provides protection from threats, assault, rape, kidnapping and other acts committed by an intimate partner or family/household member.

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of domestic violence?

This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a domestic violence restraining order.

U.S. Virgin Islands defines domestic violence as the attempt, threat, or act of:

  • harassment;
  • threats;
  • false imprisonment;
  • stalking;
  • kidnapping;
  • destruction of property;
  • unlawful sexual contact;
  • rape;
  • coercion (forcing/pressuring/intimidating you into doing something);
  • burglary/forcible or unlawful entry;
  • assault/battery; and/or
  • violation of a restraining order.*
* VI ST T. 16 § 91(b)

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back to topWhat is a domestic violence restraining order? How long does it last?

A restraining order (also called a domestic violence restraining order or DVRO) is a civil court order that is designed to stop violent behavior and keep the abuser away from you.  There are two types of restraining orders in the U.S. Virgin Islands:

An ex parte/temporary restraining order (also called a TRO) is a court order designed to provide you and your family members with immediate protection from the abuser.  A judge may issue a temporary restraining order on the day you file for your permanent restraining order if s/he believes it is necessary to protect the life, health or wellbeing of you or your child.  An ex parte/temporary restraining order is usually issued without prior notice to the abuser and without the abuser present ("ex parte").  A temporary restraining order will protect you from the time you file until your full court hearing takes place, usually within 10 daysNote: At any point within those 10 days, the abuser can file in court to modify or dismiss that order and the judge may hold a hearing about this issue with both you and the abuser present. However, you are only required to get 24 hours’ prior notice of that hearing.*

A permanent restraining order (also called a PRO) offers the same type of protection as an ex parte/temporary restraining order, but it lasts longer and is generally issued after a hearing in which both you and the abuser can be present.  In this hearing, the abuser will have a chance to defend him/herself.  A permanent restraining order lasts up to two years.**  You can ask the court to extend the order for another year, but you must do so before it expires.** (See How do I modify or extend my order?)

* VI ST T. 16 § 98(a), (b), (d)
** VI ST T. 16 § 97(a), (d)

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back to topHow can a domestic violence restraining order help me?

Both a temporary restraining order) and a permanent restraining order) can:

1. order the abuser:
  • to not commit any act of domestic violence against you, as defined here;
  • to have no contact with you;
  • to stay away from your home, workplace, business, or school;
  • not to harass you or your relatives in any way;
  • to give you possession of the home and exclude the abuser from the home (if you both jointly own or lease the home); if the abuser is the sole owner or lessee, s/he can still be excluded from the home if s/he has a duty to support you or your children who are living in the home – or, if you both agree, the abuser can provide you with alternate (other) housing;
  • not to sell or get rid of property that you own or lease together;
  • to be escorted into your home to get his/her things by a police officer or marshal (or you can be escorted by the police to remove your personal belongings);
  • to pay you for any losses you have suffered as a result of the domestic violence (including paying money you lost due to injuries, moving expenses, your attorney's fees, and loss of earnings); and/or
  • to seek counseling or attend a batterers’ treatment program; and
2. grant you:
  • temporary child custody (and establish visitation rights while taking necessary steps to protect the safety of you and your children);
  • temporary child support;
  • temporary possession of any personal property you need (such as car, checkbook, keys, etc.).*
Whether the judge orders these things or not depends on the facts of your case.

* VI ST T. 16 §§ 97(b); 98(b)

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back to topWhere can I file for a protective order?

You can file for a protective order in the judicial division where you live (permanently or temporarily), where the abuser lives, or where the abuse occurred.*  If you are unsure how to figure out the boundaries of a judicial division, you may want to contact an attorney who is familiar with the local laws.  Please see our VI Finding a Lawyer page for more information.  Also, if you have left your home and want to keep the address where you are staying confidential, filing in that judicial division may not be a good idea since it could alert the abuser to the fact that you are staying in that area.

* VI ST T. 16 § 96(a)

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