In English
Línea Nacional para la Violencia Doméstica: 1-800-799-7233 o (TTY) 1-800-787-3224

Conozca la Ley: U.S. Virgin Islands

ACTUALIZADA 22 de octubre, 2016

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

Imprimir esta página
Ver por Sección

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

arribaWhat 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)

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaWhat 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)

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaHow 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)

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaWhere 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)

¿Le fue útil esta información?

Who can get a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO)

arribaWho can get a domestic violence restraining order?

You can get a temporary restraining order or permanent restraining order against:

  • your current or former spouse;
  • a parent;
  • a child;
  • any other person related to you by blood or marriage;*
  • someone of the opposite sex who lives in your home or has lived in your home;**
  • an individual with whom you have a child in common;
  • a person with whom you have been or are in a sexual or intimate relationship.*
* VI ST T. 16 § 91 (c)
** VI ST T. 16 § 91(a), (c)

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaCan I get a domestic violence restraining order against a same-sex partner?

In the U.S. Virgin Islands, you may apply for a domestic violence restraining order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Who can get a domestic violence restraining 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 the U.S. Virgin Islands?

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaCan minors get domestic violence restraining orders?

Parents or guardians can request restraining orders on behalf of their child, if the child is under 18.  The abuser must have committed a crime of domestic violence against the child and the child must have a relationship with the abuser.*

* U.S. Virgin Islands Superior Court Domestic Violence Complaint

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaWhat if I don't qualify for a domestic violence restraining order?

If you do not qualify for a domestic violence restraining order, you may still be able to get help if the abuser has committed a crime.  For example, assault, stalking, and harassment are against the law.  If one of these crimes (or any other criminal act) is being committed against you, you can report it to law enforcement.  If charges are pressed against the abuser, a judge may be able to order him/her to stay away from you.  To read the definitions of some common crimes in the U.S. Virgin Islands, go to our VI Crimes page.

You can also visit our Staying Safe page for ways to increase your safety.  If you are being stalked or harassed, the Stalking Resource Center website has more information on stalking and harassment laws, as well safety planning information.  Restraining 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.  They may be able to help you figure out your options and offer you support. You can find one near you on the VI State and Local Programs page.

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaHow much does it cost to get a domestic violence restraining order? Do I need a lawyer?

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

Although you do not need a lawyer to file for a restraining order, it may be to your advantage to have a lawyer, especially if the abuser has a lawyer.  Even if the abuser does not have a lawyer, if you can, 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 VI Where to Find Help page.  Domestic violence organizations in your area and/or court staff may be able to answer some of your questions or help you fill out the necessary court forms.  You will find contact information for courthouses on the VI Courthouse Locations page.

* U.S. Virgin Islands Superior Court website

¿Le fue útil esta información?

The steps for filing for a domestic violence restraining order

arribaStep 1: Go to the Family Division of the Territorial Court.

Go to the Family Division of the Territorial Court to request a temporary restraining order, and/or a permanent restraining order.  If you live on St. John, you must go to court in St. Thomas to request a temporary restraining order or permanent restraining order.  To find contact information for the courthouse in your area, click on VI Courthouse Locations.  During business hours, go to the clerk's office. Tell the clerk that you want to file for a permanent restraining order, and the clerk (or other court staff) can help you fill out the necessary forms to file.**  If you are in immediate danger and need emergency protection, tell the clerk you also need an ex parte/temporary restraining order.

* U.S. Virgin Islands Superior Court website
**VI ST T. 16 § 96(d)

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaStep 2: Bring identification and information about the abuser.

It can be helpful to bring information about the abuser, if you have it, including contact information (address and phone number) and a description of his/her appearance.

Remember to bring some form of personal identification as well (a driver's license or other identification that includes your picture) since this may be needed to get your signature notarized in court.

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaStep 3: Fill out the necessary forms.

Check to see if the forms are available online by going to our VI Download Court Forms page.

On the complaint for a permanent restraining order, you will be the "petitioner" and the abuser will be the "respondent." Write briefly 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.  You may also want to include any previous court action(s) that you have taken against the abuser.  You do not have to include your address on the complaint.*  If you do include your address, be sure to use a safe mailing address and phone number.  If you are staying at a shelter with a confidential location, you may want to consider using a Post Office Box, not a street address, if possible.  If you need assistance filling out the form, ask the clerk for help.**  Some courts may also have an advocate that can assist you.  You may also find help through one of the domestic violence organizations listed on our VI State and Local Programs page.

Note: Be sure to sign the forms in front of the clerk of court.  The forms may have to be notarized by the clerk of court.

* VI ST T. 16 § 96(c)
** VI ST T. 16 § 96(d)

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaStep 4: The ex-parte/temporary restraining order hearing

If you request a temporary restraining order, the clerk will give your forms to the judge for your ex parte/temporary restraining order hearing.  Ex parte means that the abuser does not have to be present or given notice of the hearing.  This is a preliminary hearing where the judge can grant you a temporary restraining order for 10 days.*  At this hearing, the judge will read your petition and ask you why you want a temporary restraining order.  If the judge believes you have shown “good cause” that an emergency order is needed to protect your life, health, or wellbeing or the wellbeing of a victim on whose behalf you filed, the judge may grant you a temporary restraining order.**  If the judge grants a temporary restraining 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 it with you at all times.  You may want to keep copies in your car, workplace, or daycare.  The judge will also set a hearing date for your full permanent restraining order hearing. If the judge does not grant you a temporary restraining order at the ex-parte hearing, you will may still be given a court date for a full permanent restraining order hearing (assuming your petition is not dismissed), which would be scheduled to occur within the next 10 days.***

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

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaStep 5: Service of process.

The abuser must be served with the papers that tell him/her about the hearing date and your temporary restraining order (if the judge gave you one).  The clerk will forward the order to the marshal and the appropriate chief of police.*  The marshal will then find the abuser and serve him/her notice of the temporary restraining order (if the judge gave you one) as well as the date and time of the scheduled permanent restraining order hearing.*  There is no charge to have the authorities serve the abuser.  Do not attempt to serve the papers on the abuser yourself.

Note: After the abuser is served with the temporary restraining order, s/he can ask the judge to dismiss or change the order.  If the abuser does ask the judge to dismiss or change the order, a hearing will be scheduled and s/he is required to give you only 24 hours’ notice of the hearing.  At the hearing, the judge will decide whether or not to grant the abuser’s request.**

* VI ST T. 16 § 98(c)
** VI ST T. 16 § 98(d)

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaStep 6: The hearing for a permanent restraining order

A judge will set a hearing date within 10 days of filing for your order.*

You must go to the hearing.  If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary order will expire, and you will have to start the process over.  If the abuser does not show up for the hearing the judge may still grant you a restraining order, or the judge may order a new hearing date.
You have the right to bring a lawyer to represent you at the hearing.  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.  It can be especially difficult to represent yourself in court against an attorney.  If the judge does issue a continuance, the judge should also reissue or extend your temporary order since your original one will probably expire before the rescheduled hearing.  You may want to call a local domestic violence program if you have any questions before your hearing.  Go to our VI State and Local Programs for a list domestic violence organizations.

See the Preparing Your Case page for ways you can show the judges you were abused.

* VI ST T. 16 § 97(a)

¿Le fue útil esta información?

After the hearing

arribaWhat 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.
  • Make several copies of the restraining order as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times. Inform your employer, domestic violence advocate, family members, and/or your closest friends that you have a restraining order in effect.
  • 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.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number, as well as taking other security precautions.
It is important to recognize that a restraining order has limits.  You have the right to report every violation to the police or the court.  You may also wish to make a safety plan.  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 abusers obey restraining orders, but some do not and 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.

Also, advocates at local domestic violence organizations may be able to assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support.  To find an advocate in your area please visit the VI State and Local Programs page.

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaI was not granted a restraining order. What can I do?

If you are not granted a restraining 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 U.S. Virgin Islands resources on our VI State and Local Programs page.

You can also find safety planning tips on our Staying Safe page.  You may also be able to reapply for a restraining order if a new incident of domestic violence occurs after you are denied the order.

You may also want to consider reporting any criminal activity to the police.  For more information about crimes in the U.S. Virgin Islands, please go to our VI Crimes page.

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaWhat can I do if the abuser violates the order?

Violating a temporary restraining order or permanent restraining order can be against the law.*  There are two ways to get help if the abuser violates the restraining order.

1. Through the police or sheriff: If the defendant violates the restraining order, you can call 911 immediately.  In some cases, the defendant can be arrested right away.  Tell the officers you have a restraining order, and the defendant is violating it.  If the defendant is arrested, then the district attorney’s office can prosecute the abuser because it can be a crime to violate a restraining order.

2. Through the civil court system: You may also file for civil contempt when the abuser violates the order.  The abuser can be in civil contempt and punished by the judge in some way if s/he does anything that your restraining order prohibits him/her from doing.  To file for civil contempt, go to the clerk's office and ask for the forms to file for contempt of court for violation of a restraining order.

* VI ST T. 16 § 97(e)

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaHow do I change and/or extend my restraining order?

Before your permanent restraining order expires, you may apply to the court to have your order extended.  You will have to go back to court for a hearing to tell the judge why you believe it is necessary to extend the order.  If the judge believes there is good cause, s/he may extend the order.  For any other changes, you can request that the judge modify (change) your order.  You must show the judge that there is good cause to change the order.*

* VI ST T. 16 § 97(d)

¿Le fue útil esta información?

arribaWhat happens if I move?

If you move from the U.S. Virgin Islands to another U.S. territory or state (or vice versa), your permanent restraining order can be enforced even if you move to another territory or to the United States.  If you move, your order must be given "full faith and credit" in any other state, territorial or tribal court,* which means that your order will be good wherever you go.

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

¿Le fue útil esta información?

back to top