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Legal Information: Alabama

Alabama Restraining Orders

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Restraining Orders

A restraining order or protective order is a legal order issued by a state court which requires one person to stop harming another. In Alabama, this type of civil order is called a protection from abuse order, which we explain below.

Protection from Abuse Orders

A protection from abuse order (PFA) is a civil order that protects you from abuse by a current or former intimate partner or certain household members.

Basic information

What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Alabama?

You can file for an order if you are the victim of domestic abuse, as defined below, or if you have reasonable cause to believe that you are in immediate danger of becoming the victim of any act of abuse.1  Alabama law defines "domestic abuse" for the purpose of getting a protection from abuse order as the occurrence (actual or attempted) of one or more of the following acts between a current or former intimate partner/household member:

  • Assault (1st, 2nd, 3rd degrees);
  • Arson;
  • Rape/sodomy/sexual abuse (see here, scroll to "Article 4. Sexual Offenses" to read all of the crimes included);
  • Criminal coercion;
  • Harassment;
  • Reckless endangerment;
  • Child abuse, torture or willful abuse of a child, aggravated child abuse, or chemical endangerment of a child;
  • Kidnapping (1st and 2nd degrees);
  • Menacing;
  • Theft (includes taking unauthorized control or getting control through deception over property owned fully or jointly by you);
  • Stalking (1st, 2nd degrees; aggravated stalking);
  • Unlawful imprisonment - restraining you against your will (1st and 2nd degrees);
  • Criminal trespass (1st, 2nd, 3rd degrees);1 or
  • Any other crime against you.2

You will notice that the petition for a PFA doesn't include "harassment" as a box to check off - however, if you read the legal definition of harassment, you can see how else you may be able to indicate harassment in one of the available check boxes on the petition.

1 Ala. Code § 30-5-5(a)(1)
2 Ala. Code § 30-5-2(1)(a)-(i),(k)-(o)
3 Ala. Code § 30-5-2(1)(j)

What types of protection from abuse (PFA) orders are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of orders:

Temporary (ex parte) protection from abuse orders. 
You can get a temporary ex parte protection order if the judge believes it is necessary to protect you or your children from abuse, or from the immediate and present danger of abuse.  You can get an emergency PFA without having to go through a full court hearing.  An emergency PFA can protect you from the time you file for the final order until your full court hearing can take place.  (However, by law, the judge can take three business days to decide whether or not to grant you an ex parte temporary order.) The full court hearing usually takes place within 10 days of your filing date.1

The advantage of an emergency PFA is that you can get one without the abuser present (known as an ex parte order). You can apply for an emergency PFA by going to the circuit court clerk in the county courthouse in your area. In some counties, you may be required to go to family court or domestic relations court. Tell the clerk you want to apply for an emergency PFA. You must complete the application form and you may be required to see a judge and explain why you need protection.

If the judge denies your request for an emergency PFA, you may still ask the judge to consider your PFA petition through the full court hearing process.  At the hearing, you would have a chance to present evidence and witnesses to prove that you were abused and the abuser has a chance to present the same to prove you were not abused.

Final protection from abuse orders. 
A final PFA can be issued at a hearing where the abuser is given notice of the hearing and has the right to be present.  At the hearing, both you and the abuser present evidence (tell your sides of the story) to a judge.  Final PFAs can be permanent (have no expiration date) unless the judge says otherwise or the order is later modified (changed).2

Once the hearing date is set for the final PFA, you must attend that hearing or else your temporary order may expire and you will have to start the process over.  If the abuser does not show up to that hearing, the judge may grant a final PFA or s/he may set a new hearing date.  If the judge sets a new hearing date, and you had an emergency PFA, make sure the judge extends the emergency PFA so that it is effective until the new hearing date.

Note: You may also want to think about seeking shelter while going through the PFA process. You can call the Alabama Domestic Violence hotline, 1-800-650-6522, or contact one of the AL Advocates and Shelters listed under the Places that Help tab at the top of this page.

1 Ala. Code § 30-5-6(a),(b)
2 Ala. Code § 30-5-7(d)(2)

What protections can I get in a protection from abuse order?

In an emergency (ex parte) protection from abuse order, a judge can:

  • Order the abuser to:
    • Stop committing (or threatening to commit) acts of abuse against you, your children and anyone else included in the order;
    • Stop harassing, annoying, and stalking you and your children;
    • Stop calling or contacting you and your children directly or indirectly (through a third party, for example);
    • Stop any conduct (or threatening any conduct) that puts you or your children in reasonably fear or physical injury;
    • Not have physical or violent contact with you or your property and stay at least 300 feet away from your home (even if you share the home with the abuser), from your work, from your children's school and any other specific place that you go to often (assuming the defendant has no good reason to be there);
    • Be removed from your home, regardless of who owns the home;
    • Not interfere with the custody of your children and not remove the children from the state; and
    • Not destroy, sell, or conceal joint property;1
  • Grant you:
    • Temporary custody of the children;
    • Give you possession of a car and/or other personal items, regardless of ownership; (Note: You can ask for a police escort to go with you to the home to remove your children or belongings from the home); and
    • Any other relief that is necessary to provide for the safety and protection of the victim, victim's minor children and other designated family or household members.1

    In a permanent protection from abuse order, a judge may order all of the protections of the emergency (ex parte) order listed above. In addition, a judge can order the abuser to:

    • Give you possession (not ownership) of the family home and have the abuser evicted from the home -- or, if both parties consent, the abuser can provide "suitable alternate housing." (This protection is only available if the abuser has a duty to support you or your children - i.e., if you are married or have children together)
    • Pay child support and/or spousal support
    • Pay your attorney's fees and court costs
    • Have supervised or unsupervised visitation with the child(ren), if appropriate (or s/he can get no visitation)
    • Provide temporary possession of the car to you if
      • you have no other transportation of your own; and
      • the abuser has more than one car or has alternate transportation.2

    Under federal law, the abuser likely cannot have or buy a gun while a permanent PFA order is in place against him/her. To read more, please see our Federal Gun Laws page.

    1 Ala. Code § 30-5-7(b)
    2 Ala. Code § 30-5-7(c)

    In which county can I file for a PFA order?

    A petition for a protection from abuse order may be filed in any of the following counties:

    • Where you live;
    • Where the abuser lives;
    • Where you are temporarily staying if you left your residence to get away from the abuser; or
    • Where a civil court case is pending between you and the abuser.1

    Note: if you have left the home and want to keep the address where you are staying confidential, filing in that county would likely not be a good idea since it would alert the abuser to the fact that you are living in that county.

    1 Ala. Code § 30-5-3(c)

    Who get a protection from abuse (PFA) order

    Who is eligible for a protection from abuse (PFA) order?

    You can be eligible to file for a PFA order if you have been the victim of "domestic abuse," as defined by Alabama law or if you have reasonable cause to believe that you are in immediate danger of becoming the victim of any act of abuse1and you have one of the following relationships to the abuser:

    • You are related by marriage to the defendant, including a common law marriage;
    • You had a former marriage or common law marriage with the defendant;
    • You have a child in common;
    • You are currently in a dating relationship with the abuser or your dating relationship ended within the last 12 months; 
    • You are a current or former household member of the abuser, which means you lived together while having a romantic or sexual relationship - or you can file against the relative of a current or former household member as long as that person also lived with you; or
    • You are the parent, step-parent, child, or step-child of the abuser and you live or have lived together.2

    Note: To file, you must be 18 or older or otherwise emancipated.  A parent, legal guardian, "next friend" or the State Department of Human Resources may file on behalf of a minor or any person prevented by physical or mental incapacity from seeking a protection order.3  If you are filing a petition on behalf of a minor child who is living at home against the child's parent, step-parent, or legal guardian, you must:

    • have been an eyewitness to the specific acts of abuse or circumstances alleged in the petition;
    • have affidavits from eyewitnesses of the specific acts of abuse or circumstances alleged in the petition; or 
    • have direct physical evidence of the specific acts of abuse or circumstances alleged in the petition.4

    If you are filing on behalf of a minor child who is living at home against someone other than a parent, step-parent, or legal guardian of a minor child, you must have reasonable cause to believe that the minor child is a victim of the acts of abuse or circumstances alleged in the petition.4

    1 Ala. Code § 30-5-5(a)(1)
    2 Ala. Code § 30-5-2(3),(7)
    3 Ala. Code § 30-5-5(a)
    4 Ala. Code § 30-5-5(c)

    Can a minor get a PFA order?

    To file, you must be 18 or older or otherwise emancipated. A parent, legal guardian, "next friend" or the State Department of Human Resources may file on behalf of a minor or any person prevented by physical or mental incapacity from seeking a protection order.1Note: If you are the parent, legal guardian, or next friend who is filing the petition on behalf of a minor child who is living at home, and you are filing against the child's parent, step-parent, or legal guardian, you must:

    • have been an eyewitness to the specific acts of abuse or circumstances alleged in the petition;
    • have affidavits from eyewitnesses of the specific acts of abuse or circumstances alleged in the petition; or
    • have direct physical evidence of the specific acts of abuse or circumstances alleged in the petition.2

    If you are filing on behalf of a minor child who is living at home against someone other than a parent, step-parent, or legal guardian of a minor child, you must have reasonable cause to believe that the minor child is a victim of the acts of abuse or circumstances alleged in the petition.3

    1 Ala. Code § 30-5-5(a)
    2 Ala. Code § 30-5-5(c)(1)
    3 Ala. Code § 30-5-5(c)(2)

    Can I get a protection from abuse order against a same-sex partner?

    In Alabama, you may apply for a protection from abuse order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Who is eligible for a protection from abuse (PFA) order? You must also be the victim of an act of domestic abuse, which is explained in What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Alabama?

    You can find information about LGBTQIA victims of abuse and what types of barriers they may face on our LGBTQIA Victims page.

    How much does it cost to get a PFA order?

    There is no filing fee to get (or to serve) a protection from abuse order.1

    1 Ala. Code § 30-5-5(g)

    Do I need a lawyer to get a PFA order?

    No.  You can represent yourself "pro se" (without a lawyer) throughout the process of seeking a protection from abuse order.1  Although you do not need a lawyer to file for a PFA, it may be to your advantage to seek legal counsel especially if the abuser has a lawyer, when child custody issues are at stake, or when during the court hearing for the final order.  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 on the AL Finding a Lawyer page, or by calling the Alabama Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-650-6522. 

    In addition, the 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 forms.  To find a local domestic violence organization, go to AL Local Programs.  You will find contact information for courthouses on the AL Courthouse Locations page.

    If you are going to be in court by yourself, go to our Preparing your Case page for ways to prepare yourself for your court hearing.

    1 Ala. Code § 30-5-5(e)

    I am not eligible for a PFA order. What can I do?

    If you are not eligible for a PFA 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 Safety Tips page. You will find a list of resources on our Places that Help page.

    Even if you do not qualify for a PFA, the abuser may have committed a crime against you. For example, stalking, trespassing, harassment, assault, and communicating threats are against the law. You have the right to report the incidents to the police. If you are in immediate danger, you can call 911. You can read more about crimes in Alabama on our Crimes page.

    Steps for getting a PFA order

    Step 1: Go to court to get the petition.

    As soon as possible after the abuse occurs, go to the County courthouse where you live, where the abuser lives, or where a civil case is currently pending between you and the abuser to get your petition.1  If your county has a Family Court, go to the Family Court clerk (usually in the divorce division).  You can obtain a petition during normal business hours, Monday through Friday.  To find the courthouse address that you need, go to our AL Courthouse Locations page.

    At the courthouse, tell the clerk of court that you want to file a petition for a protection from abuse order.  If you are in immediate danger, tell the clerk you also want an emergency (ex parte) order.  The clerk will give you the forms.  You will also find links to forms online at our AL Download Court Forms page.

    Note: Remember to bring photo ID so that you can show it to the clerk when you have to sign your petition in front of the notary.  It may also be helpful to have some information about the abuser including:

    • a description and plate number of the abuser's car;
    • his/her history of drugs or gun ownership;
    • addresses/phone numbers of the abuser's residence and employment;
    • a copy of any other court papers if there is another relevant court case/order involving you and the abuser;
    • the date and place of your marriage, divorce, or separation (if you are the spouse or ex-spouse of your abuser); and
    • a photo (for law enforcement to identify him/her when serving the petition).

    1 Ala. Code § 30-5-3(c)

    Step 2: Fill out the necessary forms and file them with the clerk.

    The clerk will provide you with the forms that you need to file. Read the protection from abuse petition carefully and ask questions if you don't understand something.

    On the petition, you will be the "plaintiff" and the abuser will be the "defendant."  Write about the most recent incidents of violence, using descriptive language (i.e., words like "slapping," "hitting," "grabbing," "threatening," "choking," etc.) that fits your situation.  Include details and dates, if possible.  Be specific.  You can also include some of the history of abuse and information on any previous, related court action you have taken against the abuser.

    Remember to write your name and a safe mailing address and phone number.  If you are staying at a shelter, give a post office box, not a street address. If the abuser does not know the locations of your residence and employment, be sure to tell the clerk you want your home, work, and other addresses to remain confidential.

    If you need assistance filling out the form, ask the clerk for help.  Some courts may have an advocate that can assist you.  You can also call the AL Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-650-6522 for information on getting help with the PFA process.  Another option is to find help through one of the domestic violence organizations listed on our AL Advocates and Shelters page.

    Note: Once you have completed your paperwork, return them to the clerk.  Be sure to wait to sign the forms in front of the court clerk, where you will have to show photo ID.

    Step 3: Go in front of the judge (the ex parte hearing).

    The entire file is brought before a judge for your ex parte hearing. At this hearing, the judge will read your petition and may ask you questions about why you need protection through a PFA order. Only you are present at this hearing, not the abuser (this is what is meant by "ex parte").

    If the judge grants you an emergency PFA order, the court clerk should 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 daycare. The judge will also set a hearing date for your final PFA order hearing.

    Step 4: Service of process

    The abuser must be served with the papers that tell him/her about the hearing date (called Notice of an Application for a Protection from Abuse order), a copy of the petition that you filed, and your emergency PFA (if the judge gave you one). If you are granted an emergency PFA, the clerk of court will tell you where to go to get the papers served on the abuser. The PFA order is not effective until it is served on the abuser. There is no fee for service.1

    Note: Do not attempt to serve the papers on the abuser yourself.

    1 Ala. Code § 30-5-5(e)

    Step 5: The final PFA hearing

    A judge will set a hearing date that is generally within 10 days of filing your petition.1 The abuser has the right to be present for this hearing. This means you may have to face him/her in court. You must go to the hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your emergency PFA will expire (if you were granted one), and you will have to start the process over. If you do not show up at the hearing, it may be harder for you to get a PFA in the future.

    If the abuser received notice of the hearing, but does not show up, the judge may issue a "default judgment" and grant you a PFA against him/her anyway OR the judge may set a new hearing date. If you have an emergency PFA, make sure the judge extends it so that it remains effective until the date of your new hearing.

    At the hearing, you will testify in court and you can present other evidence or witnesses to prove the abuse you have experienced. The abuser will also be allowed to testify in the hearing. The judge will make a decision after hearing all of the testimony and considering all of the evidence.

    You have the right to bring a lawyer to represent you at the hearing. If you show up to court and you need more time to find a lawyer, or 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. If you will be representing yourself, go to our Preparing Your Case page for tips on how to prepare yourself for court. If the court does issue a continuance, the court should also reissue or extend your emergency order (if you have one), since your original order will probably expire before the rescheduled hearing.2

    1 Ala. Code § 30-5-6(a)
    2 Ala. Code § 30-5-6(c)

    After the hearing

    Can the abuser have a gun?

    Once you get a protection from abuse (PFA), there maybe laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession. There are a few places where you can find this information: 

    • first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in Alabama have the power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order; 
    • second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about Alabama's specific gun-related laws; and 
    • third, you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal law that apply to all states.

    You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center's website.

    What should I do when I leave the courthouse?

    Once you leave the courthouse, here is a list of things you might want to do:

    • Make several copies of the protection from abuse 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.
    • One week after court, call your local law enforcement office to make sure they have received a copy of 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 make a safety plan, which could include changing your locks 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.  Go to our Safety Tips page for more information.  Advocates at local resource centers can assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support.  You can find local domestic violence organizations on our AL State and Local Programs page.

    I was not granted a PFA. What are my options?

    If you are not granted a PFA 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 Safety Tips page. You will find a list of AL resources on our AL Advocates and Shelters page.

    You may also be able to reapply for PFA order if a new incident of domestic abuse occurs after you are denied the order.

    If you believe the judge made an error of law, you can talk to someone at a domestic violence organization or a lawyer about the possibility of an appeal. Generally, appeals are complicated and you will most likely need the help of a lawyer.  You can find some basic information on appeals on our Filing Appeals page.  You can find legal referrals, free and paid, on our AL Finding a Lawyer page.

    What can I do if the abuser violates the order?

    You can call the police immediately, even if you think it is a minor violation. It can be a class A misdemeanor crime1 and civil "contempt of court" if the abuser violates the order in any way. The PFA order can be violated if the abuser does not follow every provision in the order. It is a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge number(s) in case you want to follow up on your case.

    1 Ala. Code § 13A-6-142(a)

    How do I change or extend my order?

    If you want to modify (change) your protection from abuse order, you must fill out the same form, (entitled "Petition for Protection from Abuse"), as you did during your original application. Go to the nearest Circuit or Family Court clerk and tell them you want to fill out a form to change your protection from abuse order.

    Often times, final PFA orders are "permanent" so there is no expiration date.1 However, if your protection from abuse order has an expiration date, you can petition the court for an extension of the original order. You must apply for an extension before the original order expires. You will need to go to the Circuit or Family Court clerk to request an extension. You will probably have to fill out a petition similar to the one you filled out for the original order. Note: If you are getting a divorce, you can ask for a final protection from abuse order put into the divorce decree.

    1 Ala. Code § 30-5-7(d)(2)

    What happens if I move?

    Your Alabama PFA order is automatically good throughout Alabama and in all US states.  The federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have a qualifying criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including US Territories and tribal lands.  Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders - in some states, you need to register the order.  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 may also read more about the rules for your state on the Enforcing an AL Protection From Abuse Order in Another State page.

    Note: PFAs may be enforceable on military bases, and military protective orders may be enforceable off base.  Please check with your local police department, court clerk, and/or domestic violence advocate for more details.  Please see our Military Protective Orders page for more information.

     

    Enforcing an Alabama Protection from Abuse Order in Another State

    Your Alabama protection from abuse order can be enforceable wherever you move.

    Overview of out-of-state enforcement

    Are protection orders valid in other states?

    Yes. If you have a valid protection order that meets federal standards, it can be enforced in another state. The Violence Against Women Act, which is a federal law, states that all valid protection orders granted in the United States receive "full faith and credit" in all state and tribal courts within the US, including US territories.  See How do I know if my protection order is good under federal law? to find out if your protection order qualifies.

    Each state must enforce out-of-state protection orders in the same way it enforces its own orders. Meaning, if your abuser violates your out-of-state protection order, s/he will be punished according to the laws of whatever state you are in when the order is violated. This is what is meant by "full faith and credit."

    How do I know if my protection order is good under federal law?

    A protection order is good anywhere in the United States as long as it meets all of the following:

    • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
    • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
    • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
      • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.2


    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.

    1 18 USC § 2266(5)(A)
    2 18 USC § 2265(a) & (b)

    Getting your Alabama protection from abuse (PFA) order enforced in another state

    If you are moving out of Alabama or are going to be out of the state, your protection order may still be enforced in the new state.

    How do I get my protection order enforced in another state? 

    Federal law does not require you to take any special steps to get your protection order enforced in another state.

    Many states do have laws or regulations (rules) about registering or filing of out-of-state orders, which can make enforcement easier, but a valid protection order is enforceable regardless of whether it has been registered or filed in the new state.1  Rules differ from state to state, so it may be helpful to find out what the rules are in your new state. You can contact a local domestic violence organization for more information by visiting our Advocates and Shelters page and entering your new state in the drop-down menu.

    Note: It is often a good idea to keep a copy of your protection order with you at all times.

    1 18 USC 2265(d)(2)

    Do I need a special copy of my protection order to have it enforced?

    In some states, you will need a certified copy of your protection order. A certified copy says that it is a "true and correct" copy; it is signed and initialed by the clerk of court that gave you the order, and usually has some kind of court stamp on it. In Alabama, a certified order has a stamp and/or a raised seal on it.

    The copy you originally received was most likely not a certified copy. If your copy is not a certified copy, call or go to the court that gave you the order and ask the clerk's office for a certified copy. The court may charge a small fee to get a certified copy of an AL protection order.

    Note: It is a good idea to keep a copy of the order with you at all times. You will also want to bring several copies of the order with you when you move. 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.

    I have an ex parte (or temporary) order.  Can it be enforced in another state?

    Yes. An ex parte temporary order can be enforced in other states as long as it meets the requirements listed in How do I know if my protection order is good under federal law?1


    Note:
    The state where you are going generally cannot extend your ex parte temporary order or issue you a permanent order when the temporary one expires. If you need to extend your temporary order, you will have to contact the state that issued the order and arrange to be at the hearing in person or by telephone (if that is an option offered by the court). However, you may be able to reapply for one in the new state that you are moving to if you meet the requirements for getting a protective order in that state – but, if you apply for one in a new state, the abuser would know what state you are living in, which may put you in danger.

    1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(b)(2)

    Can I get someone to help me?  Do I need a lawyer?

    You do not need a lawyer to get your protection order enforced in another state.

    However, you may want to get help from a local domestic violence advocate or attorney in the state that you move to.  A domestic violence advocate can let you know what the advantages and disadvantages are for registering your protection order, and help you through the process if you decide to do so.

    To find a domestic violence advocate or an attorney in the state you are moving to, select your state from the Places that Help page and choose Advocates and Shelters and/or Finding a Lawyer under that state.

    Enforcing custody provisions in another state

    I was granted temporary custody with my protection order. Can I take my kids out of the state?

    Maybe. It will depend on the exact wording of the custody provision in your protection order. You may have to first get permission from the court before leaving. If your abuser was granted visitation rights with your children, then you may have to have the order changed, or show the court that there is a fair and realistic alternative to the current visitation schedule.  To read more about custody laws in Alabama, go to our AL Custody page.

    If you are unsure about whether or not you can take your kids out of the state, it is important to talk to a domestic violence advocate or lawyer who understands domestic violence and custody laws, and can help you make the safest decision for you and your children. You can find contact information for local domestic violence organizations and legal assistance in the AL area on our AL Places that Help page. 

    I was granted temporary custody with my protection order.  Will another state enforce this custody order?

    Yes. Custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in a protection order can be enforced across state lines. Law enforcement and courts in another state are required by federal law to enforce these provisions.1

    118 USC § 2265(a); definition of a "protection order" found at 18 USC § 2266(5)

    Enforcing an Order from Another State in Alabama

    Your out-of-state protective order or restraining order can be enforceable in Alabama.

    Getting your out-of-state protective order enforced in Alabama

    If you are moving to Alabama or are going to be in Alabama, your protection order or restraining order can still be enforced.

    Can I get my protection order enforced in Alabama? What are the requirements?

    Yes. Your out-of-state protection order can be enforced in Alabama as long as:

    • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
    • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
    • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story. 
      • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.2

    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.

    1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
    2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a) & (b)

    Can I have my out-of-state protection order changed, extended, or canceled in AL?

    No. Only the state that issued your protection order can change, extend, or cancel the order. You cannot have this done by a court in Alabama.

    To have your order changed, extended, or canceled, you will have to file a motion or petition in the court where the order was issued. You may be able to request that you attend the court hearing by telephone rather than in person, so that you do not need to return to the state where the abuser is living. Find out if this is possible in your state by calling the clerk of the court that issued your order. To find out more information about how to modify a restraining order, see the Restraining Orders page for the state where your order was issued.

    If your order does expire while you are living in Alabama, you may be able to get a new one issued in Alabama but this may be difficult to do if no new incidents of abuse have occurred in Alabama. To find out more information on how to get a protective order in Alabama, visit our AL Protection from Abuse Orders page.

    Enforcing custody provisions in Alabama

    I was granted temporary custody with my protection order.  Will I still have temporary custody of my children in AL?

    Yes. As long as the child custody provision meets the standards of federal laws,1 Alabama can enforce a temporary custody order that is a part of a protection order.

    To have someone read over your order and tell you if it meets this legal standard, contact a lawyer in your area. To find a lawyer in your area, visit our AL Finding a Lawyer page.

    1 The federal laws are the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980.

    Registering your out-of-state order in Alabama

    What is the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Registry? Who has access to it?

    The National Crime Information Center Registry (NCIC) is a nationwide, electronic database used by law enforcement agencies in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.

    Before moving to Alabama, the state that issued your protection order may already have entered your order into the NCIC. If not, your order may be entered into the NCIC once your order is registered in Alabama.

    All law enforcement officials have access to it, but the information is encrypted and secure so outsiders cannot access it.

    How do I register my protection order in Alabama?

    To register your protection order in Alabama, you must present a certified copy of your order to the clerk of the circuit or district court.1 You will likely be asked to sign an affidavit (a sworn statement) saying that, to the best of your knowledge, your order is still in effect.2 The clerk will file your order and will give you a stamped copy of the registered order.3 You can find contact information for courthouses in Alabama on our AL Courthouse Locations page.

    If you need help registering your protection order, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in Alabama for assistance. You can find contact information for organizations in your area here on our AL Advocates and Shelters page.

    1 Alabama Code § 30-5B-5(a)
    2 Alabama Code § 30-5B-5(d)
    3 Alabama Code § 30-5B-5(b)

    Do I have to register my protection order in AL in order to get it enforced?

    No. Alabama state law gives full protection to an out-of-state protection order as long the protection order has the names of the people protected by the order and the name of the abuser, and you can show the officer a valid (real) copy of your order or the officer otherwise believes that a valid order exists.1

    It is helpful if the order clearly says the expiration date of the order. The order does not have to be entered into the state or federal registry in order to be enforced by an Alabama police officer.2

    1 Alabama Code § 30-5B-4(a)
    2 Alabama Code § 30-5B-4(d)

    Will the abuser be notified if I register my protection order?

    Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which applies to all U.S. states and territories, the court is not permitted to notify the abuser when a protective order has been registered or filed in a new state unless you specifically request that the abuser be notified.1  However, you may wish to confirm that the clerk is aware of this law before registering the order if your address is confidential.

    However, remember that there may be a possibility that the abuser could somehow find out what state you have moved to.  It is important to continue to safety plan, even if you are no longer in the state where the abuser is living.  We have some safety planning tips to get you started on our Safety Tips page.  You can also contact a local domestic violence organization to get help in developing a personalized safety plan. You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our AL Advocates and Shelters page.

    1 18 USC § 2265(d)

    What if I don't register my protection order?  Will it be more difficult to have it enforced?

    Maybe. While neither federal law nor state law requires that you register your protection order in order to get it enforced, if your order is not entered into the state registry, it may be more difficult for an Alabama law enforcement official to determine whether your order is real.  In other words, it could take longer to get your order enforced.

    If you are unsure about whether registering your order is the right decision for you, you may want to contact a local domestic violence organization in your area. An advocate there can help you decide what the safest plan of action is for you in Alabama. To see a list of local domestic violence organizations in Alabama, go to our AL Advocates and Shelters page.

    Does it cost anything to register my protection order?

    No. There is no fee for registering your protection order in Alabama.1

    1 Alabama Code § 30-5B-5(f)