What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Connecticut?
This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a restraining order (also known as a relief from abuse order). Domestic violence is when a family or household member does one of the following to you:
- presents a continuous threat of present physical pain or physical injury;
- stalking; or
- a pattern of threatening, which includes, but is not limited to, when the abuser:
- uses a physical threat to intentionally place or attempt to place you in fear of immediate serious physical injury; or
- threatens to commit any crime of violence with the intention of terrorizing you or with disregard to the fact that the threat can cause you to be terrorized; or
- coercive control, which is a pattern of behavior that unreasonably interferes with a your free will and personal liberty. “Coercive control” includes, but is not limited to:
- isolating you from friends, relatives, or other sources of support;
- depriving you of basic needs;
- controlling or monitoring your movements, communications, daily behavior, finances, economic resources, or access to services;
- making you do something that you don’t want to do or not allowing you to do something you do want to do by using force, intimidation, or threats against you, including threats based on your actual or suspected immigration status;
- committing or threatening to commit cruelty to animals to intimidate you; or
- forcing you to do sexual acts, or making threats of a sexual nature, including, threats to commit sexual acts, threats based on your sexuality, or threats to release sexual images of you to other people or on the internet, for example.1
1 C.G.S. §§ 46b-15(a); 46b-1(b); 53a-62(a)
What types of restraining orders are there? How long do they last?
In Connecticut, there are two types of restraining orders:
A temporary (ex parte) restraining order can be issued on the day you apply for your restraining order if you allege (and the judge believes) that there is an immediate and present physical danger to you. (“Ex parte” means that the order can be issued without prior notice to the abuser and without the abuser present in court.) When deciding what to include in the temporary ex parte order, the judge can also consider the report that will be prepared by the family services unit of the Judicial Branch that may include, as available:
- any existing or prior orders of protection against the respondent that are recorded in the protection order registry;
- information on any pending criminal case or past criminal case in which the respondent was convicted of a violent crime;
- any outstanding arrest warrant for the respondent;
- the respondent’s level of risk based on a risk assessment tool utilized by the Court Support Services Division;
- information related to any pending or disposed (resolved) family matters cases involving you and the respondent.1
If the judge grants you a temporary restraining order, it will last until the full court hearing for the permanent order, which has to take place within 14 days. However, if you include in your application that the abuser has a permit or eligibility certificate to carry a pistol or revolver, a long gun, ammunition, or that s/he possesses firearms or ammunition, the hearing has to take place within 7 days. If the hearing is postponed, the temporary order can be extended until the hearing takes place. If the respondent cannot be located/served with the petition and order, your ex parte order can be extended another 14 days while law enforcement attempts to locate/serve him/her.2
A permanent restraining order can be issued after a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to tell your sides of the story. Permanent orders can last up to one year, but can be extended for additional periods as the judge believes is necessary.3
Note: In Connecticut, a there is also something called a family violence protective order, which is issued by a criminal court judge at arraignment after an abuser has been arrested. This is different from the civil court restraining orders (also known as relief from abuser orders) that are discussed in this section.4
1 C.G.S § 46b-15(b)
2 C.G.S § 46b-15(b),(c)
3 C.G.S § 46b-15(g)
4 See CT Judicial Branch website
What protections can I get in a restraining order?
A temporary or permanent restraining order may:
- order the abuser to not threaten, harass, assault, molest, sexually assault or attack you;
- prohibit the abuser from imposing any restraint upon you or your liberty (freedom);
- prohibit the abuser from entering your home or the shared family home;
- grant you temporary child custody or visitation rights;
- order the abuser to not injure or threaten to injure your animals;1
- order the abuser not to contact you in any way, including through your home, workplace, etc.;
- order the abuser to stay 100 yards away from you;2
- grant you temporary possession of an automobile, checkbook, documentation of health, automobile or homeowners insurance, any documents needed for purposes of proving identity, a key or other necessary specified personal belongings;
- if you and the abuser are spouses, or if you have a minor/dependent child in common and you live together, the judge may order the following additional things if they are necessary to maintain the safety and basic needs of you or your child(ren). The judge can prohibit the abuser from:
- taking any action that could result in the termination of any necessary utility services or necessary services related to your home or the family home;
- taking any action that could result in the cancellation, change of coverage or change of beneficiary of any health, automobile or homeowners insurance policy that would harm you or the child that you have with the abuser;
- getting rid of, transferring, hiding, etc., any specified property owned or leased by you;3 and/or
- anything else that is needed to protect you, your children and/or anyone else the judge believes is appropriate.1
In addition, as part of a permanent restraining order, the judge can order the following additional protections. The judge can order that the abuser:
- make rent or mortgage payments on the family home or the home where you live with your and the abuser’s minor/dependent child(ren);
- maintain (keep) utility services or other necessary services related to the family home or the home where you live with your and the abuser’s minor/dependent child(ren);
- maintain (keep) all existing health, automobile or homeowners insurance coverage without any change in coverage or change in the beneficiary; and/or
- provide financial support for any dependent child(ren) that you have with the abuser (provided that the respondent has a legal duty to support such child or children and the ability to pay), which will last up to 120 days or until another order for financial support is decided by a court, whichever happens first. Note: The judge cannot enter any order of financial support without sufficient evidence as to the abuser’s ability to pay, which must be presented at the hearing. (If the judge does not make an order for financial support at the hearing, it cannot be done as part of the restraining order later on).4
1 C.G.S. § 46b-15(b)
2 See Application for Relief from Abuse
3 C.G.S. § 46b-15(d)
4 C.G.S. § 46b-15(e)
Where can I file for a restraining order?
You can file for a restraining order in the superior court1 of the judicial district where you or the abuser lives.2 If you are unsure what judicial district you live in, you may want to contact an attorney that is familiar with Connecticut state laws. Please see our CT Finding a Lawyer page for your state for more information.
1 C.G.S. § 46b-15(a)
2 C.G.S. § 51-345
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.