Legal Information: District of Columbia

Restraining Orders

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Updated: 
August 31, 2021

How do I change, extend, or cancel my civil protection order?

To change (modify) the terms of your order, you can file a motion that asks the judge to change your order if you have “good cause” After you file a motion with the court, you will have to attend another court hearing to convince the judge that the change to the order is necessary.1

To extend a final civil protection order beyond its expiration date, you would file a motion to extend the order if you believe you still need protection from the court. You will have to give the judge “good cause” to extend the order.1 Any violations of the order are usually considered enough of a reason, but you do not need to show that the respondent violated the order to get it extended.2 Generally, you should go to court to file this motion with enough time to have a hearing before the order expires. However, if you file a motion to extend any time before your order expires, your order will remain in effect until the judge holds a hearing and makes a decision on your motion. 3

A judge can extend an order for any amount of time that the judge thinks is appropriate. However, if the judge decides to extend the order for more than two years, then the judge must believe that one of the following happened:

  • the respondent violated the CPO;
  • before you got the CPO that is being extended, you had another CPO against the same person; or
  • that there are other convincing circumstances relating to your safety or welfare that require the CPO be extended for more than two years.4

If you want to cancel your order because you no longer feel you need protection of the court, you can file a motion to vacate the order.1 However, we strongly suggest that you talk to an advocate or lawyer before doing this to make sure this is the step you want to take. If you think you no longer need the order because the abuser hasn’t been bothering you lately, remember that s/he likely stayed away from you because you had the order. If you remove the order, there is nothing to prevent the abuse from re-starting. Instead of vacating the order completely, you may be able to change (modify) the order. This would allow you to keep some of the protection, while placing fewer restrictions on the respondent.

Any motion you file must be served on the respondent. You will both have the chance to appear at the court date where you will explain why you want to change, extend, or cancel (vacate) the order to the judge. The judge will review the evidence and decide what actions, if any, to take. Please recognize that only a judge can change a civil protection order. An agreement between you and the abuser outside of court does not change the requirements of the civil protection order.

1 D.C. Code § 16-1005(d-1)(1)
2 D.C. Code § 16-1005(d-1)(2)
3 D.C. Superior Court Domestic Violence Unit, Rule 7(d)
4 D.C. Code § 16-1005(d-1)(3)

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