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Legal Information: District of Columbia

Restraining Orders

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October 29, 2020

What types of civil protection orders are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of civil protection orders in Washington, D.C.

Temporary (ex parte) Protection Orders
A temporary protection order can be issued the day that you file your petition without the abuser being present in court and without prior notice to the abuser - (this is what is meant by an ex parte order).  The judge can give you this temporary order if the judge believes that the safety or welfare of you or your household member is in immediate danger from the abuser.1

The first temporary protection order that you get can last up to 14 days.  Once you return to court, the judge can extend the temporary protection order for additional 14-day periods (or for a longer period if both parties consent) until the final court hearing or trial is completed.1

Civil Protection Orders
A final protection order can be issued by a judge after one of the following happens:

1. there is a court hearing where you and the abuser appear and present evidence and testimony to the judge;
2. there is a court hearing where only you appear – the abuser fails to appear even though you can prove s/he was properly served with notice of the court date; or
3. in court, the abuser consents to the protection order being issued.

In option 1 or 2, above, the judge will only issue the final protection order if s/he has “good cause” to believe that the abuser committed or threatened to commit a criminal offense against you, your animal, or any animal in your household.2  For option 3, this is not a requirement.

A final protection order lasts up to one year - the expiration date should be included on the order. However, the length of the order is subject to change if either party files a motion in court and proves that there is “good cause” to either extend it or vacate (cancel) it.3  For information on extending or modifying (changing) a final protection order, see How do I change or extend my civil protection order?

1 D.C. Code § 16-1004(b)
2 D.C. Code § 16-1005(c)
3 D.C. Code § 16-1005(d)