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Legal Information: District of Columbia

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of
April 5, 2024

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 protection orders and final civil protection orders.

Temporary (ex parte) Protection Orders (TPOs)

A temporary protection order can be issued without the abuser being present in court and without prior notice to the abuser; this is what is meant by an ex parte order.1 A judge will hold an ex parte hearing on the day you file your petition unless it was filed too late in the day to review. In that case, a hearing on the ex parte order will be held the next day the court is open.2

The judge can give you this temporary order if the judge believes that your safety or welfare or the safety and welfare of an animal that belongs to you is in immediate danger from the abuser.3

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, for 28 days with good cause, or for a longer period if both parties consent. 4

Civil Protection Orders (CPOs)

A final civil 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.5 For option 3, this is not a requirement.

A final CPO lasts up to two years - 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 extend, modify, or cancel (vacate) it.6 For information, see How do I change, extend, or cancel my civil protection order?

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