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Legal Information: District of Columbia

Restraining Orders

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Updated: 
April 5, 2019

Who can get a civil protection order?

You may be eligible for a civil protection order if someone described in the list below commits or threatens to commit any crime against you:1

  • someone to whom you are or were married, with whom you are/were in a domestic partnership, or in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship;
  • someone related to you by blood, adoption, legal custody, marriage, or domestic partnership (i.e., your brother or your father-in-law);
  • someone with whom you have a child in common;
  • someone with whom you share(d) a home (i.e., a roommate);
  • someone who is/ was in an intimate relationship with the same person that you are/were in an intimate relationship with (e.g., you are dating Jane and Jane's ex-husband assaults you).2

Note:  You can also file against anyone who stalks, sexually assaults, or sexually abuses you even if the relationship between you and the offender does not fall into one of the above categories.3

If you are unable to file a petition by yourself or, in the case of certain minors, if you are unable to file for one with the assistance of a parent, guardian, custodian, or other appropriate adult, the Attorney General may file the petition on your behalf.  To get the Attorney General to do this, you, your representative, or a government agency must make this request to the Attorney General.  If the Attorney General files on your behalf, the Attorney General actually represents the interests of the District of Columbia and not specifically your particular interests.4  You are not even legally required to be at the court dates.5

1 D.C. Code § 16-1003(a)
2 D.C. Code § 16-1001(6)-(9)
3 D.C. Code § 16-1001(12)
4 D.C. Code § 16-1003(c)
5 D.C. Code § 16-1005(a-1)(1)

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

In D.C., you may apply for a civil protection order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Who can get a civil protection order?  You must also be the victim of an act of domestic violence, which is explained here What is the legal definition of domestic violence in the District of Columbia?

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

Can I file for a civil protection order if I am a minor?

Whether you can file on your own will depend on your age and who you are filing against:

  • If you are 16 or older, you can file by yourself in all cases.
  • If you are between age 12 and 16, you can file your a petition on your own only if you are a victim of intimate partner violence (i.e., the abuser is a current or former boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse or domestic partner). If you are filing against anyone else (e.g., a relative, someone you live with, etc.), your parent, guardian, or custodian must file the petition on your behalf.
  • If you are under age 12, your parent, guardian, or custodian must file the petition on your behalf.1 The minor child under age 12 is not required to be present at any of the court dates.2

Note: If you are a minor of any age, you have the option of your parent, guardian, custodian, or other appropriate adult filing the petition for civil protection on your behalf.1

Whenever a parent or guardian files the petition for a minor who is age 12 or older, the judge has to consider the minor's wishes in deciding whether to issue the final protection order and in determining what terms will be included in that order.3

If you fall into one of the categories that requires you to have a parent, guardian, custodian or other appropriate adult file for you but no one is willing to do so, the Attorney General may file the petition on your behalf if you, your representative, or a government agency make this request to the Attorney General. In this case, though, the Attorney General actually represents the interests of the District of Columbia and not specifically your particular interests.4 You are not legally required to be at the court dates.5

Note: If you are a minor filing by yourself but you live with your parent, guardian, or custodian, the court will send a copy of your court papers to that parent, guardian, or custodian, unless the judge feels that it would not be in your best interests to do so. The judge might then send the notice of the court hearing to another appropriate adult.6

1 D.C. Code § 16-1003(a)
2 D.C. Code § 16-1005(a-1)(2)
3 D.C. Code § 16-1005(a-1)(3)
4 D.C. Code § 16-1003(c)
5 D.C. Code § 16-1005(a-1)(1)
6 D.C. Code § 16-1004(e)

Can I file for a civil protection order against a minor?

It depends. If you are the custodial parent, guardian, or custodian of the minor against whom you are trying to file, you cannot file a petition for civil protection against the minor.1 If you have any other qualifying relationship to the minor (e.g., the minor is your boyfriend or other relative), you can file a petition against the minor as long as the minor is 12 years of age or older.2

When filing against a minor, the minor's custodial parent, guardian, or custodian, must be served with notice of the court hearing and an order to appear, a copy of the petition, and the temporary protection order, if the judge gives you one.3

1 D.C. Code § 16-1003(a)(6)
2 D.C. Code § 16-1001(13)
3 D.C. Code § 16-1004(d)

I was stalked or sexually assaulted by a stranger/friend. Can I file for a civil protection order?

Yes. If you are a victim of stalking, sexual assault, or sexual abuse, you can file for a civil protection order against the offender regardless of your relationship to him/her. This means that you could file for a civil protection order if the person who stalked or sexually assaulted you is a stranger, co-worker, acquaintance, etc.1 You may want to be prepared to explain to the clerk when you file that you are filing on the basis of stalking or sexual assault if you are filing against a stranger/friend to make sure that you aren’t turned away by the clerk.

1 D.C. Code § 16-1001(12)