Legal Information: District of Columbia

Restraining Orders

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Updated: 
August 31, 2021

Who can get a civil protection order?

You may be eligible for a civil protection order if a family member, household member, or intimate partner commits or threatens to commit any crime against you or if s/he commits or threatens to commit cruelty to animals against a pet that you have or own. These types of crimes are called “intrafamily offenses.”1

A “family member” is someone you are related to by blood, adoption, legal custody, marriage, or domestic partnership, or who is the child of your intimate partner.1

A “household member” is someone you live/lived with at some point in the last year. It also could include someone with whom you have a close relationship that would make it appropriate for a judge to grant get a civil protection order against that person.2

An “intimate partner” is

  • a current or former spouse or domestic partner;
  • someone with whom you have a child in common;
  • someone with whom you are or were in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship; or
  • someone who was seeking to be in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship with you.3

In addition, you can also file against anyone who sexually assaults you or traffics you even if the relationship between you and the offender does not fall into one of the above categories.4

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. You are not even legally required to be at the court dates.5

Note: You can file for a civil protection order in D.C. if you live, work, or go to school in D.C., if you are under the legal custody of a government agency in D.C., or if the incident(s) contained in the petition occurred in D.C.1

1 D.C. Code § 16-1001(5A)
2 D.C. Code § 16-1001(5B)
3 D.C. Code § 16-1001(6A)
4 D.C. Code § 16-1003(a)
5 D.C. Code § 16-1003(f)
6 D.C. Code § 16-1006

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 17, you can file by yourself in all cases.1
  • If you are age 13 through 15, you can file your petition on your own if you are a victim of an intrafamily offense, sexual assault, or child sex trafficking.2
  • If you are age 12 or under, your parent, guardian, or custodian must file the petition on your behalf.3 The parent, guardian or custodian must come to all court dates, but the minor is not required to be present at any of the court dates.4

If you are age 13 through 17 and you would like someone to file on your behalf instead of filing on your own, the following people can do so:

  • a parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian;
  • an adult who is related to you by blood, adoption, legal custody, marriage, or domestic partnership; or
  • a sexual assault youth victim advocate.5

Whenever a parent or guardian files the petition for a minor who is age 13 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.6

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.7 You are not legally required to be at the court dates.8

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.9

The court can appoint an attorney for a minor if the minor does not have an attorney, and if appointing an attorney would not delay a judge’s decision on a TPO or CPO.10

1 D.C. Code § 16-1003(a)
2 D.C. Code § 16-1003(b)
3 D.C. Code § 16-1003(c)
4 D.C. Code § 16-1005(a-1)(2)
5 D.C. Code § 16-1003(d)
6 D.C. Code § 16-1005(a-1)(3)
7 D.C. Code § 16-1003(f)(1)(A)
8 D.C. Code § 16-1005(a-1)(1)
9 D.C. Code § 16-1007(b)
10 D.C. Code § 16-1003(g)

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

If you are the custodial parent, guardian, or legal 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, such as boyfriend/girlfriend, you can file a petition against the minor as long as the minor is 13 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(e)
2 D.C. Code § 16-1001(13)
3 D.C. Code § 16-1007(a)

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.

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

If you are a victim of sexual assault, sex or labor trafficking, or child sex trafficking, 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 sexually assaulted or trafficked you is a stranger, co-worker, acquaintance, etc.

What are my options if I don’t qualify for a civil protection order?

To qualify for a civil protection order (CPO), you must either be filing based on a crime committed by a family member, household member, or intimate partner, or you must be filing against someone who sexually assaulted or trafficked you. See Who can get a civil protection order? to see if your relationship meets the requirements.

Even if you do not qualify for a CPO, if you are experiencing stalking, you may be eligible for an anti-stalking order.

If you don’t qualify for a CPO, remember that the abuser may still be committing a crime for which you can get a criminal court restraining order if s/he is charged with a crime. For example, assault is illegal in D.C., no matter who assaults you, even though you may not qualify for a CPO if you do not have an eligible relationship with the abuser.

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