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Legal Information: District of Columbia

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of April 5, 2024

How much does it cost to file and serve a civil protection order? Do I need a lawyer?

There is no fee to file for a civil protection order.

As long as you have a valid home or work address for the person against whom you are getting the order, the Metropolitan Police Department will attempt to serve the protection order petition and motions at no charge when the party being served lives or works in the District of Columbia. If the person lives in Maryland or Virginia, service may also be free as part of an agreement between Washington, D.C. and the sheriff departments in the surrounding areas of Maryland and Virginia.1

Although you do not need a lawyer to file for a civil protection order, it may be to your advantage to have one. This is especially important if the abuser has a lawyer. Even if the abuser does not have a lawyer, it is recommended that you contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected. To find free and paid lawyers, go to our D.C. Finding a Lawyer page.

For help in filing an order, you can go to the Domestic Violence Intake Center, which is in the superior court or United Medical Center. The Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia represents some people who file for civil protection orders. If the Office of the Attorney General cannot take your case, there may be other attorneys available to take your case.

In addition, the domestic violence agencies in your area and/or court staff may be able to answer some of your questions or help you fill out the necessary court forms. You will find information on legal assistance and domestic violence organizations on the D.C. Advocates and Shelters page. You will find contact information for courthouses on the D.C. Courthouse Locations page.

If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.

1 D.C. Courts Domestic Violence Case Management Plan