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Legal Information: District of Columbia

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of April 5, 2024

Can I get my protection order enforced in Washington, D.C.? What are the requirements?

It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1

  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.2

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a),(b)


Can I have my out-of-state protection order changed, extended, or canceled in D.C.?

It’s possible that you may be able to change, extend, or cancel your order in a D.C. court. Once you register your out-of-state order in D.C., the court will provide you with a registered order.1 The judge may allow you to petition to change, extend, or cancel the registered (out-of-state) order as if it were issued in that state.

However, it’s also possible that the judge may find that s/he does not have jurisdiction (power) over your whole order or over certain issues included in your order, such as custody, and may require that you file a motion or petition in the court where the order was issued. If you have to file in the state where the order was issued, you may be able to request that you attend the court hearing by telephone rather than in person, so that you do not need to return to the state where the abuser is living. To find out more information about how to modify a restraining order, see the Restraining Orders page for the state where your order was issued. You may also wish to speak with an attorney in D.C. to find out if you can file to modify your out-of-state order in D.C.

If your order does expire while you are living in Washington, D.C., you may be able to get a new one issued in D.C., but this may be difficult to do if no new incidents of abuse have occurred in Washington, D.C. To find out more information on how to get a protection order in Washington, D.C., visit our Civil Protection Orders page.

1 D.C. Code § 16-1044(c)

I was granted temporary custody with my protection order. Will I still have temporary custody of my children in D.C.?

As long as the child custody provision complies with certain federal laws,1 D.C. can enforce a temporary custody order that is part of a protection order.  To have someone read over your order and tell you if it meets these standards, contact a lawyer in your area.  To find a lawyer in your area, go to our D.C. Finding a Lawyer page.

1 The federal laws are the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980.