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Legal Information: Federal

Domestic Violence in the Military

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Updated: 
October 9, 2019

What is a military protective order (MPO)?

A military protective order (MPO) is a tool that can be used by command to help keep you and/or your children safe if you have experienced domestic violence or child abuse by a service member. It doesn’t matter if you are a service member or a civilian. You, a victim advocate, an installation law enforcement agency, or Family Advocacy Program (FAP) clinician could be the one to ask the commander to issue an MPO.

An MPO is only enforceable on the military base or installation and only while the service member is attached to the command that issued the order. When the service member is transferred to a new command, the order will no longer be valid.

The commander who issued the MPO is supposed to recommend to the new command that a new MPO is issued when the service member is transferred if an MPO is still necessary to protect the victim. Therefore, if you believe that an MPO is still necessary for your protection, be sure to contact the commander who issued the MPO or have your victim advocate or the FAP contact the commander on your behalf.

Who is I eligible to get a military protective order (MPO)?

You can file to request an MPO against an active duty member of the military who you believe has harmed you or your children and who is:

  • your spouse or ex-spouse;
  • your current or former intimate partner if you live(d) together; or
  • someone with whom you have a child in common.

An MPO will be ordered if the commander agrees to it.1

1 See Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, Incorporating Change 4, May 26, 2017

What protections can I get in a military protective order (MPO)?

The MPO can say that the service member has to do certain things and can also prohibit certain behaviors. MPOs may order the abuser (referred to as “the subject”) to:

  • have no contact or communication with you or members of the your family or household, including:
  • face-to-face;
  • by telephone;
  • in writing;
  • by email;
  • through social media; or
  • through a third party;
  • stay away from the family home, whether it is on or off the installation;
  • stay away from your children’s schools, child development centers, youth programs, and your place of employment;
  • move into government quarters (barracks);
  • leave any public place if you are in the same location or facility;
  • do certain activities or stop doing certain activities;
  • attend counseling; and
  • surrender his/her government-issued weapons.1

Commanders may tailor the order to meet your specific needs so be sure to let the commander know what would best protect you.1

Civilian abusers are not subject to MPOs. They may only be subject to a civil protection order (CPO) issued by a state or tribal court. However, a commanding officer can bar the civilian abuser from the installation, which could help to protect you if you live on the installation.1

Make sure that you get a copy of the MPO from the commanding officer so that you are aware of restrictions placed on the service member. It is important you have it with you at all times.

1 See Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, Incorporating Change 4, May 26, 2017

How long does an MPO last?

MPOs are generally short-term and can last as little as ten days, but can be longer, if needed.1 An MPO is generally issued initially for the period of time that it will take the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) to gather details for the commander about the abuse and the relevant history involving you and the abuser. The MPO may be extended based on ongoing concerns of risk or threats to you.

The victim advocate at your installation will know how long it generally takes for the FAP to provide the commander with complete assessment results. If you can get that information from the victim advocate, you may want to ask the commander to take that timeframe into account when issuing the MPO.

The time period of an MPO should be long enough to allow FAP to complete their assessments and for the situation to improve. Your MPO may include an estimated expiration date. However, whether it has a date or not, the commanding officer may review the MPO at any time to change or rescind (end) it. The order is in effect until the Command cancels it, regardless of what date, if any, is entered as an expiration date.1

Also, keep in mind that an MPO is only enforceable while the service member is attached to the command that issued the order. When the service member is transferred to a new command, the order will no longer be valid. A new MPO would have to be issued by the new command.

1Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, Incorporating Change 4, May 26, 2017