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Legal Information: Kentucky

Kentucky Restraining Orders

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Restraining Orders

This section has information about protective orders / domestic violence orders and interpersonal protective orders, as well as moving to another state with an order and enforcing an out-of-state order in Kentucky.

Protective Orders / Domestic Violence Orders

Emergency protective orders (EPO) and domestic violence orders (DVO) provide protection from harm by a family member or someone you are in a relationship with.

Basic information

What is a protective order / domestic violence order?

A domestic violence order is a paper that is signed by a judge and tells the abuser to stop the abuse or face serious legal consequences. In Kentucky, an immediate ex parte temporary order is known as an emergency protective order (EPO) and a final, longer-term order is known as a domestic violence order (DVO).

What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Kentucky?

This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a protective order. Kentucky law defines “domestic violence and abuse” as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between “family members” or “members of an unmarried couple:”

  • physical injury or serious physical injury;
  • sexual abuse;
  • assault;
  • stalking; or
  • putting someone in fear of immediate physical injury, serious physical injury, sexual abuse, or assault.1

Note: If you want to get protection against a boyfriend/girlfriend with whom you do not have a child or with whom you have never lived, you may qualify for an interpersonal protective order. (Those relationships do not fit the legal definition of a “member of an unmarried couple” to qualify for a domestic violence order.) To read the exact definitions of “family members” or “members of an unmarried couple,” go to Who can get a protective order?

1 KRS § 403.720(1)

What types of protective orders are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of orders:

Emergency Protective Orders (EPOs). An emergency protective order (EPO) can be ordered without prior notice to the abuser (ex parte) if the judge believes there is an immediate and present danger of domestic violence and abuse.1  If you are granted an EPO, the abuser will be notified that you have an order against him/her and the date and time of the hearing for your domestic violence order.

An EPO is not effective or enforceable until it has been served on the abuser or until the abuser has been given oral notice by law enforcement or by the court about the existence of the EPO and what its terms are.2  Generally an EPO will last for 14 days until your hearing for a domestic violence order.3  If law enforcement is unable to serve the abuser prior to the hearing, the judge can postpone the court date and extend your EPO for another 14 days.  (The EPO can be extended multiple times over a six-month period while law enforcement attempts service.  However, at the end of the six-month period, if the respondent cannot be located to be served, the emergency protective order will be dismissed “without prejudice,” which means you could re-file.)4

Domestic Violence Orders (DVOs). A domestic violence order can only be issued after you have had a full court hearing where you and the abuser both have the opportunity to tell your sides of the story to a judge.  If the judge believes that “domestic violence or abuse has occurred and may again occur,” s/he can order a DVO.5   You must attend that hearing.  If you do not go to the hearing, your EPO may expire and you will have to start the process over.

Like EPOs, domestic violence orders are not effective or enforceable until they have been served on the abuser or until the abuser has been given oral notice by law enforcement or by the court about the existence of the DVO and what its terms are.2  A DVO can last for up to three years.  You may also extend your DVO for additional three year-year period(s).6  See How do I change or extend my protective order? for more information on this process.

1 KRS § 403.730(2)(a)
2 KRS § 403.745(1)
3 KRS § 403.730(1)(a)
4 KRS § 403.735(2)
5 KRS § 403.740(1)
6 KRS § 403.740(4)

What protections can I get in an emergency protective order and a domestic violence order?

An emergency protective order (EPO) and a can do the following:

  • order the abuser to not commit acts of domestic violence and abuse against you;
  • order the abuser to have no contact with you or with anyone else specified in the order (including face-to-face, telephone, written, electronic, through a third party, etc.);
  • order the abuser to stay away from you or anyone else specified in the order (for a distance of up to 500 feet)
  • order the abuser to not come within a certain distance of any specified residence, school, or place of employment;
  • order the abuser to not sell or destroy any of your property or any property you share with him/her;
  • order the abuser to leave the home you share;
  • give you temporary custody of your children; and/or
  • provide you with any other protection necessary to eliminate future domestic violence.1

A domestic violence order (DVO) can do the following:

  • order everything that an EPO can order - listed above; and, additionally:
    • award you temporary child support; and/or
    • order that either or both of you receive counseling services available in the community.2

Note: A DVO can be amended (after you file a request and the judge holds a hearing) to require the abuser to wear a GPS device if the abuser has committed a substantial (serious) violation of a domestic violence order and if the judge believes that the GPS device would increase your safety.3

1 KRS §§ 403.730(2)(a)(1); 403.740(1); see also the petition on the Kentucky Courts website
2 KRS § 403.740(1)
3 KRS § 403.761(1)

In what county do I file for the protective order?

You can file for an emergency protective order or a domestic violence order in the county where you live or a county to which you have fled in order to escape abuse.1 A petition can be filed in the district court, the circuit court, or in family court (if a family court has been established in your county).2

However, if you have left the home and want to keep the address where you are staying confidential, filing in that county would likely not be a good idea since it would alert the abuser to the fact that you are living in that county.

1 KRS § 403.725(2)
2 KRS § 403.725(6)(a)

If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?

When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.

There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:

  1. The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
  2. One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
  3. If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.

However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.

You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.

Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.

Who can get a protective order / domestic violence order

Who can get a protective order?

You can seek court protection from acts of domestic violence and abuse done to you or your minor child by any of the following people:

  • your current or former spouse;
  • your parent or step-parent;
  • your child or step-child;
  • your grandparent or grandchild;
  • a boyfriend / girlfriend with whom you currently or formerly live(d) ”as a couple;”
  • a boyfriend / girlfriend with whom you have a child (regardless of whether you ever lived together); or
  • if the child is the victim, a child can file against any person living in the same household with the child regardless of their relationship or against the parent’s boyfriend/girlfriend who lives with the parent or has a child with the parent.1

Note: The definition does not include a boyfriend / girlfriend with whom you do not have a child and with whom you have never lived.  However, an interpersonal protective order does cover those types of dating relationships.

1 KRS § 403.720(1),(2),(5)

Can I get a protective order against a same-sex partner?

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

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

Can a minor file for an order?

The law doesn’t specifically say that a minor can or cannot file on his/her own. The law says that a “victim of domestic violence and abuse” can file a petition and there is no specific definition as to whether the victim must be at least 18. If you are a minor who wants to file your own petition without an adult helping you to file, you may want to call your local courthouse to ask if this is possible. The law is clear, however, in saying that any adult (even a non-relative) can file on behalf of a minor who qualifies for an order.1

1 KRS § 403.725(1)

What can I do if I don't qualify for a protective order?

In 2016, Kentucky passed a new law that provides for an interpersonal protective order for victims of dating violence and abuse, stalking, or sexual assault.1  If you don’t qualify for a domestic violence order, you might qualify for an interpersonal protective order. 

Protective orders do not cover many types of emotional or mental abuse.  If you’re being mentally or emotionally abused,  please contact a domestic violence organization in your area for support and help.  Visit the KY Advocates and Shelters page for referrals.

Also, remember that the abuser’s actions may be considered a crime that can be report to law enforcement or for which you can file a criminal complaint at the district court clerk’s office in the county where the abuse occurred.  To see a list of common crimes in Kentucky, go to our Crimes page.

You can also visit our Safety Tips page for ways to increase your safety.

1 KRS § 756.030(1)

How much does it cost to file for a protective order? Do I need a lawyer?

There is no cost to file for a protective order.

You do not need a lawyer to file for a protective order. However, you may wish to have a lawyer represent you at the hearing, especially if the abuser has a lawyer.  If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find information on legal assistance on the KY Finding a Lawyer page. 

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

Steps for getting a protective order / domestic violence order

Step 1 - Get the necessary forms.

You will need to file the forms in the county courthouse where you live (even if you just moved there to escape abuse).1  To find contact information for the courthouse in your area, click on KY Courthouse Locations. You can also find links to forms online on our KY Download Court Forms page.  

If you need the immediate protection of an emergency protective order (EPO), be sure to tell the clerk.  An EPO is a temporary emergency order that a judge can grant you if you or your child are in immediate danger without prior notice to the abuser.  

Most shelters and other domestic violence prevention organizations can provide support for you while you fill out these papers and go to court.  Go to KY Advocates and Shelters page for contact information.

1 KRS § 403.725(2)

Step 2 - Carefully fill out the forms.

On the petition, you will be the “petitioner” and the abuser will be the “respondent.” On the petition, in the box provided for explaining why you want the protective order, write about the most recent incidents of violence, using specific language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible.

Note: Do not sign the forms until you are in front of the court clerk. Your statements must be made under oath and the forms may have to be notarized.

It may also be useful to bring identifying information about the abuser such as a photo (which may be used in serving the order to respondent); addresses of residence and employment; a description and plate number of the abuser’s car; and information about his/her gun ownership. When filling our your address, be sure to give a safe mailing address. If you are staying at a shelter, give a post office box, not the street address. If you do not want the abuser to know your address, ask the clerk first how you can keep your address confidential.

Step 3 - The judge considers your petition and may grant you an ex parte order.

When you have filed the forms with the clerk of court, s/he will bring your papers to the judge. If the judge believes there is an immediate and present danger of domestic violence and abuse, s/he may give you an emergency protective order (EPO), which is good for 14 days until your full court hearing.1

Regardless of whether or not the judge grants you an EPO, you can still be given a hearing date and time if the judge believes that domestic violence and abuse exists. The hearing will take place within 14 days of your filing your petition.2 At the hearing, the abuser and you will both have a chance to present evidence to the judge.

1 KRS §§ 403.730(2)(a); 403.730(1)(a)
2 KRS § 403.730(1)(a)

Step 4 - Service of process

If you get an EPO, it should be served on the abuser by law enforcement.  It is important that you provide accurate, up-to-date information about where the abuser can be found in order for the EPO to be served.  Arrangements for service will be made by the court clerk after the judge issues the order.  For sheriff department contact information, go to our KY Sheriff Departments page.  The respondent must receive notice of the hearing for the final DVO.  If s/he does not receive notice, the hearing will be rescheduled.

You can also register with a statewide system, called VINE Protective Order to receive a confidential notification when the order is served on the abuser.  

You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

Step 5 - Full court hearing

You must go the full court hearing. If you do not go, your emergency protective order (EPO) will expire, and you may not be able to obtain a domestic violence order (DVO).

If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you a DVO, or the judge may reschedule the hearing.  You may wish to hire a lawyer to help with your case, especially if the abuser has a lawyer.  If the abuser shows up with a lawyer, you can ask the judge for a “continuance” (a later court date) so that you have time to find a lawyer.  Go to our KY Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals. You can also represent yourself.  See our Preparing Your Case page for tips on how to represent yourself in a protective order hearing.

If you cannot go to the hearing at the scheduled time, you may call the judge’s office to ask that your case be “continued,” but the judge may deny your request.  If the court does issue a continuance, the court should also reissue an EPO to you since your original one will probably expire before the rescheduled hearing.

After the hearing

Can the abuser have a gun?

Once you get a protection order, there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession.  There are a few places where you can find this information:

  • first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in Kentucky have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
  • second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
  • third you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal laws that apply to all states.

You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website

What should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some ideas of what you can do:

  • Make several copies of the order as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order at your workplace, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them. One week after court, call your local law enforcement offices to make sure they have received copies of the order.
  • Take steps to safety plan, including changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.

Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving the order.  People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school.  Many abusers obey protective orders, but some do not.  It is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  Click on Safety Tips for suggestions.  Advocates at local resource centers can assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support; see KY Advocates and Shelters.

I was not granted a protective order. What are my options?

If you are not granted a protective order, there are still some things you can do to stay safe.  It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic violence programs in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe. They can help you develop a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need.  For safety planning help, ideas, and information, go to our Safety Tips. To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please visit our KY Advocates and Shelters page.

You may be able to reapply for a protective order if a new incident of domestic abuse occurs after you are denied the order.

If you believe the judge made an error of law, you can talk to a lawyer about the possibility of an appeal. Generally, appeals are complicated and you will most likely need the help of a lawyer.  For basic information on appeals, see our Filing Appeals page.

If you were not granted a protective order because your relationship with the abuser does not qualify – (see Who can get a protective order? for qualifying relationships) – you may be able to seek protection through the criminal court system. You will find more information about this process in What can I do if I don’t qualify for a protective order?

What can I do if the abuser violates the order?

If the abuser intentionally violates the DVO, it can be considered contempt of court and a criminal offense, which is a Class A misdemeanor.1  

To report the violation to law enforcement, you can call 911 immediately (or you can file a criminal complaint).  In some cases, the abuser can be arrested right away and prosecuted for a crime.  Tell the officers you have a DVO and the respondent is violating it. If found guilty of a violation of a DVO, the abuse can be fined or put in jail.  It is often a good idea to write down the name of the responding officers and their badge numbers in case you want to follow up on your case.

Another way to address the violation of a domestic violence order is to go back to the court that issued the order to file a “show cause” motion for contempt.2  A judge will then review the complaint or affidavit and decide what action to take.

Note:  You can either pursue a civil proceeding or a criminal proceedings for the violation - you cannot pursue both.  Once either proceeding has been filed, the other cannot be pursued, regardless of the outcome of the first proceeding.1

1 KRS § 403.763(1),(4)
2 KRS § 403.763(2)(a)

How do I change or extend my protective order?

Extending your order
When your DVO is expiring, you can apply to extend it for an additional period of up to 3 years. There is no limit on the number of times an order may be reissued (extended). There does not need to be a new act of domestic violence for the order to be reissued.1 However, if there has been no further abuse or contact, you may want to be prepared to explain to the judge why you are still in danger of further abuse (based on the history, gun ownership, etc.).

Changing your order
Either you or the abuser can file a motion to amend a domestic violence order.2 After a hearing, the judge will decide whether or not to grant the amendment (change).

Note: A DVO can be amended (after you file a request and the judge holds a hearing) to require the abuser to wear a GPS device if the abuser has committed a substantial (serious) violation of a domestic violence order and if the judge believes that the GPS device would increase your safety.3

1 KRS § 403.740(4)
2 KRS § 403.745(5)
3 KRS § 403.761(1)

What happens to my order if I move?

If you move within Kentucky or to another state, your protective order will still be valid and good.  Federal law provides what is called “full faith and credit,” which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. territories and tribal lands.  You can read more on our Moving to Another State with a Kentucky Domestic Violence Order (DVO) page.

If you are moving to a new state, you may want to call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111 x 2) for information on enforcing your order in another state.

Interpersonal Protective Orders

An interpersonal protective order provides protection for victims of dating violence/abuse against a current or former dating partner. In addition, they can also protect a victim of sexual assault or stalking regardless of whether or not you have ever dated the offender.

Basic info and definitions

What is an interpersonal protective order?

An interpersonal protective order is a civil court order that protects you from an abuser if you are a victim of:

However, if the person who has sexually assaulted or stalked you is a family member or an intimate partner with whom you live(d), have a child, or married, you would file for a protective order based on domestic violence instead.  Please see Protective Orders / Domestic Violence Orders for more information.

1 KRS § 456.030(1)

What is the legal definition of dating violence and abuse, sexual assault, and stalking?

Dating violence and abuse means any of the following if the behavior occurs between people who are in or have been in a dating relationship:

  • physical injury;
  • serious physical injury;
  • stalking;
  • sexual assault; or
  • putting someone in fear of immediate physical injury, serious physical injury, sexual abuse, or sexual assault.1

Sexual assault means an act of rape, sodomy, or sexual abuse in any degree (which you can find on our KY Statutes page - see Chapter 510) or incest.2  The sexual assault does not have to be committed by someone with whom you are (or have been) in a dating relationship.

Stalking is defined as the actions described in the crimes of stalking in the first degree or stalking in the second degree.3  The stalking does not have to be committed by someone with whom you are (or have been) in a dating relationship.

1 KRS § 456.010(2)
2 KRS § 456.010(6)
3 KRS § 456.010(7)

What types of interpersonal protective orders are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of interpersonal protective orders:

Temporary interpersonal protective orders
The judge will review your petition for an interpersonal protective order immediately after you file in court.1  If the judge finds that there is an immediate and present danger of dating violence and abuse, sexual assault, or stalking, the judge can issue an ex parte temporary interpersonal protective order.2  The judge will also schedule a hearing for a final interpersonal protective order within 14 days (assuming that the judge believes from reading your petition that dating violence and abuse, sexual assault, or stalking has occurred).1

Final interpersonal protective orders
A final interpersonal protective order can only be issued only after the abuser has an opportunity to attend a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to present evidence, witnesses, testimony, etc.  If after a hearing, the judge finds that dating violence and abuse, sexual assault, or stalking has occurred, the judge can issue a final interpersonal protective order that can last up to three years.3  The order may also be renewed – see Can an order be extended? for more information.

1 KRS § 456.040(1)(a)
2 KRS § 456.040(2)(a)
3 KRS § 456.060(1),(3)

What protections can I get in an interpersonal protective order?

In a temporary or final interpersonal protective order, the judge can order that the abuser not:

  • commit any acts of dating violence and abuse, stalking, or sexual assault;
  • contact you or any other person identified by the judge;
  • throw away or damage any of your property;
  • come within 500 feet of you and any other person identified in the order; and/or
  • come within a specific distance of your home, school, workplace, or other place you go to frequently. (Note: When asking the judge to restrict the abuser from a place to which you frequently go, the judge will first hear testimony from you and the abuser about the location and only restrict the abuser from areas where there is a specific, definite danger to you or another person protected by the order.)1

The judge can also order any other conditions that s/he believes would prevent future acts of dating violence and abuse, stalking, or sexual assault, but the judge cannot order that you (the petitioner) do any particular actions.2 In dating violence and abuse cases, the judge can order that you and/or the abuser receive counseling services available in the community.3

1 KRS § 456.060(1)(a),(2)(a),(b)
2 KRS § 456.060(1)(b)
3 KRS § 456.060(1)(c)

If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?

When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.

There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:

  1. The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
  2. One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
  3. If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.

However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.

You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.

Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.

Who can get an interpersonal protective order

Am I eligible for an interpersonal protective order?

You may file for an interpersonal protective order if you are a victim of:

You may also file on behalf of a minor who qualifies for an interpersonal protective order if you are an adult (even if you are not related to the parent/guardian of the minor).1

To file based on dating violence and abuse, there must have been “dating relationship,” which the law defines as “a relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.”3

In addition, if someone is criminally convicted of any degree of rape, sodomy, or sexual abuse against you, an interpersonal protective order will automatically be issued on your behalf by the court that entered the judgment of conviction unless you request otherwise. In that case, the order can be effective for up to ten years, with the ability to renew it in for up to ten years at a time.4

Note: If the person who has sexually assaulted or stalked you is a family member or an intimate partner with whom you live(d) or have a child, or s/he is a current/former spouse, you would file for a protective order based on domestic violence instead. Please see Protective Orders / Domestic Violence Orders for more information

1 KRS § 456.030(1)
2 See KRS §§ 456.030(1); 456.010(1), (6), (7)
3 KRS § 456.010(1)
4 KRS § 510.037

How will a judge decide if I was in a dating relationship with the abuser?

The judge may look at the following factors to decide if your relationship with the abuser was a dating relationship:

  • whether you expressed a romantic interest in one another;
  • whether the relationship was characterized by an expectation of affection;
  • your attendance at social outings as a couple;
  • the frequency and type of interaction between you and the abuser, including whether you have been involved together over time and continuously during the course of the relationship;
  • the length of the relationship and how long ago it ended (if applicable); and
  • other signs of a substantial connection that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a dating relationship existed.1

1 KRS § 456.010(1)

Can a minor file for an interpersonal protective order?

Yes. A minor can file on his/her own or an adult can file for an interpersonal protective order on behalf of a minor victim of dating violence and abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.1 The adult who files it for the minor does not have to be his/her parent or guardian.

1 KRS § 456.030(1)(d)

Steps for getting an interpersonal protective order

What are the steps for getting an interpersonal protective order?

Where can I file for an interpersonal protective order?

You can file a petition for an interpersonal protective order in the county where you live or a county to which you have fled in order to escape dating violence and abuse, stalking, or sexual assault.1

1 KRS § 456.030(2)

Can an interpersonal protective order be extended?

Yes. When your final order is about to expire, you can apply in court for it to be renewed (reissued) for a period of up to 3 years. There is no specific limit to the number of times that you can apply to renew your order. However, if the order was never violated since it was issued, this may be considered by the judge when deciding whether or not to reissue the order.1

1 KRS § 456.060(3)

Moving to Another State with a Kentucky Domestic Violence Order (DVO)

If you are moving out of state or are going to be out of the state for any reason, your DVO can still be enforceable.

General rules

Can I get my DVO from Kentucky enforced in another state?

Yes. If you have a valid Kentucky DVO that meets federal standards, it can be enforced in another state. The Violence Against Women Act, which is a federal law, states that all valid DVO’s granted in the United States receive “full faith and credit” in all state and tribal courts within the US, including US territories. See How do I know if my DVO is good under federal law? to find out if your DVO qualifies.

Each state must enforce out-of-state DVOs in the same way it enforces its own orders. If the abuser violates your out-of-state DVO, s/he will be punished according to the laws of whatever state you are in when the order is violated. This is what is meant by “full faith and credit.” 

 

How do I know if my DVO is good under federal law?

An DVO is good anywhere in the United States as long as:

  • 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)

I have a emergency protective order (EPO) from abuse order.  Can it be enforced in another state?

Yes. An ex parte emergency protection order (EPO) can be enforced in other states as long as it meets the requirements listed in How do I know if my DVO is good under federal law?1

Note:
The state where you are going generally cannot extend your ex parte emergency protection order or issue you a permanent order when the temporary one expires. If you need to extend your temporary order, you will have to contact the state that issued the order and arrange to be at the hearing in person or by telephone (if that is an option offered by the court). However, you may be able to reapply for one in the new state that you are moving to if you meet the requirements for getting a protective order in that state – but, if you apply for one in a new state, the abuser would know what state you are living in, which may put you in danger.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(b)(2)

 

Getting your domestic violence order enforced in another state

How do I get my DVO enforced in another state? 

Federal law does not require you to take any special steps to get your domestic violence order (DVO) enforced in another state.

Many states do have laws or regulations (rules) about registering or filing of out-of-state orders, which can make enforcement easier, but a valid DVO is enforceable regardless of whether it has been registered or filed in the new state.1 Rules differ from state to state, so it may be helpful to find out what the rules are in your new state. You can contact a local domestic violence organization for more information by visiting our Advocates and Shelters page and entering your new state in the drop-down menu.

Note: It is important to keep a copy of your DVO with you at all times. It is also a good idea to know the rules of states you will be living in or visiting to ensure that your out-of-state order can be enforced in a timely manner.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(d)(2)

Do I need a special copy of my DVO to it enforced?

In some states, you will need a certified copy of your DVO. A certified copy says that it is a “true and correct” copy; it is signed and initialed by the clerk of court that gave you the order, and usually has some kind of court stamp on it. In Kentucky, the copy you first receive from the court is a certified copy. Kentucky is part of Project Passport, a program that makes Protective Orders easy to recognize so that police officers in neighboring states can easily enforce them.

It is a good idea to keep a copy of the order with you at all times. You will also want to bring several copies of the order with you when you move. Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on. Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work. Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.

Can I get someone to help me?  Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer to get your DVO enforced in another state.However, you may want to get help from a local domestic violence advocate or attorney in the state that you move to. A domestic violence advocate can let you know what the advantages and disadvantages are for registering your DVO, and help you through the process if you decide to do so. To find a domestic violence advocate or an attorney in the state you are moving to, please visit our KY Places that Help page.

 

 

Do I need to tell the Court in Kentucky if I move?

Yes, if you won’t be getting mail at your old address. The court that gave you your DVO needs to have an up-to-date address for you if you move. That’s because they will communicate with you only by mail if anything happens to your DVO - for example, if your abuser asks the court to dismiss the order or if your order is changed in any way. If you will not be receiving mail at your old address, it is a good idea to provide the Court with a new address where you can receive mail. If you provide your new address to the Court, they will keep it confidential. It will be kept in a confidential part of your file, and the public will not have access to it. However, your new address could possibly be released to court officials in your new state or law enforcement officials in either Kentucky or your new state. If you feel unsafe giving your new address, you can use the address of a friend you trust or a P.O. Box instead.

Enforcing custody provision in another state

I was granted temporary custody with my DVO. Can I take my kids out of the state?

Maybe. It will depend on the exact wording of the custody provision in your DVO. You may have to first seek the permission of the court before leaving. If your abuser was granted visitation rights with your children, then you may have to have the order changed, or show the court that there is a fair and realistic alternative to the current visitation schedule.

If you are unsure about whether or not you can take your kids out of the state, it is important to talk to a domestic violence advocate or lawyer who understands domestic violence and custody laws, and can help you make the safest decision for you and your children. You can find contact information for local domestic violence organizations and legal assistance in the KY area on our KY Places that Help page.

I was granted temporary custody with my DVO.  Will another state enforce this custody order?

Yes. Custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in a DVO can be enforced across state lines. Law enforcement and courts in another state are required by federal law to enforce these provisions.1

1 18 USC 2266

Enforcing an Out-of-State Order in Kentucky

If you are planning to move to Kentucky or are going to be in Kentucky for any reason, your protection or restraining order can be enforced.

General rules for out-of-state orders in Kentucky

Can I get my protection order enforced in Kentucky? What are the requirements?

Yes.  Your protection order can be enforced in Kentucky as long as:

  • 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

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.

Note:  If your out-of-state protection order is violated in Kentucky, you can either pursue a civil proceeding or a criminal proceedings for the violation - you cannot pursue both.  Once either proceeding has been filed, the other cannot be pursued, regardless of the outcome of the first proceeding.3

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a) & (b)
3 KRS § 403.7521(5)

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

No. Only the state that issued your protection order can change, extend, or cancel the order. You cannot have this done by a court in Kentucky.

To have your order changed, extended, or canceled, you will have to file a motion or petition in the court 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.

Kentucky law requires that you notify the courthouse in Kentucky where you filed your order to be authenticated if your protection order expires, is canceled, or is modified in any way by the court that issued the order.  Within 2 business days of any such change, you have to notify the clerk and present a copy of the new order to be authenticated.1

If your order does expire while you are living in Kentucky, you may be able to get a new one issued in Kentucky but this may be difficult to do if no new incidents of abuse have occurred in Kentucky.  To find out more information on how to get a protective order in Kentucky, visit our KY Protective Orders / Domestic Violence Orders page.  

1 KRS § 403.7535(1),(2)

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

Yes. As long as the child custody provision complies with certain federal laws,1 Kentucky can enforce a temporary custody order that is a 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 click here KY Finding a Lawyer.

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.

Registering your out-of-state order in Kentucky

What is the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Registry? Who has access to it?

The National Crime Information Center Registry (NCIC) is a nationwide, electronic database used by law enforcement agencies in the U.S, Canada, and Puerto Rico. It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.

Before moving to Kentucky, the state that issued your protection order may already have entered your order into the NCIC. If not, your order may be entered into the NCIC once your order is registered in Kentucky.1 All law enforcement officials have access to the NCIC database, but the information is encrypted so outsiders cannot access it.

1 See KRS § 403.751

How do I register my protection order in Kentucky?

In order to register (authenticate) your out-of-state order in Kentucky, you can file a certified copy of your order in district court or circuit court.  A certified copy generally has a court seal or stamp and a signature on it from the clerk or judge.  If you do not have a certified copy, you can still file it in court.1  See Can I register my protection order if I do not have a certified copy? for more information. 

Your order will then be presented to the district judge or circuit judge, who will read over the order and add any information that is necessary for entry into the Law Information Network of Kentucky system (LINK system), which is a statewide database of protection orders in Kentucky that all law enforcement officers have access to.  A law enforcement officer will check the LINK system when enforcing your order, which is why it is helpful to make sure that your order is registered in this system.1 Once your order has been reviewed by the judge and entered into the LINK system, it will be considered authenticated and you will receive a certified copy of the affidavit that declares your order authenticated.2  Your order can then be enforced in any county in Kentucky, just as if it were a Kentucky domestic violence order.

To find a courthouse near you, go to our KY Courthouse Locations page. 

If you need help registering your protection order, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in Kentucky for assistance. You can find contact information for organizations in your area here on our KY Advocates and Shelters page.

1 KRS § 403.7521(1)-(3)
2 KRS § 403.7529(3)

Do I have to register my protection order in Kentucky in order to get it enforced?

No. Kentucky state law gives full protection to an out-of-state protection order as long as you can show the officer a copy of the order and can truthfully tell the officer that you believe the order is still in effect. It does not have to be entered into the state or federal registry in order to be enforced by a Kentucky police officer, but the officer does need to believe that the order has not expired.1

1 KRS § 403.7521

Can I register my protection order if I do not have a certified copy?

Yes, but it may take longer and there could be harmful consequences if you cannot ultimately get a certified copy.  To register an uncertified order, you can bring the uncertified copy to a courthouse in Kentucky where your order will be filed and will be considered valid for 14 days, which means it can be enforced during the 14-day period.  The clerk will contact the courthouse that issued your order and ask them to send a certified copy.  If a certified copy is not sent within the 14-day period, your order will be extended for another 14-day period.  However, Kentucky law says that if the Kentucky court does not receive a certified copy after the full 28 days have passed, your order will be considered expired and cannot be enforced.1 

You may want to check with the clerk of court before the 28 days have expired to make sure that the court received a certified copy of your order.  

If this your order does expire, you may be able file for a Kentucky domestic violence order.  You may want to get in touch with a local domestic violence organization in Kentucky for help with this process.  You can find contact information for local organizations on our KY Advocates and Shelters page.  You can also find instructions for how to file for a protective order in Kentucky on our KY Protective Orders / Domestic Violence Orders page.

1 KRS § 403.7527(3)

Will the abuser be notified if I register my protection order?

Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which applies to all U.S. states and territories, the court is not permitted to notify the abuser when a protective order has been registered or filed in a new state unless you specifically request that the abuser be notified.1  However, you may wish to confirm that the clerk is aware of this law before registering the order if your address is confidential.

However, remember that there may be a possibility that the abuser could somehow find out what state you have moved to.  It is important to continue to safety plan, even if you are no longer in the state where the abuser is living.  We have some safety planning tips to get you started on our Safety Tips page.  You can also contact a local domestic violence organization to get help in developing a personalized safety plan. You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our KY Advocates and Shelters page.

1 18 USC § 2265(d)

 

What if I don't register my protection order?  Will it be more difficult to have it enforced?

Maybe.  While federal law does not require that you register your protection order in order to get it enforced, if your order is not entered into the state registry, it may be more difficult for a Kentucky law enforcement official to determine whether your order is real.  Once you have authenticated your order by filing it in court, the court will direct law enforcement to help you in having the order followed and order that it be enforced in any county.1

If you are unsure about whether registering your order is the right decision for you, you may want to contact a local domestic violence organization in your area. An advocate there can help you decide what the safest plan of action is for you in Kentucky. To see a list of local domestic violence organizations in Kentucky, go to our KY Advocates and Shelters page. 

1KRS § 403.7529(2)

Does it cost anything to register my protection order?

No. Under federal law, a fee cannot be charged for registering your protection order in another state.