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Legal Information: Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Restraining Orders

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Restraining Orders

A restraining order or protective order is a legal order issued by a state court which requires one person to stop harming another. In Puerto Rico, there are protection orders for domestic violence, protection from stalking orders, orders of protection for the welfare and protection of children, and orders of protection for the elderly.

Protection Orders for Domestic Violence

Basic information

What is a protection order?

A protection order is a civil court order signed by a judge, that tells the abuser to not do specific acts of domestic violence and can include other protections for you and your child(ren).1 It is not necessary to press criminal charges or file a police report in order to get one.2

1 See 8 L.P.R.A § 602(i)
2 See 8 L.P.R.A § 621

What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Puerto Rico for the purpose of obtaining a protection order?

Domestic violence (for the purpose of obtaining a protection order) is when one of the following people repeatedly use physical force or psychological violence, intimidation or harassment in order to cause you (or another person) physical harm to yourself, your property or to another person in order to cause you severe emotional harm:

  • your spouse;
  • your ex-spouse;
  • a person with whom you share or have shared a residence;
  • a person with whom you have or have had a consensual relationship; or
  • a person with whom you have a child in common.1

A person can be a victim of domestic violence regardless of his/her sex, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, or immigration status.

1 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 602(q)

What protections can I get in a protection order?

A protection order can do the following:

  • Give you temporary custody of minor children;
  • If you are staying in a shelter for victims of domestic violence, suspend the family relationship between the minor children and the abuser (after consideration of many factors specified by the law);
  • Order the abuser to vacate the home that you share with him/her;
  • Order the abuser to refrain from bothering, harassing, following, intimidating and threatening you and order him/her to not interfere with the temporary custody of the children;
  • Order the abuser to stay a certain distance away from wherever you are;
  • Order the abuser to pay support for the child(ren) and for you, if s/he is legally obligated to do so;
  • Prohibit the abuser from disposing of your private property or of any joint property;
  • Order the abuser to pay for damages caused by the acts of domestic violence, including:
    • moving expenses,
    • expenses for property repairs,
    • legal, medical, psychiatric, psychological, counseling, lodging, shelter and other similar expenses;
  • Order the abuser to temporarily hand over to the police of Puerto Rico any firearm that s/he owns and suspend any license to operate a firearm that they may have;
  • Prohibit the abuser from denying you access to the children or from taking them outside of Puerto Rico; and
  • Order anything else that the judge believes can benefit your safety or that of your family.1

1 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 621

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 protection order

Who can file for a protection order?

Any person over 18 years of age who has been a victim of domestic violence or a victim of any crime committed by an intimate partner (as defined in What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Puerto Rico?), can apply for a protection order. A protection order can be requested in person or through an attorney or the police. It is not necessary to report the abuse to the police in order to apply for one.1

Additionally, an order can be requested:

  • on behalf of any person in any of the following circumstances:
    • if the person suffers from a physical or mental disability;
    • in the event of an emergency; or
    • if the person is unable to request one on his/her own;
  • by a parent on behalf of his/her minor child or by an adult child on behalf of his/her parent if:
    • s/he has witnessed acts of domestic violence or s/he has been told that such acts were committed; and
    • the petitioner has told the victim of domestic violence that s/he plans to file an order of protection on the victim’s behalf;
  • by an employer on behalf of his/her employees, visitors, or any other person at the workplace if:
    • one of his/her employees has been the victim of domestic violence or criminal conduct as defined in this law; and
    • the domestic violence or criminal conduct occurred at the workplace. Before starting this procedure, however, the employer should notify the employee who has been a victim of domestic violence or criminal activity of his/her intention to do so.2

1 8 L.P.R.A. § 621
2 8 L.P.R.A. § 623

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

There are two types of orders – ex parte and permanent.

Ex parte protection orders
When requesting a protection order, if you need immediate protection, tell the clerk of the court that you would also like to request an ex parte protection order. “Ex parte” means that the abuser does not receive advance notice and is not present in the court when the order is granted. A judge can grant an ex parte protection order if you show that there is a high probability of immediate risk of abuse or there is a chance that notifying the abuser of the order in advance will cause the harm that the protection order is intended to prevent.1

After receiving the ex parte order, the court will notify the abuser within 48 hours and will set a date for a court hearing within twenty days of issuing the order. In this hearing, the abuser will have the chance to contest the order. During the hearing, the court can nullify the order or extend it for a period of time deemed necessary.2

Protection orders
If the court grants you an ex parte order of protection or if the ex parte order is not granted but the case is scheduled for a hearing within the next 5 days, you will have to go back to court so that you can present evidence to the judge. You may be granted a protection order after a court hearing before a judge, in which both you and the abuser have an opportunity to tell your version of the story. If the judge believes that you proved that you have suffered from domestic violence, the court will grant a protection order for the period it determines to be necessary.2

1 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 625(b),(c)
2 See 8 L.P.R.A. §§ 625, 624(a)

How much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?

You do not have to pay anything to request or receive a protection order. You do not need a lawyer to apply for a protection order. However, you may want to have an attorney if the abuser has one. Even if you cannot have a lawyer to represent you, it may be a good idea to speak to one for advice on your case and to have your legal rights protected.

If you don’t have the money to pay a lawyer, but want one to help you, you can find information on agencies that provide free or low-cost legal services on our PR 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 protection order

Step 1: File a petition.

You should go to the courthouse to file an application. The application forms are available from the office of the clerk of court in Puerto Rico, including in the municipal courts.

A domestic violence organization may be able to help you fill out the form correctly and may be able to accompany you to the courthouse if you would like them to. To find a domestic violence organization in your area, please go to our PR Advocates and Shelters page. You can also call the courthouse or police closest to where you live. Go to our PR Courthouse Locations page to find the contact information for courthouses listed by municipality.

* See 8 L.P.R.A. § 623(a)(1)

Step 2: Carefully fill out the forms.

On the application you will be the “petitioner” and the abuser will be the “respondent.”

Write about the most recent incidents of violence using descriptive words such as slapping, hitting, pulling, threatening, strangling, etc., whichever are appropriate for your situation. Include details and dates if possible. Be specific.

If you need immediate protection, tell the clerk of court that you also want to apply for an ex parte order. A judge can grant an ex parte order if s/he believes that you are in immediate danger. (The abuser does not have to be present in the courthouse or receive advance warning with an ex parte order.)

Note: Do not sign the petition until you have shown it to a court assistant because it is likely that the form will have to be notarized or signed in front of an employee of the court. For this reason, do not forget to bring some type of personal identification with you (driver’s license or other type of photo ID).

You may want to keep your home or work address confidential. However, it is necessary to give the court a mailing address so that they can send you notices in the future. Be sure to tell the clerk that you would like to keep your address confidential.

Step 3: The judge will review your petition.

After you fill out and hand all of the necessary forms to the clerk, s/he will deliver them to the judge.

The judge may want to ask you some questions about your application. If you meet the requirements for an ex parte protection order, the order will be valid until the date of the court hearing, scheduled for within 20 days.1

If the judge does not grant you an ex parte protection order, s/he can still set a date for a hearing for a permanent protection order. The court will notify the parties of a court date for within a maximum of 5 days.2 The hearing will be before a judge, and both you and the abuser will have the opportunity to tell your side of the story and to have an attorney present to represent you. At the end of the hearing, the judge will decide whether to grant the protection order or not.

1 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 625
2 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 624(a)

Step 4: Service of process

The abuser must be notified by a court bailiff or some other law enforcement officer as soon as possible and given a copy of the summons along with a copy of the application and of the ex parte protection order (if the judge granted one).1

1 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 624(b)

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: The hearing for the permanent protection order

You must attend the hearing, on the day and time indicated on the summons, in order to ask the judge to extend your ex parte protection order (valid for 20 days) or to ask him/her to grant a permanent protection order for a period the court deems necessary.

If you do not attend, your ex parte order will be nullified and you will have to start the whole process all over again. If you do not attend the hearing, the judge may decide that you do not need the protection order and it may be more difficult for you to obtain an order in the future.

It may be a good idea to have an attorney to represent you at the hearing, especially if you think the abuser will have one, but even if s/he will not. If the abuser shows up with an attorney, you can ask for a continuance (a hearing on another day) so that you have time to get an attorney for your case. To find an attorney in your area, go to our PR Finding a Lawyer page. If you cannot get a lawyer, you can call a domestic violence organization to see if they can help you find an advocate who can accompany you - see PR Advocates and Shelters for contact information. If you have to represent yourself, see the section Preparing Your Case to learn how to prove to the judge that you were abused.

After the hearing

If I share a cell phone account with the abuser, can I transfer the account into my name?

If you have been given a domestic violence protection order, you can ask the judge to give you an order to change control of a telephone number (“Orden de Cambio en Control sobre Número Telefónico”). This document will order the cell phone company to transfer into your name, at no additional cost, the responsibility, control, and a change of the phone number (if you wish). You can also make the same changes and transfers for the phone numbers of any minors in your custody and request that all personal information be removed from any directory or listing at no additional cost. You will have 30 days from being given the order to make these changes.1

1 8 L.P.R.A. § 640a

What should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Once the hearing is finished, before leaving the courthouse there are some things you may want to consider doing.  Do those that you think will help you. 

  • Check the order before leaving the courthouse.  Make sure that nothing is missing and if there is an error, tell the clerk.
  • Make several copies of the order as soon as possible.
  • Always keep a copy with you.
  • Leave copies of the order at your work, your home, the school where your children attend, with the people who care for your children, in your car, with a neighbor, friend, etc.
  • Give a copy to the security guard in the building or complex where you live and/or work, along with a photo of the abuser.
  • Give a copy to anyone named in or protected by the order.
  • If the courthouse has not already delivered a copy to the police station nearest your residence, give them one of your copies.
  • If you want and if it is allowed, you may want to change the locks on the doors of your home and change your phone number.

You can make a safety plan.  People can do several things to help protect themselves during abuse, while preparing to leave an abusive relationship and after leaving the relationship.  Many abusers obey protection orders but some do not and it is important to keep doing things to protect yourself.  You can read suggestions about how to stay safe on our Safety Tips page.

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

Si no obtuvo una orden de protección, existen otras opciones para tratar de mantenerse seguro/a. Puede que sea buena idea que se contacte a una organización de violencia doméstica en su área para recibir ayuda, apoyo y consejo legal.  Ellos/as le pueden ayudar a desarrollar un plan de seguridad y a conectarle con la información que usted busca. Para planificación de seguridad, ideas e información, visite la página Su Seguridad.  Usted encontrará información de contacto para organizaciones que trabajan con violencia doméstica en PR Intercesoras y Albergues.

Es posible que pueda volver a solicitar una orden de protección si ocurren nuevos actos de violencia después de haberle sido negada la orden.

Si usted piensa que el/la juez/a cometió un error, usted puede hablar con un/a abogado/a acerca de la posibilidad de apelar. Por lo general, las apelaciones son complicadas y lo más probable es que usted necesite la ayuda de un abogado/a.  Para más información general sobre apelaciones, vaya a nuestra página Solicitando Apelaciones.

What happens if the abuser violates the order?

If you think that the abuser has violated the order, you can call the police to report it. A violation of a protection order can be a class three felony.1 You can also ask the court to hold the other party in contempt for violating the protection order, which can lead to jail time, a fine or both.2

1 8 L.P.R.A. § 628
2 8 L.P.R.A § 626(b)

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 Puerto Rico have the 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 happens if I move?

Your protection order should be valid and can be enforced in all of Puerto Rico and the United States.  Federal law contains a provision called “full faith and credit” that mandates that if you have a criminal or civil protection order, it is valid in every US state, including US territories and tribal lands.  You can contact a local domestic violence program or a clerk of court to find the specific rules in your state.  If you move out of state you may want to call a domestic violence program in your new state to find out how that state treats orders from other states.  You can read more on our Moving to Another State with a Protection Order page. 

If you move to another state, you can also call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111) for more information about how to enforce your order.

Note: For information about how to enforce a military protection order (MPO) outside of a military base, or how to enforce a civil protection order (CPO) on a military base, please see our page Military Protective Orders

Protection from Stalking Orders

Basic information and definitions

What is a protection from stalking order?

A protection from stalking order is a civil order issued by the court telling the abuser to stop certain acts that are considered stalking.1 You do not need to file criminal charges to be able to apply for/receive a civil protection from stalking order.2

1 33 L.P.R.A. § 4013(g)
2 33 L.P.R.A. § 4023

What is the legal definition of stalking?

Stalking is a “course of conduct” (two or more incidents) that involves surveillance over a specific person for the purpose of intimidating the person or his/her family members. It could include behaviors such as the following:

  • sending unwanted written or verbal communications to a specific person;
  • threatening a specific person verbally, in writing, or in an implied (unspoken) way;
  • committing acts of vandalism against a specific person;
  • repetitive acts of harassment through words, gestures, or actions made with the intention of intimidating, threatening, or following the victim and/or members of her/his family.1Note: For these purposes, “family” is defined as:
    • your spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, or cousin; or any other person related to you by blood or marriage who is part of your nuclear family;
    • a significant other with whom you live or used to live; or someone with whom you are/were dating relationship; or
    • a person with whom you live or used to live in the same house for at least six months before the stalking started.2

1 33 L.P.R.A. § 4013(a),(b)
2 33 L.P.R.A. § 4013(c)

Who can file for a protection from stalking order?

Any person who has been a victim of stalking (as defined by law) can file for a protection from stalking order on his/her own, through a legal representative or through a law enforcement officer.1 In addition, anyone can file on behalf of another person who is suffering from a mental or physical incapacity, in case of an emergency, or when the person is unable to file it on his/her own.2

If someone is stalked in his/her workplace, an employer can file on behalf of an employee if the employee has been a victim of stalking that occurred in or near the workplace. The employer has to notify the employee of his/her intention to file the order before filing it.3

1 33 L.P.R.A. § 4015(a)
2 33 L.P.R.A. § 4015(e)
3 33 L.P.R.A. § 4015 (b)

What protections can I get in a protection from stalking order?

A protection from stalking order can include some or all of the following terms. The judge can order the abuser to:

  • turn over his/her firearms to the police of Puerto Rico (temporarily or permanently) and the suspension of the abuser’s gun license;
  • be excluded from the home you share together, regardless of any legal claim that the abuser may have to that home;
  • stop harassing, stalking, following, intimidating, or threatening you;
  • stay away from any place where you are (if the judge believes that this limitation is necessary to prevent the abuser from bothering, intimidating, threatening or stalking you and/or your family members);
  • pay you financial compensation for damages resulting from the acts of stalking, which can include (but are not limited to): moving expenses; the cost of repairing damage to your property; legal, medical, psychiatric, psychological, or counseling fees; and expenses related to housing and other similar costs; and/or
  • do whatever else is necessary for your protection.1

1 33 L.P.R.A. § 4015(c)

What types of protection from stalking orders are there?

There are two types of protection from stalking orders: ex parte orders (temporary) and protection orders that are more permanent.

Ex parte orders (temporary)
If you need immediate protection, you can let the court clerk know that you also want to apply for an ex parte protection from stalking order. “Ex parte” means that the abuser does is not present in the court or notified beforehand. A judge can grant an ex parte order if:

  • you can prove that there is a significant risk of immediate abuse to you and/or your family members; or
  • it is likely that giving notice to the abuser that you are seeking a protection order would cause the type of harm that you are trying to prevent by filing for the protection order.1

Even if the judge doesn’t issue you an ex parte order, s/he can still schedule a court hearing within 5 days where both you and the abuser have a change to be present and you can try to prove to the judge that you were stalked.2

After getting the ex parte order, the abuser will have to be notified by “personal service” of the court hearing, which will be scheduled within the next 5 days.3 In this hearing, the abuser will have the opportunity to fight against the order. During the hearing, the court can cancel the order or extend it for as much time as the judge believes is necessary.1

Protection orders
After the court has granted you an ex parte protection order, you will have to go back to the court to get a more final protection order. A protection order can be issued after a hearing in court where you and the abuser have a chance to give your versions of what happened. If you win the case, the judge will grant you a protection order that lasts for the time the judge believes to be necessary.4

1 33 L.P.R.A. § 4017
2 33 L.P.R.A. § 4016(c)
3 See 33 L.P.R.A. § 4019(b)
4 See 33 L.P.R.A. § 4018(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.

Getting the order

What are the steps to get a protection from stalking order?

Getting a protection from stalking order can begin in one of the following ways:

  • through a verbal or written petition;
  • within any pending case between the parties; or
  • by the prosecutor in a criminal proceeding or as a condition of a suspended sentence or probation.1

You can find the forms that you will need to file in the clerk’s office. The clerk can provide you with the necessary help and direction to fill out and file the forms.2 The rest of the steps to get a protection from stalking order are similar to the steps to get an order of protection for victims of domestic violence.

1 33 L.P.R.A. § 4016(a)
2 33 L.P.R.A. § 4016(b)

If I share a cell phone account with the abuser, can I transfer the account into my name?

If you have been given a stalking protection order, you can ask the judge to give you an order to change control of a telephone number (“Orden de Cambio en Control sobre Número Telefónico”). This document will order the cell phone company to transfer into your name, at no additional cost, the responsibility, control, and a change of the phone number (if you wish). You can also make the same changes and transfers for the phone numbers of any minors in your custody and request that all personal information be removed from any directory or listing at no additional cost. You will have 30 days from being given the order to make these changes.1

1 8 L.P.R.A. § 640a

What happens if the abuser violates the order?

An intentional violation of a protection from stalking order can be contempt of court, which is a misdemeanor crime, and can result in jail time, a fine, or both. In addition, s/he can be charged with stalking or whatever other crime may be committed during the violation of the order.1

1 33 L.P.R.A. § 4020; see also 33 L.P.R.A. § 4021

Orders of Protection for the Welfare and Protection of Children

What is an order of protection for the welfare and protection of children?

This is a civil court order that is signed by a judge when s/he determines that there is reason to believe that the child has been a victim of abuse or neglect or that s/he is at risk of immediately becoming a victim of abuse or neglect. Taking into account the best interests and safety of the child, the judge can order the parent or person responsible for the abuse to stop any abusive behavior and/or negligent conduct.1

1 See 8 L.P.R.A. §§ 1181-1187

What is the legal definition of child abuse in Puerto Rico?

Abuse is when a parent or guardian does something, or fails to do something, that intentionally harms a child or puts a child at risk of mental, physical, or emotional harm, including sexual abuse or human trafficking. The following are also considered abuse:

  • obscene behavior or using a child to behave in an obscene manner;
  • allowing another person to harm or endanger the physical, mental, or emotional health of a child;
  • voluntarily abandoning a child;
  • when a parent or guardian exploits the child or allows another person to do so by forcing or allowing the child to perform any act, including but not limited to, using the child to perform an obscene act in order to make money or receive some other benefit;
  • doing an act that if it were criminally prosecuted would be a crime against the child’s physical, mental, emotional health and integrity, including sexual abuse of the child or human trafficking;
  • committing domestic violence in front of a child.1

​1 8 L.P.R.A. § 1101(w)

Who can apply for an order of protection?

Any of the following people can file for this order of protection on behalf of a minor against an someone who is abusing/neglecting a child or when the child is in immediate risk of being abused:

  • the child’s parent;
  • the school principal;
  • a teacher;
  • a school social worker;
  • a police officer;
  • an advocate of Children’s Affairs or an advocate of Family Matters (Procurador/a de Asuntos de Menores o Procurador/a de Asuntos de Familia);
  • any prosecutor or officer authorized by the Department of Family Services; and/or
  • any family member or person who is responsible for the minor child.1

1 8 L.P.R.A. § 1181

What types of orders of protection for the welfare and protection of children are there? How long do they last?

Temporary ex parte order of protection
The court can issue a temporary ex parte order of protection if the judge determines:

  1. you tried to notify the abuser beforehand that you were filing a petition but you were not able to; or
  2. it’s possible that notifying the abuser beforehand will cause the harm that you are trying to avoid by applying for the order of protection; or
  3. the person who is filing the petition shows that there exists a great possibility of an immediate risk of abuse.1

(“Ex parte” is a Latin phrase which means to grant an order without notifying the other party beforehand.) The court will arrange for the abuser to be served with the papers immediately and the abuser will have the opportunity to tell his/her side of the story and oppose the order. The judge will set a hearing that will be scheduled within the next 5 days after the ex parte order of protection is issued. At the hearing, the judge will decide if s/he will issue a more final order of protection or not.1

Order of protection
This order is designed to protect a minor child from abuse or neglect for a longer period of time than the ex parte order. An order or protection can be issued after a hearing in front of a judge in which both parties have the opportunity to tell their sides of the story. The judge will include in the order the specific protections that the abuser must obey and the amount of time that the order will last.2

1 8 L.P.R.A. § 1184
2 8 L.P.R.A. § 1185

What protections can a child get in an order of protection for the welfare and protection of children?

In an order of protection, a judge can do one or more of the following:

  • grant temporary custody of the mistreated child to the person who filed the petition, to the Department of Family Services or to the closest family member who can guarantee the best welfare and security of the child;
  • order the abuser to move out of the home if s/he is living in the same house as the child;
  • if the abuser is ordered to move out of the home, the judge can also order the abuser to pay the rent or mortgage of that home or to pay child support if s/he has a legal obligation to do so;
  • order the abuser to stop harassing, stalking, intimidating or threatening the child, or to stop interfering with the temporary custody granted to the petitioner or to a close family member;
  • order the abuser to stay away from the child or from any place where the child is;
  • order the abuser to attend a program or treatment to control his/her abusive or negligent behavior;
  • order the abuser to pay for any treatment or any program the child may need as a result of the abuse; and
  • order anything else that the judge believes is necessary.1

1 8 L.P.R.A § 1183

What are the steps to getting this order of protection?

The steps to get an order of protection for the welfare and protection of children are similar to the steps for getting a protection order for an adult victim of domestic violence.  However, the way in which a proceeding for this type of order of protection is started may be different.  Specifically, the proceeding to file for an order of protection for the welfare and protection of children can begin:

  • by filing a written or oral petition;
  • as part of any custody case or deprivation of parental rights case;
  • through a petition from the advocate of Family Matters, an advocate of children, or any prosecutor within a criminal process or as part of the terms of probation or conditional discharge; or
  • within any other legal proceeding.1

The necessary court forms that are needed to file a petition for this order of protection will be available at the courthouse, as well as help and guidance on how to fill out and file the forms.  Once this process is completed, the court will send a summons to both parties for a hearing at the court.  If a person who is summoned to court does not show up, s/he can be charged with contempt of court.1

1 8 L.P.R.A. § 1182

What happens if the abuser violates the order of protection?

If you believe that the abuser has violated the order of protection, you can call the police to report the violation. Violation of a an order of protection can be considered a felony in the fourth degree.1 Furthermore, you may be able to file a petition for contempt of court in the court that issued the order since a violation of the order can be considered contempt of court. The punishment for contempt can be a jail sentence, a fine, or both.2

1 8 L.P.R.A. § 1187
2 Vea 8 L.P.R.A. § 1185

Orders of Protection for the Elderly

An order issued by a court in which the abuser is ordered to not abuse an elderly person (age 60 or older).

What is an order of protection for the elderly?

An order of protection for the elderly is an order issued by a court that tells an abuser to stop committing acts of abuse against an elderly person.1 An elderly person is considered someone aged 60 or older.2 An order can be issued when the judge determines that there is reason to believe that the person who is requesting the order has been the victim of physical, mental or psychological abuse, harassment, coercion, intimidation, emotional abuse, or any other crime.3 You can read the exact definitions of some of these forms of abuse (in Spanish) on our PR Statutes page.

1 8 L.P.R.A. § 1513(19)
2 8 L.P.R.A. § 1513(1)
3 8 L.P.R.A. § 1519

What is the legal definition of abuse of the elderly?

This section defines abuse of the elderly for the purposes of getting an order of protection. Abuse is when an elderly person has been a victim of physical, mental or psychological abuse, harassment, coercion, intimidation, emotional abuse, or any other crime.1 The law defines some of these terms:

  • Coercion: Physical or psychological force or violence committed against a person to compel (force) him/her to say or do something or to compel (force) him/her to not say or do something.2
  • Financial exploitation: Inappropriate use of an elderly person’s funds, property, or resources by another person, including fraud, false claims, embezzlement, conspiracy, forgery of documents, falsification of records or records, coercion, transfer of ownership or denying the elderly person access to his/her assets.3
  • Intimidation: Actions or words that occur repeatedly and have the effect of applying moral pressure on the intention/will of an elderly person. For fear of suffering physical or emotional harm to him/herself, his/her property or to another person, the elderly person is compelled (forced) to perform an act against his/her will.4
  • Abuse: Cruel or negligent treatment of an elderly person that causes harm or exposes him/her to risk of suffering harm to his/her health, welfare or property. It includes physical, emotional, and financial abuse, neglect, abandonment, assault, theft, illegal appropriation, threat, fraud, breach of correspondence, age discrimination, civil rights restriction, exploitation and sexual abuse, among others. T his abuse can be done by doing or not doing something and can be carried out by anyone.5
  • Negligence: Failure to give food, clothing, shelter or medical care to an elderly person.6
  • Family violence: Doing something or not doing something that affects the peace and harmony of family life, specifically something that causes or may cause damage or physical, sexual, psychological, economic and patrimonial suffering.7

1 8 L.P.R.A. § 1519
2 8 L.P.R.A. § 1513(6)
3 8 L.P.R.A. § 1513(9)
4 8 L.P.R.A. § 1513(14)
5 8 L.P.R.A. § 1513(15)
6 8 L.P.R.A. § 1513(17)
7 8 L.P.R.A. § 1513(23)

What types of protection orders for the elderly exist?

There are two types of orders of protection.

An ex parte temporary protection order can be issued whenever there exists a substantial likelihood that the elderly person is at immediate risk of abuse or another crime.1 (Ex parte is a term in Latin that means an order granted without notice to the other party, the abuser.) After issuing the order, the court will immediately notify the abuser and will provide an opportunity to him/her to tell his/her version of the story. A hearing will be scheduled within 5 days of when the ex parte order is issued. After the hearing, the judge will decide if s/he will grant a more permanent order or not.1

A protection order is designed to protect an elderly person from abuse in a more permanent way than the ex parte order. A protection order can be issued after a court hearing in front of a judge, in which both parties have the opportunity to present their version of what occurred. After the hearing, the judge can grant a protection order for whatever time period the judge believes is necessary.1

1 8 L.P.R.A. § 1523

What protections can an elderly person get in a protection order?

The court can order one or more of the following terms:

  • Order the abuser to leave the home that s/he shares with the victim, regardless of any legal right to the home;
  • Order the abuser to stop disturbing, harassing, following, intimidating, or threatening the victim, or interfering in any other way with the his/her legal rights;
  • Prohibit the abuser from entering or remaining in the same place in which the victim can be found (if the judge believes that this limitation is necessary to prevent the abuser from bothering, intimidating, threatening or disturbing the peace of the victim or interfering with him/her in any other way);
  • In some cases, order the abuser to pay support to the victim;
  • Prohibit the abuser from making decisions about / giving away the private property of the petitioner; (Note: If it is a question of the administration of a business, a monthly report must be submitted to the court on the management of the business);
  • Order the abuser to pay financial compensation for the damages that were caused by the abuse or neglect, which may include, but it not limited to, moving expenses, expenses for repairs to property, or for legal, medical, psychiatric, or psychological expenses, counseling, housing, shelter, assistive technology or any other similar expenses;
  • Order that the owner or person in charge of a residential home or hospital where the victim is living (if applicable), to take the necessary steps to ensure that the order is not violated; and
  • Order other measures that are necessary for the safety of the victim.1

1 8 L.P.R.A § 1519

Who can file for an order of protection for the elderly?

Any elderly person (age 60 or older) who has been a victim of abuse or any other crime in the Puerto Rico Penal Code can apply for an order of protection without the need to file a police report or criminal charges. When the judge determines that there is sufficient reason to believe that the petitioner has been a victim of abuse or of any other crime, s/he can issue an order of protection.1

In addition, the elderly person can apply for an order of protection through someone else, including a police officer or public employee, if the elderly person cannot go to court to file the order for any of the following reasons:

  • s/he suffers from a physical or mental disability;
  • in case of emergency; or
  • when the person is prevented from apply for him/herself.1

1 8 L.P.R.A. § 1519

What are the steps to get an order of protection for the elderly?

The steps to get an order of protection for the elderly are similar to the steps to get for an order of protection for victims of domestic violence. The procedure to get an order of protection can begin in one of the following ways:

  • By filing a verbal or written petition;
  • Within any pending case between the parties; or
  • By an application by the District Attorney in a criminal proceeding, or as a condition for probation or conditional release.

The documents are available in the court clerk’s office and the clerk can provide the necessary support and guidance to complete and submit the forms.1

1 8 L.P.R.A. § 1521

Moving to Another State with a Protective Order

If you are moving within Puerto Rico, your order of protection can be enforced anywhere you go. If you are moving outside of Puerto Rico, it is possible that your protection order can still be enforced.

General rules

Can I get my protective order from Puerto Rico enforced in another state?

Yes. If you have a valid Puerto Rico protective order 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 protective orders granted in the United States receive “full faith and credit” in all state and tribal courts within the U.S., including U.S. territories. See How do I know if my protective order is good under federal law? to find out if your order qualifies.

Each state must enforce out-of-state orders in the same way it enforces its own orders. If the abuser violates your out-of-state protective order, 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 protective order is good under federal law?

A protective order 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 An ex parte order is when only one of the parties is present.

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 temporary (ex parte) order. Can it be enforced in another state?

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

Note: The state where you are going generally cannot extend your ex parte temporary 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 civil protection order enforced in another state

How do I get my protection order enforced in another state?

Federal law does not require you to take any special steps to get your protection order enforced in another state. However, 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 protection order 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. For example, a state may request that you register your order so that the court and the police know about the order.

Even though knowing the applicable state law may make it easier for an order to be enforced, a protection order has to be enforced even if it wasn’t registered in the new state.

Note: It is important to keep a copy of your PO 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 anything special to get my protective order enforced in another state?

In some states, you will need a certified copy of your order, which you may want to keep with you at all times. A certified copy shows 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 or seal on it.

If the copy you originally received is not a certified copy, you can go to the court that gave you the order and ask the clerk’s office for a certified copy. There may be a fee to get a certified (true test) copy of your protective order, but you can ask the clerk to be sure.

Note: It is generally a good idea to keep a copy of the order with you at all times. You may also want to 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. You may want to 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. You may also want to 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 protective order 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 if you want to get help on deciding whether or not to register your order. To find a domestic violence advocate or an attorney in the state you are moving to, select your state from the Places that Help tab.

Do I need to tell the court in Puerto Rico if I move?

You are not required to tell the court in Puerto Rico if you move. However, it might be a good idea to leave a confidential address or a PO Box so that the court can notify you of any changes/incidents with your protection order. Make sure that the abuser is not able to see your address when you give your confidential address to the court.

Enforcing custody provisions in another state

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

Yes. Federal law, which applies to all states, considers custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in a protective order to be enforceable across state lines under the theory of “full faith and credit.” Law enforcement and courts in another state are generally required by federal law to enforce these provisions.1

1 See 18 USC § 2266(5)(b)

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

Maybe. It might depend on the terms of the custody provision in your protective order, whether or not the abuser was granted visitation/custody rights, etc. You may have to first seek the permission of the court before leaving. For legal advice on your particular situation, go to our PR Finding a Lawyer page. To read more about custody laws in Maryland, go to our PR Custody page.

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

Enforcing Your Out-of-State Order in Puerto Rico

General rules for out-of-state orders in Puerto Rico

Can I enforce my out-of-state order in Puerto Rico? What are the requirements?

Any protective order that was issued by a court in another state, tribe or territory of the United States, will have “full faith and credit” in the courts of Puerto Rico. This means that the order must be enforced as if it had been issued by a court in Puerto Rico assuming that the order was issued after notice to the respondent and a hearing where the respondent had the opportunity to be present.1

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 See 8 L.P.R.A. §674(a)

Can I have my out-of-state protective order changed, extended, or canceled in Puerto Rico?

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 Puerto Rico.

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 (if that is an option) 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 section for the state where your order was issued.

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

What can I do if I am notified that my Puerto Rico order has changed or is no longer valid?

You will have to contact the court that issued your order to find out why your order has changed or is no longer valid. The police in Puerto Rico cannot enforce an order that has expired or has been canceled in the issuing state.

If this does happen, you may want to contact a lawyer or domestic violence organization in your area. They may be able to answer some of your questions, or help you fill out the necessary court forms to petition for a new order in Puerto Rico. You will find information on legal assistance and domestic violence organizations in Puerto Rico on the PR Places that Help page.

I was granted temporary custody with my out-of-state protective order. Will this be enforced in Puerto Rico?

Custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in a protective order 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

Registering your out-of-state order in Puerto Rico

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

You do not have to register your protection order to get it enforced. According to federal law,1 all states, including Puerto Rico, must enforce an out-of-state protection order. The order doesn’t have to be presented or registered in a Puerto Rico court of law to be enforceable. However, the police officer has to believe that the order is valid and real.2

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265
2 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 674(b)

How do I register my protection order in Puerto Rico?

To register your protection order in Puerto Rico, you will need to bring a certified copy of the protection order to the court clerk in any courthouse in Puerto Rico. Within 24 hours, the court clerk will send a copy of the protection order to the corresponding police headquarters in Puerto Rico.1 The Puerto Rico Police Department will then put the information provided in the order into an electronic file and enter it in the National Crime Information Center Protection Order File (NCIC POF) within eight hours after they receive it.2

If you need help to register your protection order, you can seek guidance from a local domestic violence organization in Puerto Rico. You can find the contact information for these organizations in our PR Advocates and Shelters page.

1 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 675(a)
2 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 675(b)

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 that contains protective orders, that is 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 Puerto Rico, 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 if you register your order in Puerto Rico.

Note: The majority of law enforcement officials have access to NCIC, but the information is encrypted so outsiders cannot access it.

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

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

Puerto Rico will not notify the abuser if you register your protection order. Under the 221 law of August 9, 2008, the Criminal Justice Information System creates a registry of substitute addresses that can be offered to victims as a residential address so they can keep their current address 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 PR Advocates and Shelters page.

1 18 USC § 2265(d)

Does it cost anything to register my protective order?

No. It doesn’t cost anything to register your protection order in Puerto Rico.1

1 See 8 L.P.R.A. §674(b)

If I don't register my protection order, will it be more difficult to enforce it?

While both local and federal law do not require for orders of protection to be registered to be enforced,1 if your order hasn’t been entered in the state’s registry, it might be more difficult for the Puerto Rico police to determine if your order is real or not. This means that it can take longer to enforce your order of protection.

If you are unsure if registering your order is the right choice for you, you might want to contact a local domestic violence organization close to you. A professional advocate might help you determine what is the best course of action regarding your safety. To see a list of domestic violence organizations in Puerto Rico, visit our PR Advocates and Shelters page.

1 See 8 L.P.R.A. § 674(b)