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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.