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
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.