What is the legal definition of domestic violence/abuse in Utah?
This section defines domestic violence and abuse for the purposes of getting a protective order:
- abuse is when a “cohabitant” purposely causes or tries to cause you physical harm; or makes you afraid that you will be physically harmed;1
- domestic violence is when a “cohabitant”:
- commits any criminal offense involving violence, physical harm, or the threat of violence/physical harm;
- makes any attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit a criminal offense involving violence or physical harm; or
- commits or attempts to commit any of the following offenses against you:
- aggravated assault;
- criminal homicide;
- electronic communication harassment;
- kidnapping, child kidnapping, or aggravated kidnapping;
- sexual offenses, including rape, sodomy, sexual battery, and many others; (you can read all of the crimes that are listed under “Title 76, Chapter 5, Part 4” on the Utah State Legislature website);
- sexual exploitation of a minor;
- unlawful detention or unlawful detention of a minor;
- protective order violation;
- any offense against property, including robbery, burglary, criminal trespass and many others; (you can read all of the crimes that are listed under “Title 76, Chapter 6, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3” on the Utah State Legislature website);
- possession of a deadly weapon with criminal intent;
- discharge of a firearm from a vehicle, near a highway, or in the direction of any person, building, or vehicle;
- disorderly conduct but only if the conviction is the result of a plea agreement in which the defendant was originally charged with any of the domestic violence offenses listed above;
- commission of domestic violence in the presence of a child (referred to in the law as “child abuse”);
- threatening with or using a dangerous weapon;
- threatening violence;
- tampering with a witness;
- retaliation against a witness or victim;
- unlawful distribution of an intimate image;
- damage to or interruption of a communication device;
- aggravated cruelty to an animal, with the intent to harass or threaten the cohabitant; or
- an offense described in section 77–20–3.5 of the law.2
Note: If you are being abused by someone who you dated but with whom you never lived, you may be eligible for a dating violence protective order. If you are seeking a protective order only for your child (and not also for yourself), your child may be eligible for a child protective order. If you do not qualify for a domestic violence protective order, you may be able to get a civil stalking injunction. You can read more about this type of order on our Stalking Injunctions page.
1 UT ST § 78B-7-102(1)
2 UT ST §§ 78B-7-102(5); 77-36-1(4)
What types of protective orders are there? How long do they last?
There are two types of protective orders in Utah.
A temporary ex parte protective order can be granted if the judge believes it that domestic violence or abuse has occurred or that there is a substantial likelihood domestic violence or abuse will occur. The purpose of the order is to protect you (and any other “protected parties” in your petition) from harm.1 If the judge grants an ex parte protective order, s/he will set a date for a hearing within 20 days after the order is issued.2 If the judge does not grant you an ex parte order, you can still request to have a hearing for a final protective order.3
A final protective order can be issued only after a court hearing in which both you and the abuser both have a chance to appear in court and present evidence to tell your sides of the story. If the abuser decides not to attend, a protective order can still be granted by the judge (and you still may be required to testify about the incidents in your petition).4 The length of time that the final protective order lasts depends on the terms of the order. The protective order divides up which terms in the order can lead to “criminal” penalties if violated (the first group listed on the order) and which terms could lead to “civil” penalties if violated (the second group listed on the order). The civil part of the order, dealing with property, custody, etc., will either expire or be reviewed/extended by the judge in 150 days. The criminal part of the order, which deals with the abuser staying away from you, not contacting you, not abusing you, not having firearms, etc., generally lasts for 10 years.5 However, it’s possible for the order to last more than ten years (until a date that the judge determines) if you file a motion before expiration of the protective order in which you prove that:
- the abuser has been convicted of a protective order violation or any crime of domestic violence after the protective order was issued; or
- you have a “reasonable fear of future harm, abuse, or domestic violence.” When the judge is determining whether or not you have a “reasonable fear of future harm, abuse, or domestic violence,” the judge will consider the following factors:
- whether the abuser is compliant with any treatment recommendations related to domestic violence that were ordered as part of the protective order;
- whether the protective order was violated;
- claims of harassment, abuse, or violence by either party during the time the protective order was in force;
- counseling or therapy undertaken by either party;
- impact on the well-being of any minor children of the parties, if relevant; and
- any other relevant factors.5
However, it is possible that after a certain period of time (usually, after two years but there are exceptions), the abuser can file in court to ask for the order to be dismissed.5 For more information, go to Can the abuser or I request that the order be dismissed? In addition, if you and the abuser are going through a divorce, this can affect the length of the order. See If I am going through a divorce, will that affect the length of my protective order? for more information.
1 UT ST § 78B-7-106(1)(a)
2 UT ST § 78B-7-107(1)(a)
3 UT ST § 78B-7-107(3)
4 UT ST § 78B-7-106(3)
5 UT ST §§ 78B-7-115; 78B-7-115.5
What protections can I get in a protective order due to domestic violence/abuse?
In an ex parte protective order, the judge can order that the abuser:
- stop committing or threatening to commit domestic violence or abuse and stop harassing you or any family or household member named in the order;
- stop calling, contacting, or communicating with you or anyone named in the order in any way, including indirect contact (with the exception of communication related to any parent-time provisions in the order);
- be excluded from (leave) your home;
- stay away from your vehicle, home, school, work, place of worship or any other specific place you go to often unless the abuser attends the same school, is employed at the same place of employment, or attends the same place of worship – in that case, the judge cannot order the abuser to stay away from those places but can regulate the abuser’s behavior in those places;
- stay away from a family or household member’s vehicle, home, school, work, place of worship or any other specific place your family or household member goes to often unless the abuser attends the same school, is employed at the same place of employment, or attends the same place of worship – in that case, the judge cannot order the abuser to stay away from those places but can regulate the abuser’s behavior in those places;
- not purchase, use, or possess a firearm or other weapon specified by the judge (Note: To order this, the judge must find that the abuser’s use or possession of a weapon may pose a “serious threat of harm to you”);
- give you use of an automobile or any other personal items and order that law enforcement accompany you to your residence to make sure that you are safe while getting possession of these items;
- not interfere with or change the your phone, utility or other services;
- not use alcohol or illegal drugs before or during visitation; and
- not take the children out of Utah.1
An ex parte protective order can also include any of the following:
- grant you or another person temporary custody of any minor children you share with the abuser;
- order an attorney to be a guardian ad litem for any minor children to represent their interests;
- order the respondent to maintain an existing wireless telephone contract or account;
- order you and the abuser to provide financial documents at the hearing for a final protective order if you requested child support or spousal support; and
- order anything else the judge decides is necessary for your safety and the safety of your family or household members.2
In a full (final) protective order, the judge can order:
- all of the protections in numbers 1 through 9 and in numbers 1 through 4, listed above; and
- the following additional protections:
- order your wireless phone provider to:
- transfer the account from the abuser’s name to yours; and
- transfer to you any phone numbers that are primarily used by you or by someone with whom you will live while the order is in effect;
- make arrangements for parenting time (with or without supervision by a third party) or deny parenting time if it is necessary to protect the safety of you or your child;3 and
- child support and/or spousal support .4
- order your wireless phone provider to:
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.
In which county can I file for a protective order?
You can file a petition at the district court in the county where you live, in the county where the abuser lives, or in the county where the abuse took place.1
1 UT ST § 78B-7-104
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.