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Legal Information: Vermont

Vermont Restraining Orders

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Restraining Orders

Relief from Abuse Orders

Basic information

What is a relief from abuse order?

A relief from abuse order is a court order that is designed to stop violent, harassing and threatening behavior. It can also stop the abuser from any contact or communication with you, and protect you and your family from the abuser.1

1 15 VT ST T. § 1101

What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Vermont?

This section defines domestic abuse for the purposes of getting a relief from abuse order.  Domestic abuse means the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members:

  • attempting to cause or causing physical harm;
  • placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm;
  • abuse to children;
  • stalking; or
  • sexual assault.1

1 15 VT ST T. § 1101

What types of relief from abuse orders are available? How long do they last?

There are temporary relief from abuse orders and permanent relief from abuse orders.

In general, a temporary relief from abuse order offers you protection from the time you file your complaint until the court hearing for the permanent relief from abuse order, which usually takes place within 14 days. Temporary relief from abuse orders can be granted if the judge believes that defendant has abused you and/or your children and that there is a danger of further abuse. If the abuser fails to appear at the final hearing, the temporary order will remain in effect until the final order is served on the abuser.1 To read more about what types of protection you can get in a temporary relief from abuse order, go to How can a relief from abuse order protect me?

The temporary relief from abuse order can be an ex parte order, which means it is given without the knowledge of the abuser or his/her presence in the courtroom. However, s/he will know about it when the court “serves” him/her with (gives him a copy of) the order, and the order is not enforceable until it is served. Note: If the judge denies your request for an ex parte temporary order, you are supposed to be notified of the judge’s reasons for the denial in writing. You will then have seven days to request that the court still hold a hearing within 14 days for you to request a permanent order. The abuser will be notified and have a chance to appear in court to object to the order.2

A permanent relief from abuse order is designed to offer you longer-lasting and more comprehensive protection than a temporary relief from abuse order. It can last for a “fixed period” of time. A permanent relief from abuse order can be issued only after the abuser receives notice of the hearing, and you and the abuser both have a chance to tell your sides of the story at the final hearing. You can present evidence and witnesses to prove you were abused and it may be best to be represented by a lawyer, especially if the abuser has one. If you don’t appear at the final hearing, your petition will usually be dismissed – the only exception is if the judge believes there is “good cause” to postpone the final hearing and continue the temporary order until that date.3

Go to our VT Finding a Lawyer page for free and paid legal referrals. Most relief from abuse orders expire after one year, but you may be able to have it extended.4 Please see our Can a relief from abuse order be modified (changed) or extended? page for more information.

If you don’t qualify for a relief from abuse order, you can get more information about stalking and sexual assault prevention orders on our page called I was not granted a relief from abuse order. Is there another order I can get?

1 VT ST T. 15 § 1104(a), (b)
2 V.R.F.P. Rule 9(e)
3 VT ST T. 15 § 1105(b)(2)
4 VT ST T. 15 § 1103(e)

What protections can I get in a relief from abuse order?

A temporary relief from abuse order can:

  • order the abuser to stop contacting you and/or your children directly, indirectly, or through a third party, including in writing or by telephone, e-mail, or other electronic communication;
  • order the abuser to stop abusing and interfering with the personal liberty of you and/or your children;
  • order the abuser to stay a certain distance away from you, your children, your home, and your work;
  • order the abuser to not mistreat or kill any animal (pet) owned or possessed by you, the defendant, or a minor child living in the household;
  • If the abuser forced you and/or your children out of the home and you have no where to go, the judge can order the defendant to immediately leave the home and order that you have sole possession of the home; and
  • grant you temporary custody of your children if the judge believes that there is an immediate danger of physical or emotional harm to the children.1

A permanent relief from abuse order can:

  • order the abuser to stop contacting you and/or your children directly, indirectly, or through a third party, including in writing or by telephone, e-mail, or other electronic communication;
  • order the abuser to stay away from you and/or your children, your work, children’s school or other locations you specify;
  • order the abuser to stop abusing and interfering with the personal liberty of you and/or your children;
  • order the abuser to immediately leave the home you share with him/her and give you sole possession of the home;
  • award temporary rights and responsibilities (temporary custody) of minor children to you and give the defendant parent-child contact under such conditions as are necessary to protect the you and/or the children from abuse;
  • order the abuser to pay you spousal support for up to three months;
  • order the abuser to pay you child support for up to three months;
  • decide the possession, care and control of any animal owned or kept by you, the abuser, or a child in the home;
  • order that the defendant return to you any personal documentation in his/her possession, including immigration documentation, birth certificates, and identification cards for you and/or your children;2 and
  • anything else you need to keep you and/or your children safe.

Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.

1 VT ST T. 15 § 1104(a)
2 VT ST T. 15 § 1103(c)(2)

In which county can I file for a relief from abuse order?

You can file a petition in the county where you live. If you’ve left home to avoid further abuse, you can file the petition in the county where you lived previously, or in the county where you currently live.1 However, if you are trying to keep your address confidential, filing in the county where you have fled to would likely not be a good idea since it would alert the abuser to the fact that you are living in that county.

1 VT ST T. 15 § 1102(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 a relief from abuse order

Am I eligible for a relief from abuse order?

You can be eligible to file for a relief from abuse order if you have been abused by a family or household member, which includes any of the following:

  • someone with whom you are living with or have lived;
  • someone with whom you share or have shared a home;
  • someone with whom you are having or used have a sexual relationship;
  • someone you are dating or have dated (Note: “Dating” is defined as a social relationship of a romantic nature);
  • a spouse or former spouse; or
  • a family member, related by blood or marriage.1

A minor of any age who is in a dating relationship can file against a dating partner.  However, to file in one of the other categories, the minor must be at least 16 years old to file on his/her own.2  

Note: When deciding whether to give you an order, a judge must believe that the defendant has abused you and/or your children and either:

  • there is a danger of further abuse; or
  • the abuser is currently incarcerated and has been convicted of one of the following:
    • murder;
    • attempted murder;
    • kidnapping;
    • domestic assault;
    • aggravated domestic assault;
    • sexual assault;
    • aggravated sexual assault;
    • stalking;
    • aggravated stalking;
    • lewd or lascivious conduct with child; or
    • use of a child in a sexual performance, or consenting to a sexual performance.3

1 VT ST T. 15 § 1103(a)
2 VT ST T. 15 § 1104(a)
3 VT ST T. 15 § 1103(c)(1)

Can I get a relief from abuse order against my same-sex partner?

In Vermont, you may apply for a relief from abuse order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Am I eligible for a relief from abuse order?  You must also be the victim of an act of domestic abuse, which is explained here What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Vermont?

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?

Yes. A minor of any age who is/was in a dating relationship can file against a dating partner. However, to file in one of the other categories, the minor must be at least 16 years old to file on his/her own. If s/he is younger than 16, his/her parent (or legal guardian) can file for him/her.1

1 VT ST T. 15 §§ 1103(a), 1104(a)

How much does it cost to get a relief from abuse order?

There is no fee to file a relief from abuse order.1

1 VT ST T. 15 § 1103(f)

Do I need an attorney?

While it is not necessary to hire a lawyer to file for a relief from abuse case, it may be in your interest to hire an attorney, especially if the abuser is represented by one.  A domestic violence organization in your area may be able to refer you to an attorney or legal aid service that will take your case for free.  Go to our VT Finding a Lawyer page to find help in your area.

Steps for getting a relief from abuse order

Step 1: Go to the family court and request an application.

Go to the family division of the superior court (family court) in your area.  You can find a court near you by going to our VT Courthouse Locations page.

Find the court clerk and request a petition for a relief from abuse order, and also tell the clerk if you want a temporary relief from abuse order.  You can also find links to petitions online by going to our VT Download Court Forms page.

Weeknights and weekends, you can apply for a temporary relief from abuse order at your local police station.  You can call the after-hours temporary relief from abuse order telephone number: 800-540-9990.  A family court clerk will be in contact with either you or the police and usually will meet you at the police station.  In exceptionally dangerous circumstances or in cases of physical disabilities, other arrangements may be made with the family court clerk.  Note: You can only get a stalking or sexual assault relief from abuse order during regular business hours.

A domestic violence worker may be able to help you file the complaint both during business hours and after hours or you can go alone and get assistance from a court clerk.  To find a domestic violence organization in your area, see VT Advocates and Shelters.

Step 2: Fill out the application.

Carefully fill out the forms.  Write briefly about the most recent incident of violence, using descriptive language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, choking, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation.  Be specific.  Include details and dates, if possible.  A domestic violence organization may be able to provide you with help filling out the form.  See VT Advocates and Shelters for the location of an organization near you.

Note:  Do not sign the petition until you have shown it to a clerk, as the form may need to be notarized or signed in the presence of court personnel.

Step 3: A judge will review your application.

After you finish filling out your application, bring it to the court clerk. The clerk will forward it to a judge. The judge may wish to ask you questions as s/he reviews your petition. The judge will decide whether or not to issue the temporary order, and if you seek a final order the judge will set a date for a hearing (assuming that your petition is not dismissed). If a hearing is scheduled, you will be given papers that state the time and date of your hearing for a permanent relief from abuse order. The hearing will take place within 14 days of your filing your complaint.1

When deciding whether to give you an order, a judge must believe that the defendant has abused you and/or your children and either:

  • there is a danger of further abuse; or
  • the abuser is currently incarcerated and has been convicted of one of the following:
    • murder;
    • attempted murder;
    • kidnapping;
    • domestic assault;
    • aggravated domestic assault;
    • sexual assault;
    • aggravated sexual assault;
    • stalking;
    • aggravated stalking;
    • lewd or lascivious conduct with child; or
    • use of a child in a sexual performance, or consenting to a sexual performance.2

1 VT ST T. 15 § 1104(b)
2 VT ST T. 15 § 1103(c)(1)

Step 4: Service of process

The abuser must be served with a notice of hearing and with any temporary relief from abuse order that a judge has granted you. Your relief from abuse order will not be valid until the abuser is served. If your order is issued during normal business hours, the court clerk should forward your paperwork to law enforcement to serve the abuser.1

Do not try and serve the abuser in person with the papers yourself.

1VT ST T. 15 § 1105(a)

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

Whether a judge grants you a temporary order or not, you may be given a court date for a hearing on your petition within ten business days (assuming that your petition is not dismissed).  The hearing will be in front of a judge, who will decide whether or not to give you a final relief from abuse order.1

It is very important that you attend the court hearing.  If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary order will expire and you will have to start the process over.  If you absolutely cannot attend, contact the court immediately and ask how you can get a “continuance” for a later court date.

If the abuser was served and does not attend the hearing, the court may issue a “default judgment” against him/her and you may receive a final relief from abuse order in his/her absence.  The judge also may decide to pick a new hearing date to give the abuser another chance to come to court.  If this happens, be sure to ask the judge to extend your temporary order if you have one.

At the hearing, you will have the chance to testify in court and present evidence and witnesses to prove the abuse and harassment you have experienced.  The abuser will also be allowed to be present evidence and testify in the hearing to defend himself/herself.  You may want to get a lawyer to represent you at that hearing, especially if you think the abuser will have one.  Go to our VT Finding a Lawyer page for a listing of free and paid lawyers.  If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, you can visit our At the Hearing section for ways that you can show the judge that you were abused. You can learn more about the court system in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section.

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 Vermont 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

I was not granted a relief from abuse order. Is there another order I can get?

If you were not granted an relief from abuse order because you are not considered a family or household member of the abuser, you may be able to get a stalking or sexual assault prevention order.  You can only file for a stalking or sexual assault prevention order for yourself or your child if you are filing against someone who is NOT a family or household member and one of the following crimes has been committed against you.

  • Stalking is when someone does two or more of the following acts:
    • following you;
    • lying in wait for you (hiding in order to attack or harm you); or
    • threatening behavior directed at you or a member of your family.

Note: The acts must serve no legitimate purpose and cause you to reasonably fear for your safety or cause you substantial emotional distress.1

To file for a stalking or sexual assault relief from abuse order, you will need to go to the superior court in the county where you live.  If you leave your home to escape abuse, you have the option to file in the county where you used to live or in the county that you moved to.3

See our Sexual Assault or Stalking Protective Orders page for more information.

1 VT ST T. 12 § 5131(1),(3),(6)
2 VT ST T. 12 § 5131(5)
3 VT ST T. 12 § 5132

 

What should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some things you may want to consider doing. However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation.

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to correct the order before you leave.
  • Make several copies of the order as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • You may 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.
  • 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.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.

What can I do if the abuser violates the order?

You can call the police even if you think it is a minor violation. Intentionally violating a relief from abuse order can be put in jail for up to one year, fined up to $5,000, or both. The penalties increase can increase to up to three years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines (or both) if s/he has a prior conviction for violating a sexual assault or stalking protective order, a relief from abuse order, or an order preventing contact with a child or if s/he a prior conviction for domestic assault or aggravated domestic assault.1

Make sure a police report is filled out, even if no arrest is made. If you have legal documentation of all violations of the order, it may help you have the order extended or modified in the future. It is a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge numbers in case you want to follow up on your case.

You also have the option for filing for contempt in the court where your order was issued.

1 VT ST T. 13 § 1030(a),(b)

Can a relief from abuse order be modified (changed) or extended?

You can ask the court to modify or extend your relief from abuse order by filing a motion in the court where you received the order. You can find the form online at the Vermont Judiciary website here. You will have to attend a hearing to have an order extended or modified. A judge may extend your order even if there were no incidents of abuse while you were protected by the order. Only the judge, not your own actions or behavior, can change or cancel the relief from abuse order.

It is also be possible that the defendant (abuser) can file a motion to modify the parts of an ex parte relief from abuse order regarding child custody or possession of the home. If the judge thinks that the abuser has given “compelling” (convincing) reasons why the judge should change the order prior to the scheduled hearing date, the judge can schedule a hearing upon two days’ notice (or less) to you to consider the abuser’s request.1 At the hearing, you will have a chance to advocate to the judge why the order should not be changed.

1 V.R.F.P. Rule 9(g)(1),(2)

What happens if I move?

Your relief from abuse order is good everywhere in the state.  If you move to a new county, you may want to contact the court clerk in that county to ask if you should file a copy of the order within your new county court.  If you choose to do so, be sure to tell the clerk if you need your address to be kept confidential.

Additionally, the 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.  Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders.  You can find out about your state’s policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor in your area.

To read more about how to get your relief from abuse order enforced in another state, or how to get an out of state order enforced in Vermont, please see our Moving to Another State with a Relief from Abuse Order page.

If you are moving out of state, you can call the domestic violence programs in the state where you are going to find out how that state treats out-of-state orders.

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

Note: If you are looking to enforce a civil protective order on a military installation, or a military protective order off the installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page for more information.

Sexual Assault or Stalking Protective Orders

Basic info

What is a sexual assault or stalking protective order?

A sexual assault or stalking protective order is a civil court order, which can protect you from someone who is not a family member or household member who has stalked or sexually assaulted you.  A household member is generally defined as someone who you live/d with, have/had a sexual relationship with, or someone you date/d, for any period of time.2  If a family member or household member has stalked or sexually assaulted you, you may be eligible for a relief from abuse order instead.   For more information, see the Relief from Abuse Orders section.

1 VT ST T. 12 § 5133(a)
2 VT ST T. 15 § 1101(2)

What is the definition of stalking in Vermont?

Stalking is when someone repeatedly (at least 2 times) follows, monitors, surveils or threatens you, makes threats about you, or interferes with your property. These actions can be done directly or indirectly (through another person) and by using a device or through any other actions.1 The stalker must know or should know that his/her actions would reasonably cause you to:

  • fear for your safety or your family member’s safety; or
  • suffer substantial emotional harm. This “substantial emotional harm” can be shown by:
    • your fear of unlawful sexual conduct, unlawful restraint, bodily injury, or death; or
    • significant changes that you have made in your actions or routines, including:
      • moving from your home;
      • changing your daily routes to and from work even though it causes a serious disruption in your life;
      • changing your job or your work schedule; or
      • losing a job or losing time from work.2

1 VT ST T. 12 § 5131(1)(A)
2 VT ST T. 12 § 5131(6)

What is the definition of sexual assault in Vermont?

For the purpose of getting this protective order, “sexual assault” is defined as when the abuser commits one of the following crimes against you - however, s/he does not have to be arrested for the crime and it does not have to be reported to the police for you to file for this protective order.  His/her actions, however, must match the description of one of the crimes below – click on each crime to read its definition:

1 VT ST T. 12 § 5131(5)

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

There are two types of protective orders - the temporary ex parte order and the final order.

Temporary ex parte order
You can file a complaint and affidavit (sworn statement) for a temporary protective order during regular court hours.  If the judge believes that the abuser/defendant stalked or sexually assaulted you, the judge can give you a temporary ex parte protective order without prior notice to the abuser/defendant.  A temporary protective order can state that the abuser has to stay away from you and/or your children and can include any other terms to protect the safety of you and/or your children.1

Final protective order against stalking or sexual assault
Every order will give a date (within the next 14 days), a time, and the place that the defendant can appear to petition the court to modify (change) or to dismiss the order.  At this court hearing, you will have to prove that the defendant stalked or sexually assaulted you to get the protective order continued.2  If the defendant was convicted criminally of sexual assault, the judge can issue a protection order without considering whether or not the defendant poses a risk of future harm.  However, if s/he was not convicted criminally of sexual assault, the judge must believe that s/he sexually assaulted you and that there is a danger of further harm to you.  The judge can consider the defendant’s past behavior as relevant evidence of future harm but, in general, the judge cannot consider evidence about your reputation or your past sexual conduct (although there are exceptions).3

If necessary, the judge can add additional protections to the final order.  At this hearing, the abuser/defendant has the right to offer evidence to prove that s/he did not stalk or sexually assault you.  Both you and the abuser can offer witnesses, testimony, and other evidence to prove your case.  You may want to be represented by a lawyer at this hearing, especially if the abuser has one.  Go to our VT Finding a Lawyer page for free and paid legal referrals.

Final protective orders against stalking or sexual assault will be for a fixed period of time, which will be stated in the order.  The order can be extended, however.  For more information, see Can the order be changed or extended?

1 VT ST T. 12 § 5134(a)
2 VT ST T. 12 § 5134(b)
3 VT ST T. 12 § 5133(d)(1),(c)

What protections can I get in a sexual assault or stalking protective order?

A sexual assault or stalking protective order can order the abuser to stay away from you and/or your children.1 Under Vermont law, “stay away” means that the offender cannot:

  • be physically close to you; or
  • have nonphysical contact with you directly or through a third person (regardless of whether or not the third person knows about the order).2Note: “Nonphysical contact” means s/he cannot contact you in writing, or through telephone calls, mail, e-mail, social media commentary or comments, or other electronic communication or fax.3

The judge can also order anything else that the judge believes is necessary to protect you and/or your children.1

1 VT ST T. 12 § 5133(d)
2 VT ST T. 12 § 5131(7)
3 VT ST T. 12 § 5131(3)

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 is eligible

Who can qualify for a sexual assault or stalking protective order?

If someone who is not a family member or household member has stalked or sexually assaulted you, you may be eligible to file for this order.  You can file on behalf of yourself and/or your minor children.  If the victim of stalking or sexual assault is a minor, s/he can file a complaint on his/her own if s/he is at least 16 years old.1  For the legal definition of sexual assault, see What is the definition of sexual assault in Vermont? and for the definition of stalking, see What is the definition of stalking in Vermont?

1 VT ST T. 12 § 5133(a)

Can a minor file for an order?

Yes. A minor victim can file a complaint on his/her own if s/he is at least 16 years old. If s/he is younger than 16, his/her parent (or legal guardian) can file for him/her.1

1 VT ST T. 12 § 5133(a)

Can my past sexual history be used against me in court?

In general, the judge cannot consider evidence about your sexual reputation or your past sexual conduct (although there are exceptions).

Certain evidence of your past sexual conduct may be admitted if it affects your credibility (how believable you are) or if it is material (very relevant/important) to a fact that is an issue in your case.   In this case, the court may consider evidence of:

    1. Your past sexual conduct with the abuser;
    2. Specific instances of sexual conduct that resulted in pregnancy, disease, or the presence of semen; and/or
    3. Specific instances of your past false allegations of violations of one of the following crimes:

1 VT ST T. 12 § 5133(c)

How to get an order

Where do I file for a sexual assault or stalking protective order?

To file for a protective order, you go to the superior court in the county where you live. If you have left your home in order to avoid being sexually assaulted or stalked, you can file the order in the county where you previously lived or in the current county you live in.1

1 VT ST T. 12 § 5132

How much does the protective order cost?

Nothing. There is no filing fee to get a protective order.1

1 VT ST T. 12 § 5133(f)

What steps do I take to apply for an order?

These are the basic steps to getting an order:

Step #1: Go to superior court to file a complaint and affidavit.1

Step #2: The judge reviews your paperwork and may question you. The judge may then grant a temporary ex parte order and a court date is set for a hearing on the final order.

Step #3: The abuser must be notified of the complaint, temporary ex parte order and the hearing through a process called “service” prior to the hearing date. You can use a law enforcement officer to personally serve (notify) the abuser - you cannot deliver the papers yourself. The person serving the complaint must file a “return of service” with the court indicating the date, time, and place that the order was personally delivered to the abuser. This is your proof that the abuser was properly served if s/he does not show up to court for the hearing. If service cannot be made prior to the hearing date, you can request additional time to serve the abuser/defendant and the judge will determine how much time is needed to complete service.2

Step #4: After the abuser is served, you will have a hearing in court on the scheduled hearing date. During this hearing, you must prove to the judge that the abuser has sexually assaulted or stalked you through witnesses, testimony, and other evidence. The abuser/defendant has a right to offer evidence that s/he did not sexually assault or stalk you. You may want to have an attorney represent you at the hearing. Go to our VT Finding a Lawyer page for free and paid legal referrals. If you have to represent yourself, you can find some helpful information on our Preparing for Court page.

The judge will determine if you will receive a final order. If the judge believes that the defendant stalked you or the defendant has been criminally convicted of sexual assault, the judge can grant you an order against stalking or sexual assault without considering whether or not the defendant poses a risk of future harm. However, if s/he was not convicted criminally of sexual assault, you must prove to the judge that s/he sexually assaulted you and that there is a danger of further harm to you.3

In either case, the judge may add additional protections to your order than the protections you had on your temporary ex parte order.4

Note: During the hearing, the judge can consider the defendant’s past behavior as relevant evidence of future harm but, in general, the judge cannot consider evidence about your reputation or your past sexual conduct (although there are exceptions). See Can my past sexual history be used against me in court? for more information.

1 VT ST T. 12 § 5133(a),(h)
2 VT ST T. 12 § 5135
3 VT ST T. 12 § 5133(c),(d)(1)
4 VT ST T. 12 § 5133(d)

After the hearing

What happens if the abuser violates the order?

You can call the police even if you think it is a minor violation. Intentionally violating a sexual assault or stalking protective order can be put in jail for up to one year, fined up to $5,000, or both. The penalties increase can increase to up to three years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines (or both) if s/he has a prior conviction for violating a sexual assault or stalking protective order, a relief from abuse order, or an order preventing contact with a child or if s/he a prior conviction for domestic assault or aggravated domestic assault.1

Make sure a police report is filled out, even if no arrest is made. If you have legal documentation of all violations of the order, it may help you have the order extended or modified in the future. It is a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge numbers in case you want to follow up on your case.

You also have the option for filing for contempt in the court where your order was issued.

1 VT ST T. 13 § 1030(a),(b)

Can the order be changed or extended?

Yes. When your order expires, you can file a motion with the court to extend your order. The judge can extend it for such additional time as the judge believes is necessary to protect you and/or your children. There does not have to be another incident of stalking or sexual assault during the time you had the order to extend it.1

To change an order, you or the abuser can file a motion to modify (change) the order if there has been a substantial change in circumstance. The judge can change the order at any time.1

1 VT ST T. 12 § 5133(e)

Extreme Risk Protection Orders (to remove firearms)

An extreme risk protection order temporarily restricts a respondent’s access to guns in certain situations to protect him/her and others.

Basic info

How can an extreme risk protection order help me?

In an extreme risk protection order, the judge can order that the respondent not:

  • have any dangerous weapons in his/her possession;
  • purchase any dangerous weapons; or
  • receive any dangerous weapons.1

A “dangerous weapon” is defined as an explosive or a firearm.2

1 13 Vt. Stat. § 4053(e)
2 13 Vt. Stat. § 4051(2)

What is an extreme risk protection order?

An extreme risk protection order is a civil court order that allows a judge to restrict an individual’s access to dangerous weapons.1 The person against whom the order is filed is known as the respondent.

1 13 Vt. Stat. § 4053(a)

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

There are two types of extreme risk protection orders: ex parte extreme risk protection orders and final extreme risk protection orders.

Ex parte extreme risk protection orders: An ex parte extreme risk protection order is issued without the respondent having notice of the case before the hearing.1 Ex parte extreme risk protection orders are issued on a temporary, emergency basis and last for up to 14 days.2

Final extreme risk protection orders: A judge can issue a final extreme risk protection order after the respondent is served with notice of the case and has a chance to participate in a hearing. If the judge finds that the respondent is a risk to himself/herself or others, the judge can issue a final extreme risk protection order for up to six months.3

1 13 Vt. Stat. § 4054(b)(1)
2 13 Vt. Stat. § 4054(b)(1), (c)(1)
3 13 Vt. Stat. § 4053(e)(2)

Who can file for an extreme risk protection order?

The person who files for the extreme risk protection order is known as the petitioner. A judge can issue an extreme risk protection order against a respondent who poses an extreme risk of harming himself/herself or others by accessing a dangerous weapon. Unlike other states, the petitioner cannot be a relative or spouse of the respondent. Only the following professionals can file for an extreme risk protection order:

  • a State’s Attorney; or
  • the Office of the Attorney General.1

If you are a person who is concerned about the safety of someone else but cannot file to have his/her firearms removed, you may be able to speak to the State’s Attorneys’ Office or the Office of the Attorney General in your state to let them know of your concern and ask that they file for an extreme risk protection order to have the firearms removed.

1 13 Vt. Stat. § 4053(a)

Getting the order

Can an extreme risk protection order be renewed?

If the judge decides that the respondent still poses an extreme risk of harm to himself/herself or others by possessing a dangerous weapon, the judge can renew the extreme risk protection order for another six months. The State’s Attorney or the Office of the Attorney General may request a renewal 14-30 days before the current order expires.1

1 13 Vt. Stat. § 4055(b)

How do I get an extreme risk protection order?

Only a State’s Attorney or the Office of the Attorney General can file for an extreme risk protection order.1 If you are concerned about the respondent’s safety, you may be able to let the State’s Attorney or the Office of the Attorney General know. You may want to provide them with any information you have that supports your belief that the respondent is a risk to himself/herself or others and ask them to file a petition for an order.

1 13 Vt. Stat. § 4053(a)

How will the judge make a decision?

A judge will issue a final order if there is clear and convincing evidence that the respondent poses an extreme risk of harming himself/herself or others by accessing a dangerous weapon.1

The petitioner can show that the respondent is at risk of harming others by showing the judge that:

  • the respondent committed or tried to commit bodily harm on another person;
  • the respondent’s threats or actions have placed others in reasonable fear of physical harm;
  • the respondent’s actions or failure to act presented a danger to someone in the respondent’s care.2

The petitioner can show that the respondent is a risk to himself/herself by showing that the respondent:

  • threatened suicide or serious bodily harm; or
  • attempted suicide or serious bodily harm.3

1 13 Vt. Stat. § 4053(e)(1)
2 13 Vt. Stat. § 4054(b)(2)(A)
3 13 Vt. Stat. § 4054(b)(2)(B)

What if the respondent violates the order?

If the respondent intentionally fails to follow the terms of the extreme risk protection order, s/he may be committing a crime. If the respondent is convicted of violating the order, the judge could sentence the respondent to go to prison for up to one year, pay a fine of up to $1,000, or both.1

1 13 Vt. Stat. § 4058(b)(1)

Moving to Another State with a Relief from Abuse Order

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

General Rules

Can I get my relief from abuse order from Vermont enforced in another state?

Yes.  If you have a valid Vermont relief from abuse order that meets federal standards, it can be enforced in another state.  The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which is a federal law, states that all valid restraining orders 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 relief from abuse order is good under federal law? to find out if your order qualifies.

Each state must enforce out-of-state restraining orders in the same way it enforces its own orders.  Meaning, if the abuser violates your out-of-state restraining 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 relief from abuse order is good under federal law?

A relief from abuse 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

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 relief from abuse 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 Relief from Abuse Order enforced in another state?

How do I get my relief from abuse order enforced in another state?

Federal law does not require you to take any special steps to get your relief from abuse order 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 relief from abuse 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.  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: In Vermont, the court administrator is required to prepare a form that will make it easier for courts in other states to enforce a Vermont relief from abuse order.  Local domestic violence organizations should also have relief from abuse order envelopes that you can put your order in to make enforcement easier.

Note: It is important to keep a copy of your restraining order 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 relief from abuse order enforced?

In most states, you will need a certified copy of your relief from abuse order.  A certified copy says that it is a “true and correct” copy; in Vermont, a certified copy has a raised seal.  If your copy is not a certified copy, call or go to the court that gave you the order and ask for a certified copy.  You can find contact information for courthouses in Vermont on our VT Courthouse Location & Info page.

Note: It may be a good idea to keep a copy of the order with you at all times.  You may also want to bring several copies of the order with you when you move 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 and 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 relief from abuse 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. A domestic violence advocate can let you know what the advantages and disadvantages are for registering your order, 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, go to the Places that Help tab and then chose the state you want. Then click on Advocates and Shelters to find shelters and organizations in your area.

Enforcing custody provisions in another state

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

Maybe. It will depend on the exact wording of the custody provision in your relief from abuse order. You may have to first seek the permission of the court before leaving. If the 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. To read more about custody laws in Vermont, go to our VT 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 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 on the VT States and Local Progams page and legal assistance on the VT Finding a Lawyer page.

I was granted temporary custody with my relief from abuse order. Will another state enforce the custody order?

Yes. Custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in a relief from abuse 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

Enforcing your Out-Of-State Order in Vermont

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

General Rules for Out-of-State orders in Vermont

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

Yes. Your protection order can be enforced in Vermont 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)

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

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 Vermont.

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 protection order, see the Restraining Orders page for the state where your order was issued.

If your order does expire while you are living in Vermont, you may be able to get a new one issued in Vermont but this may be difficult to do if no incidents of abuse have taken place in Vermont. To find out more information on how to get a relief from abuse order in Vermont, visit our VT Restraining Orders page.

I was granted temporary custody with my out-of-state protection order. Will I still have temporary custody in Vermont?

Yes.  As long as the child custody provision complies with certain federal laws,1 Vermont 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 the VT Finding a Lawyer page.

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 Vermont

If I don’t have a hard copy of my out-of-state order, how can law enforcement enforce it?

To enforce an out-of-state order, law enforcement typically may rely on the National Crime Information Center Protection Order File (NCIC-POF). The NCIC-POF is a nationwide, electronic database that contains information about orders of protection that were issued in each state and territory in the U.S. The Protection Order File (POF) contains court orders that are issued to prevent acts of domestic violence, or to prevent someone from stalking, intimidating, or harassing another person. It contains orders issued by both civil and criminal state courts. The types of protection orders issued and the information contained in them vary from state to state.1

There is no way for the general public to access the NCIC-POF. That means you cannot confirm a protection order is in the registry or add a protection order to the registry without the help of a government agency that has access to it.

Typically, the state police or criminal justice agency in the state has the responsibility of reporting protection orders to NCIC. However, in some cases, the courts have taken on that role and they manage the protection order reporting process.2 NCIC–POF is used by law enforcement agencies when they need to verify and enforce an out-of-state protection order. It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.

However, not all states routinely enter protection orders into the NCIC. Instead, some states may enter the orders only in their own state protection order registry, which would not be accessible to law enforcement in other states. According to a 2016 report by the National Center for State Courts, more than 700,000 protection orders that were registered in state protection order databases were not registered in the federal NCIC Protection Order File.2 This means that if a law enforcement officer is trying to enforce a protection order from another state that is missing from the NCIC, the victim would likely need to show the officer a hard copy of the order to get it immediately enforced. If you no longer have a copy of your original order, you may want to contact the court that issued the order to ask them how you can get another copy sent to you.

1 National Center for Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit
2 See State Progress in Record Reporting for Firearm-Related Background Checks: Protection Order Submissions, prepared by the National Center for State Courts, April 2016

How do I register my protection order in Vermont?

You can register your protection order in any family court by filing a certified copy of the order with the court.  The court will make you swear under oath in an affidavit (a written statement) that to the best of your knowledge the order is presently in effect as written.

You may also bring a copy of the order (it does not have to be a certified copy) to the law enforcement department in your area.  The law enforcement officer may ask you to swear under oath or in writing that the order is still in effect.  The law enforcement officer will then enter the order into the law enforcement database, if s/he believes it to be a valid copy.

You do not need a lawyer to register your protection order.  If you are confused or worried about the process, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in Vermont to ask for help from a local advocate.  To find a local domestic violence organization in Vermont, please go to our VT Advocates and Shelters page.

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

No. Police officers must enforce your protection order whether or not you register it. If it is not registered, you will need to show the officer a copy of your protection order, and you may have to swear in writing that it is still in effect.

While you do not have to register your protection order in order to get it enforced, one benefit of registration is that you may be able to get your order enforced, even if you are not carrying a copy of the order with you when the police officer arrives at the scene. Protection orders that are registered in Vermont are kept in the Vermont Protection Order Database, and Vermont police officers should have access to this registry when they come on the scene.

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 VT 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.  If your order is not entered into the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) database (a national database of protection orders that some states keep records in), and you do not have a copy of your order with you when the police officer arrives, it may be more difficult to have your order enforced because it will be hard for the Vermont police officer to make sure that your order is real.

However, if you have a certified copy of your protection order with you, and if it is listed in the NCIC, then it may not matter if your protection order is registered in Vermont or not.

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 may be able to help you decide what the safest plan of action is for you in Vermont.  To see a list of local domestic violence organizations in Vermont, go to our VT Advocates and Shelters page.

Does it cost anything to register my protection order?

No. There is no cost to register your order in Vermont.