A Domestic Violence Order Can Protect You

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
WARNING: People can tell what pages you visit on a computer. Be safe! Use a computer at a local library, a friend's house, or at work. Read more about internet and computer safety.
Click on a topic below:

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is when a close relative or someone you have (or had) an intimate relationship with hurts you. That person may have hurt you physically or sexually. Or that person may have threatened to hurt you or made you feel afraid that you would be hurt. Domestic violence is against the law.

For example, it is against the law for that person to:

  • Hit, push, shove, choke, grab or hurt you in some other way,

  • Abuse you sexually, like making you have sex, or do sex acts you do not want to do,

  • Frighten you by punching a wall, breaking furniture, or other things that scare you, or

  • Threaten to do these or other things that hurt you.

[ Top of Page ]

Do I have to be married to the abuser to get a domestic violence order?

No. You can get a domestic violence order (DVO, for short) to protect you from:

  • Your spouse (or ex-spouse)

  • Someone you are dating (or dated before)

  • Someone you have a baby with, or

  • A close relative, such as a parent, grandparent, child, brother, sister, first cousin, or other close relative.

[ Top of Page ]

Is domestic violence serious?

Yes, domestic violence is very serious. It often gets worse over time. If you are a victim of domestic violence, think about asking for a domestic violence order before you are hurt again.

[ Top of Page ]

How can a domestic violence order help me?

A domestic violence order (DVO, for short) is a court order that can order the abuser to stay away from you or to not contact you. It shows the abuser that you and the court are serious about making him/her stop the abusive behavior.

A DVO can set rules that help put order and control back into your life. This can help you get control over your life, which you may have lost by the abuse. If your children have seen or heard the domestic violence, a DVO may give all of you a chance to get some help.

If you want to continue to have contact with the abuser, but without the violence, you can ask for a DVO that says all contact must be non-violent.

[ Top of Page ]

Can a domestic violence order also protect my children?

Yes, if they have been part of the violence. But you must list their names on your court form (Domestic Violence Petition).

[ Top of Page ]

How long will it take to get a domestic violence order?

In most cases, you can get a temporary order right away. The temporary order is called an Emergency Protective Order (EPO, for short). It will last until your court hearing. Your court hearing will take place in about 2 weeks.

[ Top of Page ]

How can an emergency protective order help me?

The emergency protective order (EPO, for short) lists the time, date, and location of the DVO hearing. That's when the court will listen to both sides and make orders. Both of you must go to the hearing.

The EPO can also:

  • Order the abuser to not be violent, to stay away from you, to not call or contact you,

  • Order you to not contact the abuser, and
  • Make temporary custody orders about the children you have together.

[ Top of Page ]

How long does the emergency protective order last?

The emergency protective order lasts up to 14 days, until your DVO hearing. At the hearing, the court may decide to make orders that last longer.

[ Top of Page ]

Can I make the emergency protective order last longer?

Yes. If law enforcement has not been able to serve the abuser, you can ask the court to extend the EPO.

[ Top of Page ]

Can someone help me ask for a domestic violence order?

Yes. Your local domestic violence shelter can help you 24/7. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can give you the phone number for a shelter near you:


TDD: 800-787-3224

You can also get help, information, and support from your:

  • Local Domestic Violence Shelter,

  • County Attorney's Office,

  • Local Victim Advocate, or

  • Own lawyer.

[ Top of Page ]

Do I need a lawyer to ask for a domestic violence order?

No. Most people who ask for a domestic violence order do not have lawyers. To ask for a DVO, you must fill out a court form, called a Petition. You are the Petitioner (the person filing the Petition). The person you want to be protected from is the Respondent.

The Petition will ask you to describe what happened. Print neatly or type. Fill out the form as completely and correctly as possible, using legal names.

Tell the truth, and explain what happened most recently to make you afraid for yourself or your children. You can use these questions to guide you:

  1. What was the date of the abuse?
  2. Who was there?
  3. What did the abuser do or say that made you feel afraid?
  4. Were there guns or weapons involved?
  5. Describe any injures:
  6. Did the police come?

Download the Petition (PDF file)

If you need help filling out the form, see: Can someone help me ask for a domestic violence order?

[ Top of Page ]

How much does it cost to ask for a protective order?


[ Top of Page ]

What do I do with the Petition after I fill it out?

Give it to the clerk at the courthouse. The clerk will ask you to swear that what you put on your Petition is true. Then she will give it to a judge to read.

If the judge believes that you or your children are in danger, s/he will give you an Emergency Protective Order (EPO) right away.

If the judge does not believe that you or your children are in danger, you will not get an EPO. But the judge will set a date for a hearing. You can come back to court in a couple of weeks and tell your story. You may get the same judge. Or you may get a different judge.

Important! The Domestic Violence Clerk at the courthouse can check your form to make sure it is complete. But s/he cannot give you legal advice.

[ Top of Page ]

Will the abuser know that I have asked the court for protection?

Probably. After you file your Petition, the court clerk will have a law enforcement officer serve (give) a copy to the abuser. The abuser has the right to know that you have asked for a protective order, and to go to a court hearing in about 2 weeks to decide your case.

[ Top of Page ]

Do I have to go to the court hearing?

If you want the court to make orders to protect you and your children, yes! If you do not go, your EPO will end on the date of the hearing.

[ Top of Page ]

Do I need a lawyer at my domestic violence order hearing?

You do not have to have a lawyer. In fact, most domestic violence cases do not have lawyers. When you go to court, the judge will ask you both questions. You just have to say what happened. But if the abuser has a lawyer, you may want to get one, too. A lawyer can also help you with custody, visitation, and other issues.

See: How can I get ready for my hearing?

[ Top of Page ]

What if I can't afford a lawyer?

If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact your local domestic violence program or legal services office for information. They may be able to help you find free or low-cost legal services.

[ Top of Page ]

How can I get ready for my hearing?

Arrive at the courthouse early. You may need extra time to find parking, go through security, and find your courtroom.

Bring evidence that supports your case, including:

  • Witnesses,
  • Photos, and
  • Police or medical reports.

When the judge asks you to speak, say:

[ Top of Page ]

Will the abuser be at the hearing?

If the abuser has been served, s/he will probably be there. The abuser has a legal right to be at the hearing, and to explain his/her side, bring witnesses, and show proof.

Do not interrupt the abuser or the judge when they are talking. Wait until it is your turn to speak.

[ Top of Page ]

What if I am afraid to go to the hearing?

You have the right to have a support person with you at court. Ask the shelter or your County Attorney's Office if a victim advocate can be with you when you are at your hearing.

The victim advocate can also help you get ready for the hearing. S/he can answer your questions, and tell you what to expect. There will also be officers and other people in the courtroom who can protect you.

Important! If you are very afraid that the abuser may be violent when s/he goes to court, tell the court clerk before your hearing.

[ Top of Page ]

What kind of orders can the court make?

At the end of the hearing, the judge will decide to make protective orders, or not. If you get a DVO, the judge will also decide what kind of orders to make, and how long they will last.

For example, a DVO usually orders the abuser to:

  • Stay a certain distance from you, your home, your car, your work, or other places,
  • Not call you or contact you
  • Not have guns or other firearms

Exception: If the abuser is a police officer or in the military, s/he may be allowed to use firearms while at work.

If you ask for it, your DVO may order the abuser to move out, even if it is your marital residence. The judge may also make child support, visitation, and temporary custody orders for the children you have with the abuser.

A DVO also usually orders the abuser to go to anger management classes. It may order you to go to domestic violence victim counseling.

[ Top of Page ]

How long can a domestic violence order last?

It can last for up to 3 years. The end date is written on the first page of the order.

You can ask the court to renew it, if you need it to last longer.

Important! If you need the DVO to last longer, you must ask to renew it before it expires. You can also ask for a new order later if there are new acts of domestic violence.

[ Top of Page ]

Does the abuser have to obey the domestic violence order?

Yes. It is against the law to disobey a domestic violence order. The abuser could be fined, arrested, or even sent to jail.

If the abuser disobeys the order, call the police right away. The police may arrest the abuser or issue a citation, which is an order to go to court.

If the police do not enforce your order, ask your local shelter, victim advocate, or lawyer for help.

[ Top of Page ]

How will the police know about the domestic violence order?

All domestic violence orders are entered into a national database for police officers, called LINK. That means law enforcement across the country can see you have an active domestic violence order.

If you call the police, tell them right away that you have a domestic violence order.

Important! Keep a copy of your domestic violence order with you, always. That way you will have it and can show it to the police. That could be faster than having to look it up in LINK.

[ Top of Page ]

What should I do with my domestic violence order?

Get copies of your order, and:

  • Keep 1 copy with you, always. You may need to show it to the police.
  • Keep another copy in a safe place.
  • Give a copy to anyone else protected by the order.
  • Take copies to places where the restrained person is ordered not to go (school, work, daycare, etc.).
  • Give a copy to the security officers in your apartment or office buildings, and to the local police.

[ Top of Page ]

Can the other person and I agree to cancel the domestic violence order?

No. Only the court can change or cancel the domestic violence order. If you want to change or stop the order, you and the other person must go back to court. Tell the clerk you want to amend your domestic violence order. There will be a court hearing, and the judge will decide.

[ Top of Page ]

Will a domestic violence order protect me if I travel to another state?

Yes. The domestic violence order is valid in all U.S. states and territories, and on Indian lands.

If you move out of Kentucky, contact your new local police so they will know about the domestic violence order. If you want to move with your minor children, you may need permission from the court or the other parent. Talk to a lawyer.

[ Top of Page ]

Reviewed March 2009