Washington DC Civil Protection Orders

Survivors of intrafamily violence may require civil protections to safeguard them from further abuse. Washington DC civil protection orders may be issued for a maximum duration of one year and are subject to potential modification or extension, depending on the facts of the petitioner’s circumstances. If you need help obtaining a civil protection order, you should talk to a skilled family violence attorney for advice about your legal options.

Requesting Temporary Protection

In emergency situations, a temporary protection order may be requested and granted on the same day. A temporary protection order is a short-term directive instructing the alleged abuser to stay away from the petitioner and/or abstain from contacting them. For example, temporary protection may limit the perpetrator’s custodial rights over their children until the civil protection order hearing takes place and a more permanent custody order is entered.

In Washington DC, temporary protection orders may remain in effect for as long as 14 days, with the civil protection order hearing to be held before the two-week period expires. Sometimes, the civil protection order hearing cannot occur within two weeks because, for example, the court has other trials that day, one party seeks a continuance, or the civil case is trailing a criminal case where the respondent was arrested. In that case, the court may extend the temporary protection order until the civil protection order hearing can occur and the court can determine whether to enter a final judgment

What to Know About Civil Protection Orders

At a Washington DC hearing, if the court determines that the defendant committed or threatened to commit a criminal offense such as assault, threats, and, in some cases, destruction of property, it may grant the petitioner’s request for a civil protection order. If the court determines that the alleged abuser committed an intrafamily offense, the abuser has the burden of showing how visitation would not endanger the other parent and the child. If the abuser cannot meet this burden, their custodial rights are at risk. The court can order that visitation be temporarily suspended or supervised unless they can show that their presence would not jeopardize the wellbeing of the other parent and their children.

Furthermore, if a respondent fails to comply with the restrictions imposed by a civil protection order, they could face steep fines and even imprisonment. Violation of a civil protection order is a criminal offense, even if the act that the respondent is committing is not in and of itself a criminal offense. For example, if a respondent contacts a petitioner in violation of a civil protection order, they may face criminal prosecution that the petitioner can initiate on their own by filing a motion for criminal contempt. A petitioner may even goad or taunt a respondent to commit a criminal offense and yet only the respondent is at risk of facing a motion for criminal contempt.

Civil protection orders stay in effect for up to one year but may be extended in certain circumstances. A civil protection order may make an initial determination of custodial rights, child support, property division, and spousal support. These orders are relevant in a subsequent divorce or custody action. In the case of custody and child support especially, the order issued in a civil protection order may become permanent. In other cases, the custody order issued in a civil protection order may be radically different from the final order issued in a divorce or custody case. If you are facing a potential divorce or custody case following the entry of a civil protection order, you should consult an experienced attorney who may be able to provide insight about how and when to file for a divorce or initiate a custody action.

Potential Directives

Civil protection orders may order the respondent to avoid any contact with the petitioner, undergo counseling, and even to vacate the home they once shared with the petitioner. The court can also award the respondent to pay for the petitioner’s attorney’s fees.

A civil protection order in Washington DC may also prohibit the abuser from owning or possessing a firearm. In some cases, a civil protection order may limit visitation or order supervised visitation at the court’s Supervised Visitation Center, which has a strict protocol involving staggered arrivals with the goal of keeping the respondent from interacting with the petitioner and keeping the petitioner and children safe.

Let an Attorney Help You Seek a Civil Protection Order in Washington DC

If you have been subjected to family violence or other abuse, you may need to petition for a civil protection order. An attorney from our firm may be able to provide advice and representation through all stages of the civil protection order process, from filing and obtaining a temporary protection order through the civil protection order trial. An attorney could advocate aggressively on your behalf to secure your and your child’s protection from an abuser. To learn more about Washington DC civil protection orders and whether you may benefit from filing, contact our office today and arrange a consultation.