We don’t usually get questions about prosecuting domestic abuse issues — most people hire us to defend them against accusations! However, I did receive a question recently from a potential client who wanted to know more about what could be awarded at a DC (or Federal) protective order hearing. So I thought I would share the information and answer her question!

My friend was physically and verbally assaulted by her boyfriend. She had the cops remove him from her apartment (he was not on the lease in the first place). She is interested in filing a protective order, but wants to know whether it can go beyond just preventing him from further contact with her.

First, get better taste in men. Those that punch you are probably not good boyfriend material. Just sayin’. That aside, let’s talk about how protective orders work.

D.C. Code §16-1004 – 16-1005 govern CPO – Civil Protective Orders (which is the more formal term for “protective order”).

When you file in DC for a protective order, you ask what relief you are seeking and provide evidence of harm by the abuser. You must show how the abuser has committed some act of violence against you (or criminal act: including threats, assault, harassment, etc.). You must show EACH element of the alleged harm. When you go to Court, the judge will complete (or you will settle with the opposing side) an order regarding your motion for a protective order. A section on that “order” includes payment of home expenses, attorney fees, etc. Note, however, generally, a person cannot be forced to pay rent unless they are on the lease and have been paying already.

This is the third page of a petition for a civil protection order. Note the section where you can ask for money, rent, attorney fees, and damages. Download the full CPO petition

When going to Court, it is important to provide evidence of the abuse, and why it would be fair to have the “abuser” pay anything. There is a difference between an order to “stay away” and making the individual pay on going rent payments. That will require a compelling reason. Generally, the Court won’t cover your attorney fees unless the abuse was particularly bad.

The ticket to success in protective custody hearings (held on the first floor of the Courthouse on 500 Indiana Avenue) is settlement. Most folks don’t want a protective order on their record. To avoid that, they will consent to a settlement that could well include rent payments. However, make sure you chat with an attorney before agreeing to anything. Settlement heaven — but it can be very dangerous if the individual you are dealing with is genuinely dangerous. Work through your attorney, and let us handle the negotiations. At the Courthouse, if you can’t afford an attorney, there is an attorney negotiator that will meet with the parties, individually, for free.

Do you have a question regarding protective orders? Call us! We can help you. Note that handling child abuse allegations are much different, and the advice above does not apply. Call us immediately if there are any allegations of child abuse.

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