EPO vs DVO vs Civil Restraining Order

An Emergency Protective Order (EPO) is a temporary order of protection from domestic violence and abuse. An EPO can be issued without a hearing or notice to the other party. A judge who receives a petition for an EPO must determine whether there is an “immediate and present danger” of domestic violence and abuse.

Once an EPO is issued, it will be served upon the other party and a hearing will be held, usually within fourteen (14) days. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether a more permanent Domestic Violence Order (DVO) should be entered, after both sides have had an opportunity to present evidence. If, after the hearing, a judge finds that “domestic violence has occurred and may occur again,” it may grant a DVO.

Once granted, a DVO may remain in place for up to three (3) years and may be extended upon the request of the petitioner. An EPO or DVO may include children and may award temporary custody, temporary child support, and set a visitation schedule.

Unlike an EPO, which opens a legal action when filed, to obtain a civil restraining order, a person must be a party to a separate civil legal action, such as a divorce or child custody case. If such an action has not been filed, a civil restraining order cannot be obtained. While a civil restraining order may include some of the same conditions as a protective order, such as no contact, they do not provide the same protections.

Violations of an EPO or DVO may result in contempt of court or criminal charges. If a violation occurs, law enforcement may immediately arrest the offender without a warrant. Federal law also prevents Respondents subject to a DVO from legally purchasing, possessing, selling or disposing of firearms.

Violations of a civil restraining order do not have criminal penalties. This means that law enforcement cannot make an arrest upon violation. Violations must be brought to the attention of the court by filing a motion asking the court to hold the violating party in contempt. While contempt may be punished by jail time, this rarely occurs.

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