How to file a civil protective order

Updated on April 16th, 2024 at 04:43 pm

Are you looking for long-term protection from an abuser? If so, a civil protection order in Washington, DC, may be the solution that you are seeking.

At Bruckheim & Patel, we understand how difficult it can be to take legal action against your abuser and want to provide you with helpful information about the steps to take for filing a civil protection order in DC.

Steps for Filing a CPO in DC

Determine Eligibility

There are a few questions to consider when determining if you can file a CPO in Washington, D.C. All the answers to these questions must be “yes,” or you may not be eligible.

  • Did the incident occur in Washington, D.C., or do you live/work in the District of Columbia?

To be eligible to file a CPO with the D.C. Superior Court, the petitioner must live or work in Washington, D.C., or the incident must have occurred in the District of Columbia.

  • Did a criminal offense occur?

To grant a CPO, the petitioner must prove that actions committed by the respondent constitute a crime. Hiring an experienced CPO attorney to help you ensure that the incidents were, in fact, criminal may be necessary.

  • Is there an intrafamilial relationship between the petitioner and the respondent?

Civil protection orders only apply to those within intrafamilial relationships.

The parties must be related by one of the following: domestic relationship, marriage, blood, legal guardian (including foster or adoptive parents/children), a shared minor child, current or former roommates, dating relationship, or sexual relationship, share(d) the same intimate partner, petitioner is being stalked by the respondent, or sexual assault is occurring from the respondent to the petitioner.

If none of these relationships apply to your situation, you may want to consider a restraining order instead.

The Filing Process

Once you have determined that you are eligible for a CPO, you must file your initial complaint with the Domestic Violence Division of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

You will be given an extensive complaint form to write your plea and provide a detailed description of the events that led you to file the order. To file the petition, you can go to the Domestic Violence Division at 500 Indiana Ave NW, Room 4510, or file it online, by mail, or email to

Serving the Respondent

Once a Civil Protection Order is filed with the court, as the petitioner, you will have two weeks between the initial complaint and the hearing to serve the respondent the petition and notice of hearing. The papers must touch the respondent’s body, but they do not need to accept or read them willingly.

The petitioner is responsible for having the respondent served, but you cannot personally serve them. Any third party who is over the age of 18 and not listed on the petition is eligible to serve the respondent.

However, the petitioner may request that the Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) attempt to serve the respondent, or they may hire a private process server.

Unless a continuance is granted, if the respondent is not served before the court date, the Judge will dismiss the case.

Gathering Evidence

Preparing for a Civil Protection Order hearing is very important. To help with your case, you should prepare your evidence in advance to present it to the judge. Evidence can be anything related to the incident or what you are asking to be included in the order (e.g., copies of threatening letters or text messages).

You may also bring witnesses to share their testimony concerning the incident or the respondent.


CPO litigation can be resolved without a court hearing. Both parties will meet separately with an attorney negotiator to discuss a possible out-of-court settlement on an order.

A settlement is a common option for individuals who prefer to avoid a court hearing to determine the validity of the Civil Protection Order allegations.

There are two types of Consent Civil Protection Orders that the respondent can agree to:

  • Consenting with admissions: The respondent consents to the CPO and acknowledges engaging in criminal acts.
  • Consenting without admission: The respondent consents to the CPO but does not admit to criminal acts.


*This will only occur if the parties cannot settle before the court date.

A Civil Protection Order hearing takes place before a D.C. Superior Court Judge. Both sides are given the opportunity to offer evidence that supports the petitioner’s allegations or defends against them. The evidence collected could be useful here. Either party is allowed to present personal testimony, witness testimony, or any other evidence as needed.

Keep in mind that the respondent’s testimony at the CPO hearing is not valid in a criminal trial or delinquency proceedings unless it is a prosecution for perjury or making false statements (D.C. Code 16-1002).

In accordance with D.C. Code § 16-1005(c), if a Judge determines good cause to trust that the respondent has committed or made threats to commit a crime against the petitioner, they will issue a civil protection order.

The protective order issued at the hearing shall be in effect for up to two years (D.C. Code § 16-1005(d)). Either party has the right to appeal any decisions or orders issued by the Court (D.C. Code § 16-1005(e)).

Experienced CPO Attorneys in DC

Although a Court Protection Order can be a complex process with many steps, by following the necessary steps, such as determining eligibility, filing, serving, gathering evidence, settling, and attending the hearing, an individual can successfully obtain a CPO if the case justifies it.

Remember that the law is meant to protect those who need it, and that should be considered when pursuing this type of action. It’s important to remember your rights during this process and to retain all documentation throughout your proceedings so you can prove your case.

If someone needs legal advice or assistance filing a CPO in DC or defending against a Civil Protection Order, they should contact an experienced DC CPO lawyer at Bruckheim & Patel – Washington DC, who specializes in this area of law.

About Bruckheim & Patel

As a former Prosecutor, Michael Bruckheim has experience on the other side of the aisle. Prior to founding his law office in 2010, Mr. Bruckheim enjoyed a diverse career in litigation at the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia (OAG) serving for over 11 years. He began his OAG career as a prosecutor in the Criminal Section where he conducted numerous bench and jury trials in traffic and criminal misdemeanor matters. Mr. Bruckheim was promoted and served as Chief of the Criminal Section at the OAG where he supervised the prosecution of DUI offenses in the District and directed a staff of over 20 attorneys.

    Call Now Button