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This content was last updated on 3/26/2022

What is a protective order?

A protective order is a court order that tells an abuser to stop committing acts of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking against you or your children, if they are minors. If you file for a protective order, you are called the “Petitioner.” The person you file against is called the “Respondent.”

In Kentucky, there are two kinds of protective orders: Domestic Violence Orders (DVOs) and Interpersonal Protective Orders (IPOs).

Domestic Violence Orders (DVOs) are used if the Respondent is your family member or a family member of the person you are filing for. You can file for a spouse, ex-spouse, parent, child, stepchild, grandparent, or grandchild. DVOs are also used if you and the Respondent have a child together or if you and the Respondent are not married but lived together.

Interpersonal Protective Orders (IPOs) are used if the Respondent is someone you or the person you are filing for were in a dating relationship with. Or if the Respondent is someone you don’t have a dating relationship with, but they sexually assaulted you or stalked you.

Note: A protective order is not the same thing as a Civil Restraining Order.

How do I know what order I should file for?

In Kentucky, the court form that you fill out is the same for a Domestic Violence Order or Interpersonal Protective Order. It is called a Petition/Motion for Order of Protection found here:

You do not have to say what kind of order you want. Just fill out the form with the Respondent’s relationship to you or the person you are filing for and what the Respondent did.


What would qualify me to get a protective order?

Violence and abuse can be many things. You need to write on the form anything the Respondent did that caused you physical injury, or if they assaulted you physically or sexually, or if they strangled or stalked you. Or if the Respondent put you in fear of immediate physical injury, physical or sexual assault or strangulation.

Immediate fear of sexual assault does not count if there was no dating relationship. It must be a completed act, unless there has been a pattern of actions that prove stalking. Often, these events should be relatively close in time to when you file the order.


How can a protective order help me?

A protective order can order the Respondent:

  • not to hurt or stalk you or your children
  • not to harass or otherwise disturb you (and/or your children)
  • not to contact you. This means in person, through 3rd parties, through writing, by email, on social media, and by telephone, etc.
  • to stay a specific distance from you, your house and/or your work, and/or school or your child’s school – any place you regularly are, although the judge may not require it all public places (i.e., a hospital)
  • to leave the home that you are both living in or that the Respondent is actively occupying, even if the Respondent is the only one on the mortgage or lease
  • to allow you access to your personal property and not to destroy your property
  • not to own a gun or other dangerous weapons
  • to attend counseling, like batterers’ intervention, drug and alcohol counseling or participate in a drug screening. NOTE: Be aware that you may be ordered to do these things as well.
  • to have limited visits with your children

Order you temporary custody and child support and set up a temporary visitation schedule if you and the Respondent have a child together.

Where do I file for a protective order?

You can file for a DVO or IPO order in the county where you live or a county where you went to get away from your abuser. Go to the circuit court clerk’s office in that county. Every county has a circuit court clerks’ office. Find the list here: .

If the circuit court clerk’s office is not open, contact your local police or domestic violence program for help.

If you move to a different county to get away from the abuser, the petition you file shows the county of the court where you filed. The Respondent can see that but can’t see your actual address.

How much does it cost to file for a protective order? Do I need a lawyer?

There is no cost to file for a protective order.

You don't have to have a lawyer to file for a protective order. But you may wish to have a lawyer represent you at the hearing. Especially if the abuser has a lawyer. If you can’t afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, contact your local legal aid program. Their services are free, and many programs have priorities that include serving victims of abuse.

How do I ask for a protective order?

Fill out the Petition/Motion for Order of Protection found here:  The form asks for information about the Respondent, like current address, employer’s name and address, date of birth, Social Security number, physical description. Write down as much information as you can. This helps law enforcement serve the petition on the Respondent.

You need to write down your address, age, date of birth and other information. Your information is kept confidential, except your age. Remember, if you moved to a different county to get away from the Respondent, the petition you file has the county of the court where you filed. The Respondent can see that.

If you and the Respondent have children together, write their names, where they live and dates of birth. The addresses and dates of birth are kept confidential.

You also have to say what the Respondent’s relationship to you is and what the Respondent did to you or the person you are filing for. Write about the most recent incidents of violence. Use specific language that fits your situation, like slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, etc. Include as many details and dates as possible. If there were acts of violence in the past, describe what and when those were. Do not talk in general terms. If you defended yourself, be specific about what you did rather than saying “things got physical” or “we got into it.”

On the last page of the form, tell the court what actions you would like them to do by checking the boxes. Check as many as you need to.

You have to sign the form, but do not sign it until you are in front of the court clerk. Your statements have to be made under oath and the form has to be notarized.

If you need help filling out the form, ask the court clerk for help.

For more information about how to organize your Petition/Motion for Order of Protection, click here:

What happens after the Petition is filed?

The petition is sent to a judge right away. If a judge issues an EPO, TIPO or a summons, a hearing is scheduled within 14 days to decide if a long-term order is needed. You get something that shows you the date and time for your hearing. If you don’t know when your hearing is scheduled, check with the circuit court clerk.

Law enforcement then tries to serve the protective order or summons on the Respondent. Note: A protective order does not go into effect until the Respondent is served with a copy of the order or is notified about it by law enforcement.

What is an EPO or TIPO? 

If the judge thinks that you are in immediate danger of further acts of violence, sexual assault or stalking based on what you wrote in your Petition, they can give you an Emergency Protective Order (EPO) or Temporary Interpersonal Protective Order (TIPO).

The EPO or TIPO is given without a hearing and lasts until your court hearing.

How do I know when the Respondent is served or notified?

You can contact the Circuit Court Clerk's Office in the county where you filed: Or you can register for VINE PO (Victim Information Notification Everyday-Protective Order) by calling 1-877-687-6818 or register on-line at

Do I have to go to court?

Yes. If the judge gives you an EPO or TIPO, or even if the judge denies the EPO or TIPO, a hearing date is set.It is usually within 14 days after you file.

You have to go to the court hearing. If you don’t, your EPO or TIPO expires, and you may not be able to get along-term protective order.

If the Respondent doesn't show up for the hearing, the judge can still grant you a long-term protective order. Or they might reschedule the hearing. You may want to hire a lawyer to help with your case. Especially if the abuser has a lawyer or if there are children involved. If the abuser shows up with a lawyer and you don’t have one, you can ask the judge for a “continuance.” This sets the hearing on a later day. It gives you time to find a lawyer.  If you can’t afford a lawyer, contact your local civil legal aid office.

If you can’t go to the hearing at the scheduled time, call the clerk's office to ask that your case be “continued.” The judge might say no. But if the court does give you a continuance, they should also renew your EPO/TIPO since your original one probably expires before the rescheduled hearing.

What happens at the Court hearing?

The judge holds a hearing and listens to both sides. You can bring witnesses or evidence, like pictures of your injuries, medical records, or police reports. These help prove that the abuse, sexual assault, or stalking happened. Phone call logs, stalking incident logs, texts, emails, or screenshots of social media posts might also be helpful. If you are going to show your phone, remember that the judge may look at other messages. Also, some courtrooms do not let phones into court.

You need to show the judge that the abuse happened and can happen again. If you do this, you should be granted a long-term order—either a Domestic Violence Order or an Interpersonal Protective Order. These may last for up to 3 years.

If you know or believe the Respondent has guns or ammunition, tell the judge.

What does the long-term order say?

The long-term order can do everything the temporary order did. It can order the Respondent to not contact or hurt you and it can decide temporary custody, visitation, and child support. It can also order you or the Respondent to go to domestic violence or dating violence counseling.

What if I go to the same school as the Respondent?

Tell the judge that you and Respondent go to the same school, so the order can protect you when you are there. It is a good idea to let your school know as soon as you get to receive a temporary order. Someone from your school may want to come to the hearing to tell the judge what arrangements can be made.

What should I do when I leave the courthouse?
  • Make several copies of the order as soon as you can.
  • Keep a copy of the order with all the time.
  • Leave copies of the order at your job, your home, your school, your child’s school, or daycare, in your car, and with neighbors who are willing to help you.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or receptionist where you live and work. Also give that person a picture of the Respondent.
  • If there are local law enforcement people who work in your area, like campus security or school resource officers, give them a copy.
  • Make a safety plan.
If they didn’t give me a protective order, what can I do?

If you don’t get a protective order, there are still some things you can do to stay safe. It might be a good idea to contact a domestic violence program in your area to get help, support, and advice. You can find a List of KY Domestic Violence Shelters here: They can help you make a safety plan and connect you with the resources you need.

You can reapply for a protective order if a new act of domestic abuse happens after you are denied the order.

If you think the judge made a mistake, talk to a lawyer about the chance of an appeal.

If you didn’t get a protective order because your relationship with the abuser didn’t qualify under the rules, you might be able to get protection through the criminal court system.

If the Respondent violates the order, what do I do?

If the Respondent intentionally violates the rules of the EPO, TIPO, DVO or IPO, it can be considered contempt of court and a crime.

You can report the violation to law enforcement. Call 911 right away. Or you can file a criminal complaint. In some cases, the abuser can be arrested right away and prosecuted for a crime. Tell the officers you have a DVO and the Respondent is violating it. If found guilty of a violation of a DVO, the abuser can be fined or put in jail. The Respondent could also be prosecuted for a crime as well as a criminal violation –for instance, stalking and violation of a DVO. This is not the case for a Civil Restraining Order.

It is a good idea to write down the name of the responding officers and their badge numbers in case you want to follow up on your case.

Another way to tell the court that the Respondent is not following the Order is to file a “show cause” motion for contempt. This is called a civil motion. File this motion with the court that issued your protective order. Go to the circuit clerk’s office where you filed. A judge reviews the complaint or affidavit and decides what action to take.

Note: You can file either civil proceeding or criminal proceeding for the violation - you can’t file both. Once you file one kind of proceeding, you can’t try to file the other. It doesn’t matter what the outcome of the first proceeding is.

How do I extend or change my protective order?

Extending your order

When your DVO is expiring, apply to extend it for an additional period of up to 3 years. There is no limit on the number of times an order can be reissued (extended). There doesn’t need to be a new act of domestic violence for it to be extended. But if there hasn’t been any new abuse or contact, make sure you can explain to the judge why you are still in danger. It can be things like the Respondent’s history, gun ownership, how severe the abuse was, etc.

Changing your order

Either you or the Respondent can file a motion to change (amend) a domestic violence order. A hearing date and time is set. After the hearing, the judge decides whether or not to change the order. You have to file to change your order before it expires. If the change is about custody or visitation, the judge may advise that a custody or divorce case be filed instead.

Note: After you file asking for a change and there’s a hearing, a DVO can be changed to make the abuser wear a GPS device if the Respondent committed a serious violation of a domestic violence order. The judge needs to believe that the GPS device would increase your safety.

To change or extend your order, go to the court where your order was issued. Tell the circuit clerk you want to extend the order or change something in the order. They give you a form called Motion to Amend Order of Protection found here:

If I get a protective order, are there legal protections if I rent my home?

Yes.  Please see the following sections on our website: and


If you get an EPO, TIPO, DVO or IPO, you have certain protections if you rent your home.

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