The Intrafamily offense Act “Act” is a law that authorizes DC Superior Court Judges to issue Civil Protection Orders (CPOs). The Act is designed to give protection of the Court to persons harmed. If you have endured abuse by a family member, romantic partner, new or former partner of a current or former romantic partner, or by someone with whom you have lived or has lived, or someone has stalked you – you may be eligible for a civil protection order (“CPO”). A civil protection order (CPO) under the Intrafamily Offenses Act is a form of injunctive relief, designed to enjoin the commission of certain kinds of criminal offenses. D.C. Code § 16-1005(c). It is designed to protect an individual from further harm and to temporarily resolve issues between the parties. In addition to the “stay away” and “no contact” provisions, a CPO offers a wide spectrum of family law relief. The Court now has the ability to issue a civil protection orders for up to 2 years. Violations of a CPO are punishable a contempt.
Pursuant to the act there are two requirements to obtain a CPO:
Good cause is the burden of proof that you must prove in order to win your case. The burden of proof is the amount of evidence you need to show to prove to the Judge that the offense occurred. In the District of Columbia, Good cause is synonymous with the preponderance standard. Its considered a low standard of proof as you can see from the graph below.
The Petitioner must establish that there was an intrafamily relationship – DC Code Ann. 16-1001 One of the following must be established in order to pursue a CPO.
To whom the offender is related:
legal custody, marriage, or domestic partnership; or
Who is the child of an intimate partner.
To whom the offender is or was married;
With whom the offender is or was in a domestic partnership;
With whom the offender has a child in common; or
With whom the offender is, was, or is seeking to be in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship.
A Petitioner can be anyone over the age of 16 years of age. A respondent can be anyone 13 or older. If the minor is less than 13 years of age they may not petition for a civil protection order on their own behalf. The minor must get a parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian to file a petition for a civil protection order on their behalf In certain circumstances, the Attorney General for the District of Columbia can petition on behalf of the minor.
To obtain a CPO, the Petitioner must show that the Respondent committed a criminal offense:
(A) An offense punishable as a criminal offense
(B) An offense punishable as cruelty to animals, against an animal that an intimate partner, family member, or household member owns, possesses, or controls.
The Petitioner can allege any criminal offense listed in the DC Code but frequently the following offenses are charged:
A Civil Protection Order can be filed in the District of Columbia if
If the Judge grants the Petitioner’s request for a Civil Protection Order – The Judge can order up to two years of any of the following:
Will the Respondent Parent lose the rights to the children?
If the Respondent loses probably the most damaging statement is that the if the Judge finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a parent seeking visitation has committed an intrafamily offense, any determination that visitation is to be awarded to the parent who has committed the intrafamily offense shall be supported by a written statement by the judicial officer specifying factors and findings that support that determination, including how the child and custodial parent can be adequately protected from harm inflicted by the parent who has committed the intrafamily offense; and The parent who has committed the intrafamily offense shall have the burden of proving that visitation will not endanger the child or significantly impair the child’s emotional development;
Awards costs and attorney fees; Awarding attorney fees is not easy and judges in DC Superior Court have not been inclined to grant. In order to get attorney’s fees there needs to be an extreme imbalance between the parties (ie. Respondent has substantial resources) or the Petition was made in bad faith. The bad faith exception is intended to punish those who have abused the judicial process. So while the statute may say allow for attorney fees we have rarely seen it granted.
As the word suggest it is a temporary order that requires the Respondent to do certain things while the case is pending before there has been a trial. Usually the forms of relief in a temporary protective order are limited because most TPO are granted without the Respondent present (Ex Parte). The Petitioner is entitled to a TPO if the Petitioner can prove that the safety or welfare (or animal owned by the Petitioner) is immediately endangered by the Respondent. If the Petitioner can not prove that safety or welfare is endangered the Court may still set the matter for a Civil Protective Hearing but without a TPO in place.
The temporary Protection Order remains in effect for 14 days so that the Respondent can be served with a notice to appear at the CPO hearing. The court may extend a temporary protection order as necessary to complete service and the hearing on the petition in 14-day increments; or in increments up to 28 days for good cause or a longer time period with the consent of both parties.
If you are granted a CPO the Court may order the respondent to stay away and have no contact with you for up to 2 years. It can be extended for good cause if certain conditions are met.