Who may apply for a protective order?
To apply for a protective order in Fayette County, all three of the following must be true:
1. You must be a resident of Fayette County or have fled to Fayette County as a safe place
2. You are seeking protection from:
- Someone to whom you are or were legally married
- Someone with whom you have a child in common
- Someone with whom you are currently living or have lived within the past
- A current or past dating partner with whom you have or had a romantic or intimate relationship
- Someone who sexually assaulted you (a stranger or a known person)
- Someone who is stalking you (a stranger or a known person)
- A family member: a parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, or any other person living in the same household as a child if the child is the alleged victim
3. You believe you are in immediate and present danger of violence, meaning the person from whom you are seeking protection must have either:
- Physically injured or assaulted you
- Sexually abused or assaulted you
- Threatened to physically injure or assault you
- Done something to place you in fear that you are about to be injured, assaulted, or abused
You may request that your children be included in the protective order.
A petition may be filed by an adult family member on behalf of a minor family member. Minors may also file on their own behalf.
Where do I file for a protective order?
You have the right to apply for a protective order 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
There is NO fee to request a protective order and an attorney is not needed to file a petition.
You can apply for a protective order by going in person to:
Fayette County District Courthouse Building
150 N. Limestone, Lexington, KY 40507
Domestic Violence Office 4th Floor
Phone: (859) 246-2248
Monday – Friday: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
District Court Fines Room Phone
Phone: (859) 246-2228
Monday – Friday: 4 p.m. – 8 a.m., weekends and holidays
Who can help me with the protective order?
You may want to speak with a victim advocate before applying for a protective order. Advocates from Amanda’s Center, the County Attorney’s Office, GreenHouse17, and The Nest can provide support in filling out a petition for a protective order and during the court process. To learn more about advocates see page 25.
While it is not required to hire an attorney for the protective order process, you may wish to do so for the hearing. Having legal representation can help present your case more effectively and assist with obtaining the relief you are seeking. This may be especially important if the offender will be represented by an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, the Nest, or other agencies may be able to provide legal representation at no cost to you. For more information about these agencies, see the Community Resources section. (LINK)
Step 1: Petition
At the courthouse, a clerk will give you a blank petition to fill out. On the petition and throughout the protective order process, you are known as the petitioner and the person you are requesting protection from is the respondent. You should:
- Describe the most recent acts of abusive or threatening behavior and any history of such behavior
- Describe any injuries in detail
- State whether weapons were involved
- Describe any fears of future harm or why harm is likely to occur without protection
Your statements will be made under oath before a clerk.
Under “Motion for Relief” you may ask for any of the following:
- No contact - an order to stop the respondent from making any contact with you including calls, letters, messages, etc. (see page 12)
- No violent contact - an order to stop the respondent from abusing or threatening you (see page 12)
- Vacate - an order for the respondent to vacate the residence you share
- No property damage - an order for the respondent not to sell or destroy any family property
- Custody - an order for temporary child custody
- Other relief or assistance needed to stop the abuse - you have to be specific. For example, you might ask that child support be addressed at the hearing, or that the respondent be ordered to a certified batterer intervention program for a domestic violence assessment.
NOTE: While you can request the respondent remain up to 500 feet away from a specific location (such as your house, work, school, etc.), this means the respondent will be given this address. If the respondent does not already know where you live or work, it may be safer to simply request the respondent remain 500 feet from you at all times and places.
If you are in a hospital, nursing home, or are physically unable to come to the courthouse to file a petition, a sheriff’s deputy is available to come to you to assist in filing for a temporary protective order. Call the Office of the Fayette County Sheriff at (859) 252-1771 for assistance.
Step 2: EPO or TIPO
A judge will review your petition and decide which of the requests, if any, will be granted. The clerk will give you a copy of the judge’s decision. If a temporary protective order is issued, keep a copy of it with you at all times.
The temporary order will either be an Emergency Protective Order (EPO) or a Temporary Interpersonal Protective Order (TIPO). The judge will determine which to issue based on your relationship with the respondent.
The judge may issue a court summons instead of a temporary order if he or she thinks there is no immediate danger. If this happens, you will be given a date for a hearing to decide if a protective order will be issued.
If your petition is denied, it does not mean you are not at risk. It may be that your situation as described does not legally qualify for a protective order. If this happens it is very important you speak with an attorney and/or advocate as soon as possible to explore your legal options and discuss supportive community services that are available.
Step 3: Papers Served
After a judge grants a temporary order or issues a summons, a sheriff’s deputy will immediately try to serve the respondent with a copy and a notice of the hearing. If you have any information on the respondent’s location, tell the Office of the Fayette County Sheriff. This will help in their efforts to serve the respondent. The Office of the Fayette County Sheriff can be reached by calling (859) 252-1771.
NOTE: The temporary order is not in effect until the respondent has been served.
Once the respondent is served with a copy of the temporary order, it is effective until a court hearing is held (within 14 days). If the hearing date is not on your paperwork, call the clerk’s office at (859) 246-2248.
You may need to take extra safety precautions if you think the respondent may try to harm you after being served with the order. Learn how to be notified when an order is served and to read about other ways to enhance the safety of you and your family.
To report a violation of a condition of a protective order you can call the police or return to court to file a complaint on the violation. This is VERY important. The temporary order will only work if everyone involved takes it seriously.
Step 4: Hearing
It is very important you attend the hearing.
Even if the respondent has not been served by the date of the hearing, you still need to appear in court to let the judge know if you still need protection; otherwise, the judge may summons you or take action against you. When you appear you may ask the court to reissue the temporary summons for the respondent to appear in court. You may also ask the judge for permission to be excused from returning to court until the respondent has been served. If this request is granted, it is your responsibility to stay in touch with the Office of the Fayette County Sheriff. They can let you know when the respondent is served and the new court date when you should appear. The Office of the Fayette County Sheriff can be reached by calling (859) 252-1771.
Once the respondent has been served, the hearing will take place. There will be just one hearing so you should be prepared on this day to present anything you want the judge to consider. This is your time to tell the judge about the abusive or threatening incidents and present any evidence and witnesses you have. You should inform the court of any safety needs you or your child have, any child support or child visitation and custody issues, any alcohol, drug, or domestic violence assessments the respondent may need, and any other assistance needed to stop the abuse. You may also request the confiscation of firearms by the Office of the Sheriff.
The respondent will be allowed to speak and present evidence, as well.
If the judge believes abuse has occurred and may occur again, a long-term protective order can be issued for up to three years. This will be either be a Domestic Violence Order (DVO) or an Interpersonal Protective Order (IPO). The judge will decide which order to grant based on your relation to the respondent.
During the protective order process, you may have concerns about the safety of your children. While children may be included in your protective order, it is still likely the offender will have reasonable visitation.
The judge can decide on custody and time-sharing based on what he or she thinks is in the best interest of your child. If the judge finds visitation with the offender may seriously endanger your child’s physical, mental, or emotional health, the judge may order supervised visitation or another arrangement.
Supervised visitation is when the non-custodial parent spends time with his or her child under the supervision of a family member, friend, or professional visitation monitor. The supervisor must see and hear the parent and child interact at all times during visitation.
Monitored exchange is the assisted transfer of a child from one parent to the other, often without parents interacting with each other. Only the exchange is monitored. After a child is transferred, the parent and child have unsupervised visitation.
You and the respondent may be able to agree on a mutual friend or family member to provide supervision for visits or exchanges. If not, there is the option of a neutral third party.
Keep in mind supervised visitation is often only a temporary arrangement.
If you have concerns about your safety or the safety of your child when alone with the respondent, you may ask the judge for a time-sharing assessment by the Friend of the Court’s Office.
When the Friend of the Court’s Office is appointed to your case, a specialist will conduct an assessment by separately interviewing you, the respondent, and the child (if age-appropriate.) The specialist will make a recommendation to the judge about time-sharing. This recommendation is based on how abuse has affected the child and their relationship to each parent.
More About Protective Orders
No Contact & No Violent Contact
What do “no contact” and “no violent contact” mean?
Protective orders are sometimes called “no contact” or “no violent contact” orders depending on what protections you ask for and what the judge grants. Judges may specify what each term means on the order.
“No contact” orders usually include:
- No face-to-face contact
- No contact by phone, text, mail, email, etc.
- No social media contact or content about you
- No written correspondence
- No gifts, flowers, etc.
- No third party contact, meaning the respondent cannot ask someone else to contact you on their behalf
- Restriction of a specific distance from you, up to 500 feet
“No violent contact “ orders the respondent to stop abusive behavior but still allow communication with you. These orders often include:
- No abusive physical contact
- No physically restraining or holding against will
- No threats or harassment
Sometimes the judge will also order the respondent not to follow you or stalk you.
Make sure you understand the conditions of your order before you leave court. You can ask either the judge or a victim advocate any questions you have for clarification.
What if the respondent violates the order?
Violation of a protective order (EPO, TIPO, DVO, IPO) in any way is a serious matter. If the order states “no contact,” there should be no contact between you and the respondent. If the respondent violates the order in any way, you can:
- Call the police to report the violation.
- Go back to the court that issued the order and ask that the respondent be held in contempt of court for violating the order.
- Take your police report to the County Attorney’s Office to file a criminal complaint (see more about criminal court procedures beginning on page 16).
- If there is an emergency and you have concerns about your immediate safety, call 911.
Remember: a protective order cannot be violated unless it has been served. If the respondent is approaching you but has not been served with the order, call 911.
Changing the Order
What if things change after the hearing?
Once an order is in effect, only a judge can change or dismiss it. While the order was issued at your request, it was issued by the court and the conditions of the order can only be changed by a judge. This applies to even temporary changes for emergencies or special events.
If your DVO or IPO states “no contact” and you want to have contact with the respondent, you must request the court amend the order to “no violent contact.” If you have an order for “no violent contact” and there are further problems, return to court to ask for a “no contact order.”
To request a change in the order, you must file a motion by going back to the clerk’s office where you first petitioned for the order. You will be given a court date and both you and the respondent will have to go back in front of the judge to explain the reason for the request.
Dismissing the Order
What if I want to dismiss the order?
Dismissing the order means it will no longer be in effect. Only a judge can dismiss the order. Even if you and the respondent agree the order is no longer needed, you must file a motion for the judge to officially make the decision whether the order is to be dismissed or remain in place.
Dismissing an order does not prohibit you from filing for another order in the future if abuse occurs again.
Extending the Order
What if I want the order for a longer period of time?
Protective orders can be issued for up to three years, as decided by the judge. If you want to extend your DVO or IPO beyond the expiration date, you must file a motion with the court before the order expires and give your reason for the request. It is recommended you file the motion 30 days before the expiration date. You may request the order be extended for up to three years at a time. You can register with VINE to be notified of the order’s expiration date.
What if I go to another state?
Your protective order can be enforced in every state, on tribal lands, and in U.S. Territories. Law enforcement officers should enforce an active order containing both parties’ names whether or not it is certified. However, it is recommended you get the order certified. A certified copy states it is a true and correct copy of the court document and is signed by the court clerk. You can get your order certified at the time it is issued or get a certified copy from the clerk of the court that gave the order. If you no longer live in the area where you got the order, your court clerk, victim advocate, or an attorney should be able to help get a certified copy.
The process of registering an order differs in each state. You can find out more by contacting a domestic violence shelter, court clerk, or local prosecutor in the state to which you are moving.
Does the respondent have to give up his or her firearm?
Federal law prevents some respondents from legally purchasing, possessing, selling, or disposing of firearms. If you have a DVO, the respondent may not own or purchase a gun.
If the judge adds a firearm restriction to the protective order, the Office of the Fayette County Sheriff is responsible for confiscating any firearms from the respondent. The Office of the Fayette County Sheriff can be reached by calling (859) 252-1771.
How is a protective order different from an agreed civil restraining order?
If anyone asks you to dismiss your protective order in exchange for an agreed civil restraining order, you should speak with a victim’s advocate before making any decisions.
While an agreed civil restraining order may include some of the same conditions as a protective order (such as no contact) it does not provide the same protections.
If a respondent violates a protective order, you can call the police and the respondent may be arrested immediately and without a warrant. However, there are no criminal penalties for violation of an agreed civil restraining order, which means the police cannot make an arrest. If an agreed civil restraining order is violated, you will have to file a motion with the court that granted it and ask the judge to hold the respondent in contempt of court.
It is also important to understand an agreed civil restraining order can only be filed in a civil action, such as a divorce or child custody case. If you have no such case, there is no way to file an agreed civil restraining order.