Know the Laws:
UPDATED April 18, 2011
This page includes information about military protective orders and their protection on military bases. For help please see the Military page in the National Organizations section of this website.
Unit commanders may issue Military Protective Orders (MPOs) to an active duty Service member to protect a victim of domestic abuse/ violence or child abuse (the victim could be a Service member or a civilian). To qualify, you must be in a heterosexual relationship with the abuser and be the spouse/ ex-spouse, current or former intimate partner, or have a child in common. A victim, victim advocate, installation law enforcement agency, or FAP clinician may request a commander to issue an MPO.*
MPOs may order the abuser (referred to as "the subject") to:
Commanders may tailor the order to meet your specific needs.*
An MPO is only enforceable while the Service member is attached to the command that issued the order. When the Service member is transferred to a new command, the order will no longer be valid. If the victim still believes that the MPO is necessary to keep him or her safe, the victim, a victim advocate, a FAP staff member may ask the commander who issued the MPO to contact the new commander to advise him or her of the MPO and to request the issuance of a new one.** The commander who issued the MPO is supposed to recommend to the new command that a new MPO is issued when the Service member is transferred to a new command and an MPO is still necessary to protect the victim.***
Civilian abusers cannot be subject to MPOs. They may only be subject to a civil protection order issued by a state or tribal court. However, a commanding officer may order that the civilian abuser stay away from the installation.*
Make sure that you get the MPO in writing from the commanding officer so that you can have it with you at all times.
* "The Military Response to Victims of Domestic Violence, Tools for Civilian Advocates," published by the Battered Women's Justice Project, www.bwjp.org
** Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, August 21, 2007
*** Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06, August 21, 2007, section 18.104.22.168
You are eligible to file for a MPO against an active duty member of the military who has abused you or your children and who is your spouse/ ex-spouse, intimate partner you live(d) with (but not a same-sex partner), or someone you have a child in common with. An MPO will be ordered if the commander agrees to it.** Department of Defense website, Glossary
Currently, only victims in heterosexual relationships can get help from the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) and/or receive a military protective order ("MPO"). However, with President Obama's repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, effective in September 2011, it is expected that soon, victims in homosexual relationships will be entitled to benefits and services that were only available to married heterosexual couples. WomensLaw.org will provide more information on the specific benefits available to homosexual couples as soon as the information is available.
MPOs are generally short term and can last as little at 10 days.* An MPO is generally issued for the period of time that it will take the FAP to investigate your claims and to provide the commander additional information. The victim advocate at your installation will know how long it generally takes for the FAP’s CRC to provide the commander with the results of their investigation so you may want to ask the commander to take that time frame into account when issuing the MPO.
Your MPO may or may not have an expiration date. However, whether it has an expiration date or not, the commanding officer may review the MPO at any time to change it or dissolve (end) it.*
Also, an MPO is only enforceable while the Service member is attached to the command that issued the order. When the Service member is transferred to a new command, the order will no longer be valid. If you still need the protection of an MPO, the commander who issued the MPO should contact the new commander to advise him or her of the MPO and recommend that a new one be issued.**
Unlike civilian court, there is no trial or hearing. You will not have to appear in front of a judge. You will not have to testify in front of the abuser or even be in the same room as him/her.
The commander is the one who decides whether or not to issue an MPO. The commander may or may not meet with you before issuing the MPO. Often times, the victim advocate at the FAP may call the commander on your behalf to ask for the MPO. If the commander does want to meet with you before granting the MPO, you might go to his/her office or meet him/her at the FAP or the local precinct. If the commander has a reasonable belief that an MPO is necessary to protect you, one will be issued.
Most likely the commander will issue an MPO if recommended by [the] FAP as part of its review of the case. However, if you are not granted a MPO, you might still be eligible for a civil protective or restraining order issued by your home state, or the state you are currently living in. Unlike civil protective order proceedings, there is no real appeal process in the Military if you are denied an MPO or if you disagree with the decision of the commanding officer. You can seek assistance in a variety of ways if the MPO is denied, and you can continue to inform the commander of further abuse, but you cannot "appeal" the decision.
Visit the Restraining Orders page for your state on this website under the Know the Laws tab at the top of the page to find out if you may be eligible for a civil restraining order.
Please note that even though there is a law requiring military bases to enforce protective orders and civil restraining orders, this law may not be fully enforced. See "Are MPOs and civil protective orders (CPOs) valid where ever I go?"