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Know the Laws: Utah

UPDATED December 27, 2016

Protective Orders due to Domestic Violence/Abuse

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A protective order is a civil order that provides protection to a victim of domestic violence/abuse from a current or former "cohabitant," which is defined here.

After the hearing

back to topWhat should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some things you may want to consider doing.  However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation.

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse.  If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to correct the order before you leave.
  • If you are concerned that the abuser will harass you when you leave the courthouse, ask the court officer if s/he would escort you to the door of the building.  If you are afraid the abuser may follow you once you leave the courthouse, explain this to the court officer.  The court officer might hold the abuser there for a few minutes while you leave so that you can get a head start, which would make it difficult for the abuser to trail you.  This could be especially important if you are living in a shelter or confidential location and you do not want the abuser to know where you are staying.
  • Make several copies of the protective order as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children's school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number. 

Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving the order.  People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school.  Many batterers obey protective orders, but some do not.  It is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  Click on the following link for suggestions on Staying Safe.  Advocates at local resource centers can also assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support as well.

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back to topI did not get a protective order. What can I do?

If you are not granted a protective order, there are still some things you can do to stay safe.  It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic violence resource centers in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe.  They may be able to help you come up with a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need.  You will find a list of Utah programs on our UT State and Local Programs page.  You will also find information on safety planning on our Staying Safe page.

If you were denied an ex parte protective order, you can still request to have a hearing for a final protective order.*  At the hearing, you may want to present evidence and witnesses to help prove to the judge why you need a protective order.  See Preparing Your Case for more information on how to go about this.  It may also be helpful to have a lawyer.

You can also reapply for a protective order if a new incident of domestic abuse occurs after you are denied the order.

If you were not granted a protective order because your relationship with the abuser does not qualify you for one, you may be able to seek protection through a dating violence protective order (if you are being abused by someone who you dated but with whom you never lived). See the Utah Courts website for more information.  If you are seeking a protective order only for your child (and not also for yourself), your child may be eligible for a child protective order, which you can read more about on the Utah Courts website.  If you do not qualify for a domestic violence protective order, you may be able to get a civil stalking injunction. You can read more about this type of order on our Stalking Injunctions page.  You may also be able to report any criminal behavior to the police.

* UT ST § 78B-7-107(3)

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back to topWhat can I do if the abuser violates the order?

It is a crime and contempt of court if the abuser knowingly violates the order.  Your protective order should indicate which violations are considered a criminal offense and which violations require you to return to court for a civil contempt proceeding.*  You can call the police or sheriff for criminal violations.  An abuser can be arrested, fined and jailed for criminal violations of the order.

Make sure a police report is filled out, even if no arrest is made.  If you have legal documentation of all violations of the protective order, it could help you have the protective order extended or modified.  It is also 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.

If the police do not make an arrest in response to a violation of your protective order or the violation is not a criminal offense, you may still file for civil contempt against the abuser yourself in a district court.  If you feel that that an arrest should have been made by the police but they failed to do so, you can file a complaint through the attorney general’s victim advocacy council.  You can find the complaint form on the Office of the Attorney General website. 

* UT ST § 78B-7-105(1)(b)(ii)

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back to topCan I modify the order?

If you want to have your order modified (changed), you will have to go back to the court where you received the order and file a motion for another hearing.  See the UT Courts website for the necessary form to modify a protective order.

The court can immediately grant the modification ex parte (without the abuser there) if it is necessary to protect you or your children.  Otherwise, the judge will set a date for a hearing where you can make your case for why you are requesting the modification.*  Remember, if the judge does not grant your modification ex parte, you can still request a full hearing on your motion.  Before the hearing, the abuser will be served with a copy of the motion and a request to be present at the hearing.**  You must attend this hearing and tell the judge why the change is necessary.

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back to topCan the abuser or I request that the order be dismissed?

The judge could dismiss the civil protections in an order at any time if one party files a petition to do so and the other side is properly served and has a chance to appear at a hearing.*  

After two years, the abuser can file a motion in court to ask the judge to dismiss the criminal portions of the order and the judge will hold a hearing where both you and the abuser can be present.  The judge can dismiss the order if s/he believes that you no longer have a "reasonable fear of future abuse," which will be determined after the judge considers the following factors:

  • whether the abuser has complied with any treatment recommendations related to domestic violence that were ordered as part of the protective order;
  • whether the protective order was violated;
  • claims of harassment, abuse, or violence by either party during the time the protective order was in force;
  • counseling or therapy undertaken by either party;
  • impact on the well-being of any minor children of the parties, if relevant; and
  • any other relevant factors.**

If either party files in court to dismiss the criminal protections of the order within the first two years, a judge will only do so if you (the victim) personally appear in court and give specific consent to the criminal provisions of the protective order being dismissed (or you must do so in a sworn affidavit).**  However, the court can dismiss a protective order after one year without your consent if the judge finds that all of the following are true:

  • the reason that the protective order was issued no longer exists; 
  • you have repeatedly acted in a way that goes against the terms of the protective order, trying to intentionally or knowingly try to cause the respondent to violate the protective order;
  • your actions show that you no longer have a reasonable fear of the respondent; and
  • the abuser has not been convicted of a protective order violation or any crime of violence since the order was issued (and there are no unresolved charges involving violent conduct still on file with the court).***

Note: Make sure you inform the court of your new address if you move so you can be sure to receive notice of any hearing.****

* UT ST § 78B-7-106(10)
** UT ST § 78B-7-115(1)
*** UT ST §§ 78B-7-105(5)(c); 78B-7-115(2)
**** UT ST § 78B-7-106(6)(c)

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back to topWhat happens if I move?

Your protection order is good anywhere in the state of Utah.  Additionally, federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including all 50 states, U.S. territories and tribal lands.*  Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders.  You can find out about your state's policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor in your area.  You can also find information on our website under Moving to Another State with a Protective Order or Enforcing Your Out-Of-State Order in the state you have moved to (choose your new state from the drop-down menu on the left of the screen).

If you are moving to a new state, you may want to call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111, ext. 2) if you have questions about enforcing your order in another state.

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

* 18 U.S.C. §§ 2265-2266

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back to topIf I am going through a divorce, will that affect the length of my protective order?

Possibly.  If a divorce proceeding is pending between parties to a protective order action, the protective order will be dismissed when the court issues a decree of divorce if all of the following are true:

  1. you are present or you have been given notice in both the divorce and protective order action of the hearing; 
  2. the judge specifically finds that the order does not need to continue; and
  3. you no longer have a "reasonable fear of future abuse."*

If the judge does not dismiss the protective order when the divorce decree is issued, the protective order can automatically expire 10 years from the day that your decree of divorce became absolute or 10 years from the day that the protective order was entered unless:

  • you prove that you have a "reasonable fear of future abuse;" or
  • the abuser has been convicted of a protective order violation or any crime of violence after the protective order was issued.**   

Note: If the abuser was in jail for any part of those 10 years, that time does not count when calculating the 10 years.***

When the judge is determining whether or not you have a "reasonable fear of future abuse," the judge will consider the following factors:

  • whether the abuser has complied with any treatment recommendations related to domestic violence that were ordered as part of the protective order;
  • whether the protective order was violated;
  • claims of harassment, abuse, or violence by either party during the time the protective order was in force;
  • counseling or therapy undertaken by either party;
  • impact on the well-being of any minor children of the parties, if relevant; and
  • any other relevant factors.****

* UT ST § 78B-7-115(5)
** UT ST § 78B-7-115(6)(a),(b)
*** UT ST § 78B-7-115(6)(c)
**** UT ST § 78B-7-115(1)

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