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Know the Laws: Vermont

UPDATED March 29, 2017

Relief from Abuse Orders

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A relief from abuse order is a civil order that provides protection from a family or household member.

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Vermont?

This section defines domestic abuse for the purposes of getting a relief from abuse order.  Domestic abuse means the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members:

  • attempting to cause or causing physical harm;
  • placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm;
  • abuse to children;
  • stalking; or
  • sexual assault.*

* 15 VT ST T. § 1101

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back to topWhat is a relief from abuse order?

A relief from abuse order is a court order that is designed to stop violent, harassing and threatening behavior.  It can also stop the abuser from any contact or communication with you, and protect you and your family from the abuser.*

* 15 VT ST T. § 1101

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back to topWhat types of relief from abuse orders are available? How long do they last?

There are temporary relief from abuse orders and permanent relief from abuse orders.

In general, a temporary relief from abuse order offers you protection from the time you file your complaint until the court hearing that you must have in order to receive a permanent relief from abuse order, which usually takes place within 10 days.  Temporary relief from abuse orders can be granted if the judge believes that defendant has abused you and/or your children and that there is a danger of further abuse.*  To read more about what types of protection you can get in a temporary relief from abuse order, go to How can a relief from abuse order protect me?

The temporary relief from abuse order can be an ex parte order, which means it is given without the knowledge of the abuser or his/her presence in the courtroom.  However, s/he will know about it when the court "serves" him/her with (gives him a copy of) the order, and the order is not enforceable until it is served.  Note: If the judge denies your request for an ex parte temporary order, you are supposed to be notified of the judge's reasons for the denial in writing.  You will then have 5 business days to request that the court still hold a hearing within 10 days for you to request a permanent order.  The abuser will be notified and have a chance to appear in court to object to the order.**

A permanent relief from abuse order is designed to offer you longer-lasting and more comprehensive protection than a temporary relief from abuse order.  A permanent relief from abuse order can be issued only after the abuser receives notice of the hearing, and you and the abuser both have a chance to tell your sides of the story.  You can present evidence and witnesses to prove you were abused and it may be best to be represented by a lawyer, especially if the abuser has one.  Go to our VT Finding a Lawyer page for free and paid legal referrals.  Most relief from abuse orders expire after one year, but you may be able to have it extended.***  Please see our Can a relief from abuse order be modified (changed) or extended? page for more information.

If you don't qualify for a relief from abuse order, you can get more information about stalking and sexual assault prevention orders on our page called I was not granted a relief from abuse order. Is there another order I can get?

* VT ST T. 15 § 1104(a)
** V.R.F.P. Rule 9(e)
*** VT ST T. 15 § 1103(e)

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back to topHow can a relief from abuse order protect me?

A temporary relief from abuse order can:

  • order the abuser to stop abusing and interfering with the personal liberty of you and/or your children;
  • order the abuser to stay a certain distance away from you, your children, your home, and your work;
  • order the abuser to not mistreat or kill any animal (pet) owned or possessed by you, the defendant, or a minor child living in the household;
  • If the abuser forced you and/or your children out of the home and you have no where to go, the judge can order the defendant to immediately leave the home and order that you have sole possession of the home; and
  • grant you temporary custody of your children if the judge believes that there is an immediate danger of physical or emotional harm to the children.*
A permanent relief from abuse order can:
  • order the abuser to stop contacting you and/or your children;
  • order the abuser to stay away from you and/or your children, your work, children's school or other locations you specify;
  • order the abuser to stop abusing and interfering with the personal liberty of you and/or your children;
  • order the abuser to immediately leave the home you share with him/her and give you sole possession of the home;
  • award temporary rights and responsibilities (temporary custody) of minor children to you and give the defendant parent-child contact under such conditions as are necessary to protect the you and/or the children from abuse;
  • order the abuser to pay you spousal support for up to three months;
  • order the abuser to pay you child support for up to three months;
  • decide the possession, care and control of any animal owned or kept by you, the abuser, or a child in the home;
  • order that the defendant return to you any personal documentation in his/her possession, including immigration documentation, birth certificates, and identification cards for you and/or your children;** and
  • anything else you need to keep you and/or your children safe.
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.

* VT ST T. 15 § 1104(a)
** VT ST T. 15 § 1103(c)(2)

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back to topIn which county can I file for a relief from abuse order?

You can file a petition in the county where you live.  If you’ve left home to avoid further abuse, you can file the petition in the county where you lived previously, or in the county where you currently live.*  However, if you are trying to keep your address confidential, filing in the county where you have fled to would likely not be a good idea since it would alert the abuser to the fact that you are living in that county.

* VT ST T. 15 § 1102(c)

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