Domestic violence is one of the most dangerous and potentially fatal problems in our society. Domestic violence affects all communities, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or age. As in other jurisdictions, instances of domestic violence are increasing within the District of Columbia.

Although men can be victims of domestic violence, an overwhelming number of victims are women. Domestic violence raises safety and economic concerns, particularly for women. However, there is help available to victims of domestic violence.

Frequently Asked Questions -- Domestic Violence

I am a victim of domestic violence.  How can I protect myself and my children?

Keeping yourself and your family safe is essential.

One safety tool is a civil protection order (“CPO”).  CPOs are granted by the court in an effort to ensure the safety of the petitioner (victim) from the respondent (offender). CPOs essentially order the respondent to stop abusing or threatening to abuse the victim and to stay away from that person.

There are two types of CPOs: 1) temporary civil protection orders and 2) final civil protection orders. Temporary CPOs are effective for no more than 14 days, whereas final CPOs are effective for no more than 1 year unless extended for good cause.

Why should I get a civil protection order?

Among other things, CPOs can grant any or all of the following forms of relief:

  • Award either party temporary custody of the minor children.
  • Award either party visitation with the minor children.
  • Award child support for 1 year based upon the Child Support Guidelines.
  • Award monetary relief to the petitioner (e.g., rent or mortgage payments, reimbursement for property damage, payment of medical bills, etc.).

How can I obtain a civil protection order?

A person can file for a CPO by completing a petition for civil protection and returning it to the DC Superior Court Domestic Violence Clerk’s Office.

Another option is to visit the Domestic Violence Intake Center (“DVIC”) in the DC Superior Court to speak with an intake specialist. The DVIC intake specialist will gather information to complete a petition for civil protection and then will submit this information to the DC Office of the Attorney General, Domestic Violence Section. An Assistant Attorney General will be assigned to the case and will appear with the victim at the CPO hearing.

A domestic violence victim also may retain private counsel, at their own expense, for representation in this matter.

How do I get child support when I file for a civil protection order?

CSSD has a case management specialist who works with the DVIC to assist people who want a CPO and child support. This CSSD staff member works with the parent to gather the information necessary to begin a parentage establishment and/or child support case in DC Superior Court.

Is it necessary to bring a parentage case even if the child(ren)'s other parent is known?

In order to establish an order for child support, parentage must be established first. This is necessary because only the people with a legal duty to provide for the child(ren) are responsible for child support. Click here for more information about parentage establishment.

How does the court calculate child support?

The court uses the Child Support Guidelines (“Guidelines”) in order to calculate support (financial and medical). The Guidelines take into account both parents’ incomes. Income can be proven in a variety of ways, including with pay stubs, tax returns, and W-2 forms.

How long does child support last if it is awarded in a CPO?

CPOs last for up to 1 year.  If the court awards child support in the CPO, the support obligation will expire when the CPO expires. Therefore, child support awarded in the CPO lasts for no longer than 1 year, and it will be important for the child's custodian to seek support for the period after the CPO ends, if desired.

If I receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (“TANF”), do I have to pursue child support even if I have a CPO?

TANF recipients are required to cooperate with CSSD in the establishment of parentage and in the establishment and enforcement of child support. However, in domestic violence cases, a “good cause” exception may apply. The law does not require a domestic violence victim to cooperate with the child support agency to pursue support if there is a safety risk. 

Note that the good cause exception is not automatic; approval is necessary. In these instances, it is best to speak with the assigned CSSD case management specialist about seeking a good cause exception so that TANF benefits are not suspended for failure to cooperate with child support efforts.

For More Information Contact:

The Domestic Violence Intake Center
             DC Superior Court
             500 Indiana Avenue, NW
             Room 4550
             Washington, DC 20001
             (202) 879-0152

Southeast Satellite Center
             1328 Southern Avenue, SE 
             Room 311
             Washington, DC 20032
             (202) 561-3000