WomensLaw serves and supports all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

Legal Information: Federal

Domestic Violence in the Military

View all
Laws current as of June 21, 2024

What options do victims have for protection orders? What are the major differences between a military protective order and a civilian protection order?

In both the military and civilian justice systems, you can seek a protection order requiring the abuser to stay away from you, your children, your home, your workplace, your school, and to not commit any violent acts against you. Civil protection orders have different names in the various states, but the military protective orders (MPOs) are consistently called that among all the Services. You can have both an MPO and a civil protection order (CPO) at the same time. An MPO cannot go against (contradict) or be less restrictive than a CPO.

However, the procedure for getting an MPO and a CPO and how long the orders may last are quite different in both systems. When a commander is issuing an MPO, the abuser does not have to be served with notice, does not have the right to a hearing, and does not have the right to testify. An MPO is issued by a commander to an active-duty Service member to protect a victim of domestic abuse, child abuse, or sexual assault and to control the abuser’s behavior.  A victim, victim advocate, installation law enforcement officer, or a Family Advocacy Program (FAP) clinical provider may request that a commander issue an MPO. If you are concerned for the safety of your children while you seek safety from domestic violence, be sure to work with your victim advocate to address this issue.

If you have an MPO and you live outside the military installation, it is important to know that civilian law enforcement cannot legally enforce the MPO. However, MPOs must be entered into the National Crime Information Center database by military law enforcement, which makes them visible to civilian law enforcement. Civilian law enforcement may, but are not required to, contact the Service member’s command to inform them of the breach of an MPO. Civilian law enforcement can only legally enforce CPOs. See our Military Protective Orders section for more information on MPOs, including enforcement of MPOs.