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Legal Information: Federal

Domestic Violence in the Military

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Laws current as of June 21, 2024

What is a military protective order (MPO)?

A military protective order (MPO) is an order issued by an active-duty Service member’s command that can prohibit the Service member from contacting or communicating with a protected person or members of the protected person’s family or household. It is a tool that can be used by command to help keep you and your children safe if you have experienced domestic abuse or your child has been the victim of child abuse by a Service member. You, a victim advocate, an installation law enforcement agency, or Family Advocacy Program (FAP) clinician can ask the commander to issue an MPO.

An MPO is enforceable by the Service member’s commander. When the Service member is transferred to a new command, the commander is required to notify the new command of the order and recommend the continuation of the MPO when it is still needed.

Therefore, if you believe that an MPO is still necessary for your protection, be sure to contact the commander who issued the MPO or have your victim advocate or the FAP contact the commander on your behalf.

Note: If the new command decides to continue the MPO after the transfer, it is the commander’s responsibility to notify civilian authorities of the MPO.

Who is I eligible to get a military protective order (MPO)?

If you or your child are the victim of domestic abuse or child abuse, you can request an MPO against an active duty member of the military who you believe has harmed you or your children and who is:

  • your current or former spouse;
  • your current or former intimate partner who you share or have shared a home with;
  • someone you are or have been in a romantic or intimate partner relationship with; or
  • someone you share a child in common with.1

Ultimately, it would be up to the commander to order an MPO if s/he has a reasonable belief that the MPO is necessary for your safety.

1 See Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06

What protections can I get in a military protective order (MPO)?

The MPO can make the Service member do certain things and can also prohibit certain behaviors. MPOs may order the abuser, referred to as “the subject,” to:

  • have no contact or communication with you or members of your family or household, including:
    • face-to-face;
    • by telephone;
    • in writing;
    • by email;
    • through social media; or
    • through a third party;
  • stay away from the family home, whether it is on or off the installation;
  • stay away from your children’s schools, child development centers, youth programs, and your place of employment;
  • move into government quarters (barracks);
  • leave any public place if you are in the same location or facility;
  • do certain activities or stop doing certain activities;
  • attend counseling; and
  • surrender his/her government-issued weapons.1

Commanders may tailor the order to meet your specific needs so be sure to let the commander know what would best protect you.1

Civilian abusers are not subject to MPOs. They may only be subject to a civil protection order (CPO) issued by a state or tribal court. However, an installation commander can bar the civilian abuser from the installation, which could help to protect you if you live on the installation.1

Make sure that you get a copy of the MPO from the commanding officer so that you are aware of restrictions placed on the Service member. It is important you have it with you at all times.

1 See Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06

How long does an MPO last?

The time frame of an MPO is indefinite, meaning there may not be a specific end date written on it. This means that it will last until the commanding officer terminates the order. 1

The commanding officer may review the MPO at any time to change or end (terminate) it.

When the Service member is transferred to a new command, the commander is required to notify the new command of the order and recommend the continuation of the MPO when it is still needed.  Additionally, the new command is required to notify civilian authorities of the MPO.1

1Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6400.06

Can my pet be included in an MPO?

Military-connected victims may request that their military protective order (MPO) include pet protection by mentioning their animals under Section 7(m), “Other specific provisions of this order” on DD Form 2873. Victims may also choose to include information regarding pets, including threats or harm to animals by the abuser, under Section 5 of the MPO form, “Information supporting issuance of this Military Protective Order.”1

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) recognizes how an abuser might use pets as a means to intimidate and threaten victims, and it makes communicating threats to injure a victim’s pet a crime.2

1 Military Protective Order, DD FORM 2873, February 2020
210 U.S. Code § 928b - Art. 128b10 U.S. Code § 915 - Art. 115