The Difference Between an EPO & a Restraining Order in Kentucky

Related Articles

When someone in Kentucky is the victim of domestic violence or elder abuse, she can pursue an emergency protective order (EPO) as well as a restraining order. The process must be carried out through the complainant’s local branch of circuit court. The Kentucky Attorney General’s office website notes that there are specific guidelines that apply to both types of protective orders.


The Commonwealth of Kentucky charges no fees to issue or serve any type of restraining order. If you choose to hire an attorney to represent you, those fees are usually your responsibility.

EPO Time Frame and Process

If someone is in immediate danger, that person’s local circuit court judge or magistrate can quickly issue an EPO. This ensures that the complainant is legally protected from the alleged abuser's contacting her for a 14-day period. In Kentucky, the circuit court deals with serious criminal, civil, and family-related issues such as domestic violence. You visit the circuit court clerk’s office during regular business hours to obtain an EPO. If it is a weekend and you feel in immediate danger, you should call your local police.

If you share a residence with the person abusing you, an EPO compels him to immediately leave the property. Additionally, if you have children with the person named in the EPO, the order automatically grants you temporary custody until a court hearing can be set to better settle such issues.

Domestic Violence Order (DVO) Time Frame and Process

In Kentucky, a more permanent restraining order is called a domestic violence order (DVO). These require a hearing, which usually happens within 14 days of the EPO being issued. The defendant can choose not to show up in court to contest the restraining order; a restraining order itself is not a criminal charge, but a civil matter.

During a hearing, you will be asked to describe any incidents of physical or sexual abuse as well as other abusive activities such as threats or theft of household items. If you have witnesses, police reports, or photographs it may be a good idea to have such supporting evidence on the day of your hearing.

If a judge or magistrate grants your DVO, the term of protection can range anywhere from one to three years.

Child Custody Cases and Restraining Orders

While a DVO or EPO should not be requested unless serious threats of harm or incidents of violence have occurred, a Kentucky DVO can include some additional, long-lasting ramifications toward the defendant if the judge so chooses. A judge or magistrate can order the defendant to move out of any shared residence (if he has not already done so) and also to not destroy or give away any property of the complainant.

If a judge feels the defendant poses a serious risk, he can order that the complainant be granted temporary custody and temporary child support. He can also compel the alleged abuser to get counseling, but could also require the complainant to get counseling. Permanent custody matters are usually decided in a separate court case and may require the expertise of a lawyer.

No Contact Guidelines

No contact is a major part of the Kentucky DVO and EPO; it enables the domestic violence victim to not be harassed or threatened by her abuser. However, this does not guarantee that the defendant will not choose to try to get in touch with the person. If someone violates your Kentucky restraining order, you should call the police as well as the appropriate Kentucky circuit court clerk’s office. If someone violates an EPO or DVD in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, that is a misdemeanor crime. The complainant can choose to contact the defendant, and if she decides to reverse the DVO then she must return to the circuit court clerk’s office to complete the required paperwork.