What is the legal definition of domestic violence/abuse in Utah?
This section defines domestic violence and abuse for the purposes of getting a protective order:
- abuse is when a “cohabitant” purposely causes or tries to cause you physical harm; or makes you afraid that you will be physically harmed;*
- domestic violence is when a “cohabitant”:
- commits any criminal offense involving violence, physical harm, or the threat of violence/physical harm;
- makes any attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit a criminal offense involving violence or physical harm; or
- commits or attempts to commit any of the following offenses against you:
- aggravated assault;
- criminal homicide;
- electronic communication harassment;
- kidnapping, child kidnapping, or aggravated kidnapping;
- sexual offenses, including rape, sodomy, and many others; (you can read all of the crimes that are listed under "Title 76, Chapter 5, Part 4" on the Utah State Legislature website);
- sexual exploitation of a minor;
- unlawful detention or unlawful detention of a minor;
- protective order violation;
- any offense against property, including robbery, burglary, criminal trespass and many others; (you can read all of the crimes that are listed under "Title 76, Chapter 6, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3" on the Utah State Legislature website);
- possession of a deadly weapon with intent to assault;
- discharge of a firearm from a vehicle, near a highway, or in the direction of any person, building, or vehicle;
- commission of domestic violence in the presence of a child; or
- disorderly conduct but only if the conviction is the result of a plea agreement in which the defendant was originally charged with any of the domestic violence offenses listed above.**
Note: If you are being abused by someone who you dated but with whom you never lived, you may be eligible for a dating violence protective order (which lasts for 180 days) – see the Utah Courts website for more information. If you are seeking a protective order only for your child (and not also for yourself), your child may be eligible for a child protective order. If you do not qualify for a domestic violence protective order, you may be able to get a civil stalking injunction. You can read more about this type of order on our Stalking Injunctions page.
* UT ST § 78B-7-102(1)
** UT ST §§ 78B-7-102(5); 77-36-1(4)
What types of protective orders are there? How long do they last?
There are two types of protective orders in Utah.
A temporary ex parte protective order can be granted if the judge believes it is necessary to protect you (and any other “protected parties” in your petition) from harm.* If the judge grants an ex parte protective order, s/he will set a date for a hearing within 20 days after the order is issued.*1 If the judge does not grant you an ex parte order, you can still request to have a hearing for a final protective order.*2
A final protective order can be issued only after a court hearing in which both you and the abuser both have a chance to appear in court and present evidence to tell your sides of the story. If the abuser decides not to attend, a protective order can still be granted by the judge (and you still may be required to testify about the incidents in your petition).*3
The length of time that the final protective order lasts depends on the terms of the order. The protective order divides up which terms in the order can lead to "criminal" penalties if violated (the first group listed on the order) and which terms could lead to "civil" penalties if violated (the second group listed on the order). The civil part of the order, dealing with property, custody, etc., will either expire or be reviewed/extended by the judge in 150 days. The criminal part of the order, which deals with the abuser staying away from you, not contacting you, not abusing you, not having firearms, etc., can last forever.*4
However, it is possible that after a certain period of time (usually, after two years but there are exceptions), the abuser can file in court to ask for the order to be dismissed.*4 For more information, go to Can the abuser or I request that the order be dismissed? In addition, if you and the abuser are going through a divorce, this can affect the length of the order. See If I am going through a divorce, will that affect the length of my protective order? for more information.
* UT ST § 78B-7-106(1)(a)
*1 UT ST § 78B-7-107(1)(a)
*2 UT ST § 78B-7-107(3)
*3 UT ST § 78B-7-106(3)
*4 UT ST § 78B-7-115
How can a protective order help me?
In an ex parte protective order, the judge can order that the abuser:
- stop committing or threatening to commit domestic violence or abuse against you and any family or household member named in the order;
- stop harassing, calling, contacting, or communicating with you in any way, including indirect contact;
- be excluded from (leave) your home;
- stay away from your vehicle, home, school, work, and any other place you and the family/household members named in your order go often;
- not purchase, use, or possess a firearm or other weapon specified by the judge (Note: To order this, the judge must find that the abuser’s use or possession of a weapon may pose a “serious threat of harm to you”); and
- give you use of an automobile or any other personal items and order that law enforcement accompany you to your residence to make sure that you are safe while getting possession of these items;
- not interfere with or change the your phone, utility or other services;
- not use alcohol or illegal drugs before or during visitation;
- not take the children out of Utah.*
An ex parte protective order can also include any of the following:
- grant you temporary custody of any minor children you share with the abuser;
- order an attorney to be a guardian ad litem for any minor children to represent their interests;
- order anything else the judge decides is necessary for your safety and the safety of your family or household members; and
- order you and the abuser to provide financial documents at the hearing for a final protective order if you requested child support or spousal support**
In a full (final) protective order, the judge can order:
- all of the protections in numbers 1 through 9 and in numbers 1 through 4, listed above; and
- the following additional protections:
- make arrangements for parenting time (with or without supervision by a third party) or deny parenting time if it is necessary to protect the safety of you or your child;*** and
- child support and/or spousal support .****
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.
In which county can I file for a protective order?
You can file a petition at the district court in the county where you live, in the county where the abuser lives, or in the county where the abuse took place.*
* UT ST § 78B-7-104