What Is a Domestic Relationship Personal Protection Order?
A Domestic Relationship Personal Protection Order (PPO) is a court order to stop threats or violence against you by a person with whom you have a domestic relationship. You have a domestic relationship with a person who is:
- Your current or ex-spouse
- Your child’s other parent
- Someone you live with or used to live with, or
- Someone you have dated
A dating relationship is not a casual friendship or business acquaintance. It is an intimate or affectionate relationship with someone. The relationship could be short or long, and could be recent or in the past.
In your PPO case, you are the Petitioner if you are asking for protection. The abuser is the Respondent.
How Can a Domestic Relationship PPO Help Me?
A Domestic Relationship PPO can help you if someone assaulted or threatened you, or if you have a reasonable fear for your personal liberty or safety. Depending on your situation, your PPO could prohibit the abuser from doing some or all of these things:
- Entering your home or another place
- Assaulting, attacking, beating, molesting, or wounding you or another named person
- Threatening to kill or physically injure you or another named person
- Removing your children from you if you have legal custody of them
- Buying or having a gun
- Interfering with you removing your children or personal property from a place the abuser owns or leases
- Interfering with you at your job or school, or acting in a way that harms your job or school relationships or environment
- Having access to your home address, work address, or telephone number in records that concern a child of both of you
- Stalking you
- Intentionally causing you mental distress or controlling you by harming or threatening to harm an animal you own, taking the animal from you, or keeping it from you
- Any other specific act or behavior that interferes with your personal freedom or makes you reasonably afraid of violence (this could include other specific behaviors that you want the judge to prohibit)
You may ask for specific protections when you fill out your paperwork, but the judge will decide what your order will prohibit.
How Do I Get a Domestic Relationship PPO?
Prepare and File Your Petition
To ask the court for a Domestic Relationship PPO, prepare and file a petition. You can use the Do-It-Yourself Personal Protection Order (PPO) tool to prepare your petition. File the petition at the circuit court in any Michigan county.
If the abuser is a minor, file it in either the county where you live or the county where the abuser lives.
You might be afraid you will be harmed if you don’t get a PPO right away. You might be afraid you will be harmed if the abuser learns you are asking for a PPO. If so, you can ask for an emergency order called an ex parte order. If the judge gives you an ex parte PPO, you won’t have to wait for a hearing to get your order. The abuser won’t know you are asking for a PPO until after you get your order.
An ex parte order is effective as soon as the judge signs it. It is valid for at least 182 days. The order will include the date that it expires. You must arrange for delivery (service) of the ex parte order on the abuser. The police have limited authority to arrest a respondent who violates a PPO but has not been served a copy of the order.
If you did not ask for an ex parte order in your petition, the court will schedule a hearing to decide whether to give you a PPO. Or, if the judge denies your petition for an ex parte order, there will be a hearing if you request one within 21 days.
Before the hearing date, you must have the abuser served with the court papers. For detailed instructions on having them served, go to Filing for a Personal Protection Order — Domestic Relationship, select your county, and find step 6 in the second set of instructions. Step 6 is titled "Have the Respondent served with the documents."
There may also be a hearing if the judge grants you an ex parte order. The abuser can file a motion asking the judge to change or end the ex parte PPO. The abuser must file the motion within 14 days of getting notice of the PPO. If the abuser files a motion to modify or terminate the PPO, there will be a hearing where the judge will decide whether to continue, change, or end the ex parte order.
At a court hearing, you and the abuser will each have the chance to speak and may be able to ask each other questions. You may also be able to call witnesses and show the judge other evidence.
If the court schedules a hearing, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer to represent you. Representing yourself at a hearing is not easy. You must follow the same rules lawyers must follow, such as the Michigan Rules of Evidence.
To learn more about what to expect at a court hearing, see What to Expect When You Go to Court.
What You Need to Prove
To get a Domestic Relationship PPO, you must prove that there is reasonable cause to believe that the abuser might physically hurt you, threaten you, stalk you, or do something else that interferes with your personal liberty or safety.
Reasonable cause is a lower level of proof than what is required in a criminal case.
If you are asking for an ex parte PPO, the judge will make a decision based on your petition alone. The judge will give you a PPO if the judge decides both of these:
- Your petition shows you are entitled to a PPO;
- There would be immediate harm to you in the time it would take to give the abuser notice of a hearing, or the abuser would try to harm you if they learned you were asking for a PPO.
You don't have to have police reports or medical records to get a PPO. But if you do have them, attach copies of them to your petition. They can help the judge understand what has happened to you.
If you have a court hearing, you can present these documents as evidence. Even if you do not have these things, your testimony (what you say in court) is still evidence.
You do not have to have physical signs of abuse or violence to get a PPO.
What Will My PPO Say?
A PPO will state these things:
- That your order is effective immediately and can be enforced anywhere in Michigan
- That once it is served, the PPO may be enforced anywhere else in the United States
- What actions the abuser is prohibited from doing
- When your order expires
- What can happen if the abuser violates your order
- The name of the specific law enforcement agency that will enter your order into the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN)
What Happens After My PPO Is Signed?
Your PPO and petition must be served on the abuser. Your Domestic Relationship PPO is enforceable in Michigan as soon as a judge signs it, even though it has not yet been served on the abuser. Once your order has been served, it can be enforced anywhere in the United States.
There are several ways to serve the PPO and petition, but you are not allowed to serve them yourself. Have the papers served in a way that keeps you safe. Once the PPO has been served, a Proof of Service form must be filed with the court clerk. To learn more, read Serving Your Personal Protection Order.
Staying Safe with a Domestic Relationship PPO
Carry Your Papers
Always keep a copy of your PPO and Proof of Service with you. Keep a second copy in a safe place. You can ask the court clerk for extra copies of the order to give to your children’s schools or daycare providers, your place of work, and others who need to know about it.
Your chances of being hurt by the abuser may increase when you leave an abusive relationship or when you seek legal help. Planning for your safety ahead of time can help. Your safety plan might include things like where you will go or who you will call if you feel threatened. It can include important telephone numbers, an escape plan, and checklists of important things to take with you when you leave the abuser. Visit Community Services to find contact information for your local domestic violence agency. In addition to other services, they can help you consider your safety options and make a safety plan.
Enforcing Your Domestic Relationship PPO
You might be tempted for many reasons to agree to behavior by the abuser that violates your PPO. Maybe you feel safe now that you have the order. Maybe the abuser promises that things will be different. The abuser may ask to come to your house to pick up the children, but your PPO prohibits the abuser from coming to your house. Whatever the reason, you should not agree to behavior that violates your PPO. The abuser can be arrested for behavior that violates your PPO even if you have agreed to it.
If you want to change your PPO before it expires, you must go back to court and ask to change it. You can do this by filing a motion to modify the PPO. To prepare your motion, use the Do-It-Yourself Motion to Modify, Extend, or Terminate a Personal Protection Order (PPO) tool.
If the abuser violates your PPO, you can call the police and report the violation. Your local domestic violence agency can give you support and information about enforcing your order. You can file a motion to enforce your PPO after a violation. For more information, read Personal Protection Order Violations and Enforcement. You can use the Do-It-Yourself Motion to Enforce PPO after Violation to prepare your motion.
Finding a Lawyer
You might decide you want a lawyer to help you. If you have low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have a low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area. If you are not able to get free legal services but can’t afford high legal fees, consider hiring a lawyer for part of your case instead of the whole thing. This is called limited scope representation. To learn more, read Limited Scope Representation (LSR): A More Affordable Way to Hire a Lawyer. To find a limited scope lawyer, follow this link to the State Bar of Michigan lawyer directory. This link lists lawyers who offer limited scope representation. You can narrow the results to lawyers in your area by typing in your county, city, or zip code at the top of the page. You can also narrow the results by topic by entering the kind of lawyer you need (divorce, estate, etc.) at the top of the page.