Variation in State Laws on Access to Civil Protection Orders for Adolescents Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence

J Adolesc Health. 2020 May;66(5):610-615. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2019.11.311. Epub 2020 Jan 20.


Purpose: Intimate partner violence (IPV) is prevalent among adolescents. Civil protection orders (CPOs) are the most common legal remedy used by individuals experiencing IPV to prevent recurrence. However, laws on whether adolescents can access CPOs vary by state. We assessed the landscape of state legislation regarding adolescents' access to CPOs for IPV.

Methods: We systematically assessed statutes across all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia for 5 indicators: whether minors can be granted CPOs, whether minors can file on their own behalf, whether dating relationships are eligible, definitions of abuse qualifying for CPOs, and whether a CPO prohibits firearm possession and requires surrender of firearms.

Results: A total of 48 states (94%) explicitly allow minors to obtain CPOs. Fourteen states (27%) explicitly allow minors to file for a CPO on their own behalf. Forty-four states (86%) recognize dating relationships as qualifying relationships for a CPO. A CPO may be issued for physical violence in all 51 states (100%), sexual violence in 46 states (90%), threats of physical or sexual violence in 47 states (92%), stalking in 44 states (86%), and psychological/emotional violence in 28 states (55%). In 22 states (43%), an individual subject to a CPO is prohibited from possessing firearms and is required to surrender firearms they already have.

Conclusions: There is a significant variation in states' CPO statutes related to adolescent IPV. Improvements in legislation that reduce the barriers to legal relief for those experiencing violence can be an important part of a comprehensive solution to reducing IPV among adolescents.

Keywords: Adolescents; Civil protection orders; Intimate partner violence; State laws.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • District of Columbia
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Intimate Partner Violence* / prevention & control
  • Sex Offenses*
  • Violence