What is domestic violence?

Connecticut law defines domestic abuse or “family violence” as: (1) an act that results in physical harm, bodily injury, or assault; or (2) a violent threat that causes fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46b-38a(1)). Verbal threats by themselves do not trigger the law’s protections unless there is “a present danger and the likelihood that physical violence will occur.”

Do domestic violence laws apply to people in same-sex relationships?

Yes, depending on how serious you and your partner are or were. Connecticut’s family violence law applies to abuse between “family or household members,” a definition which includes spouses and ex- spouses, people are or were residing in the same household, people who have a child together, and people who are in or have recently been in a dating relationship (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46b-38a(2)).

How do I get a court order protecting me from an abusive partner?

You can get a court order from the Family Court, which will prohibit the abuser from coming near you or your home, or from harassing you any further (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46b-15(b)). It may also include temporary custody or visitation rights, protections for your children, and protections for any animals you may own (Id). An order will only be issued if the court finds you have been subjected to “a continuous threat of present physical pain and injury” (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46b-15). Orders may be granted on an emergency basis.

The process is intended to be simple. You may go to court nearest where you live, or if you have fled your home, in the town where you used to live. You will need to fill out an application alleging “abuse” as defined above, along with an affidavit providing the details. The affidavit is signed under oath, so everything you say must be true. Try to demonstrate in as much detail as possible why you feel threatened.

The defendant/abuser must then be served with (given a copy of) the court order, and notified of their right to contest the order in court. You may wish to have an attorney represent you during this part of the process, especially if you think custody or visitation issues may arise in court. You should bring with you any witnesses who can substantiate the abuse, as well as copies of threatening letters, medical records, or any other documents that can show how you have been harmed and why you are afraid. Expect to be asked questions by the judge and the attorney for the abuser/defendant. You have the same right to ask questions.

Once the order is issued, it is effective statewide. Violation of a court order is a criminal offense (see generally, Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46b-15 (c)). The court may grant orders of protection for up to 6 months in duration, and those orders may later be extended (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46b-15(d)).

If for some reason you decide not to go through with the legal process, you should show up in court anyway and ask that the order be dismissed.  If you don’t show up, it is possible the court will think of you as unreliable if you need legal help in the future.

There is another type of order available called a “protective” order. It is issued automatically when an assailant is arrested and requires no contact to occur between the assailant and victim.

There are other laws that prohibit stalking, harassing and trespassing which may apply to you, but are beyond the scope of this document.

What is “Jennifer’s Law”?

A domestic violence bill coined “Jennifer’s Law” in honor of New Canaan mother, Jennifer Dulos, was signed into law in 2021.

The law expands the definition of domestic violence to include “coercive control.” This means that threatening, humiliating, or intimidating acts that harm a person and deprive them of their freedom will now be considered domestic violence.

It will establish a new program to provide legal representation for domestic violence victims who file restraining orders. Those who file restraining orders will also be faced with a more efficient process, with the capability to email marshals the forms needed to serve them.

Victims of domestic violence will also now be allowed to testify remotely in court proceedings for matters such as restraining orders, protective orders, or standard criminal protective orders. The bill requires that a safe place be provided to victims of family violence in all court locations built after July 1, 2021.

For more information, see: Substitute Senate Bill No. 1091 – Public Act No. 21-78.

Where can I go to get help?

In addition to the local police, district attorney, and Superior Court you can contact:

Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV)

(860) 282-7899 or Toll-Free (888) 774-2900


Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services

(860) 282-9881 or Toll-Free (888) 999-5545 (English)

888-568-8332 (Español).


Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF)

(860) 524-0601 or Toll-Free (800) 479-2949


Does domestic violence play a role in custody decisions?

It may, but there is no law saying that it should. It is a factor which affects the best interests of the child analysis.