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New Law in Kentucky Establishes Civil Protective Orders for Dating Violence, Sexual Violence, and Stalking Victims

Tuesday, February 9, 2016 by Kristin Russell

As of January 1, 2016, and for the first time in Kentucky, a boyfriend or girlfriend can now petition the court for protection when dating violence or abuse has occurred in a dating relationship. The court may issue what is called an ” Interpersonal Protective Order” (IPO) to protect victims of dating violence and abuse. Victims of sexual assault or stalking, or an adult on behalf of a minor victim may also apply for an IPO. Some criminal convictions even operate as an automatic application for an IPO.

This new law presents new issues for courts to consider including whether the parties are actually in a dating relationship. For example, are you still in a “dating relationship” with your old high school sweetheart? Are you in a “dating relationship” with someone you just started texting? What about someone you’ve gone to dinner with twice? Is a one-night stand a “dating relationship”? The legislature gave us some guidance in defining the term “dating relationship,” but much is left for interpretation.

How Does Kentucky Law Define A “Dating Relationship?”

“Dating relationship” is defined by KRS 456.010 as a “relationship between individuals who have or have had a relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.”


  • Casual acquaintanceship
  • Ordinary fraternization in a business or social context


The following factors may be considered in addition to any other relevant factors in determining whether the relationship is or was of a romantic or intimate nature:

  • Declarations of romantic interest;
  • The relationship was characterized by the expectation of affection;
  • Attendance at social outings together as a couple;
  • The frequency and type of interaction between the persons, including whether the persons have been involved together over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship;
  • The length and recency of the relationship; and
  • Other indications of a substantial connection that would lead a reasonable person to understand that a dating relationship existed;

What Changes Did The New Dating Violence Law Make?

Under the old domestic violence law, you could only file for protection from a “family member” or “member of an unmarried couple.” The court could issue a “domestic violence order” (DVO) upon a finding of domestic violence, but the remedy was unavailable to those victims of a violent dating relationship. KRS 403.270 defines the terms “Family member,” and “Member of an unmarried couple.”

“Family member” was previously defined as a spouse, including a former spouse, a grandparent, a parent, a child, a stepchild, or any other person living in the same household as a child if the child is the alleged victim. (The new law expanded the definition of “family member” to include a grandchild.)

“Member of an unmarried couple” means each member of an unmarried couple which allegedly has a child in common, any children of that couple, or a member of an unmarried couple who are living together or have formerly lived together. This definition applies to same-sex couples who are living together, but not mere roommates. See Ireland v. Davis, 957 S.W.2d 310 (Ky. Ct. App. 1997) and Wright v. Commonwealth, 391 S.W.3d 743 (Ky. 2012).

Kentucky’s dating violence law is new and has yet to be tested. How courts will interpret and apply this law, as well as the law’s impact on victims and those accused, remains to be seen.