If you are a victim and your abuser has a gun or you feel unsafe for other reasons, it is important to work with a victim advocate. The following organizations can help you find an advocate free of charge:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE;
- VictimConnect at (855) 484-2846;
- Any of the local domestic violence programs listed here.
It is also helpful to have a lawyer assist you, particularly when you are seeking a domestic violence protective order. You can find a lawyer using the Delaware Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, information about free- and low-cost legal help is available from Delaware Legal Help Link.
How to Get Protection
What kind of domestic violence protective orders are available in Delaware?
Delaware courts can issue two types of domestic violence protective orders. In both of these orders, the court can help protect you from gun violence or threats of gun violence by an intimate partner:
- Emergency (ex parte) orders1*
- Protection from abuse orders2*
Courts can prohibit respondents* to emergency (ex parte*) orders from purchasing or possessing* firearms and require them to get rid of their firearms immediately or within 24 hours of being served* with order.3 All respondents to protection from abuse orders are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, and courts can order them to get rid of any firearms they have immediately or within 24 hours of being served.4
How can you get a protective order?
Click here to see if you are eligible for a protective order in Delaware.
You can find your local court here.
Court forms and Delaware’s official guide to the Protection from Abuse process can be found here.
What do I do if I do not qualify for protection as a victim of domestic violence but I still need protection from someone? If you do not qualify for protection as a victim of domestic violence but need protection from someone (including a stranger, an acquaintance, or another person not covered under a domestic violence protection order), you might qualify for some other type of order. Contact VictimConnect at (855) 484-2846 or a lawyer for more information. You can find a lawyer using the Delaware Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, information about free- and low-cost legal help is available from Delaware Legal Help Link.
How can the court help protect you?
In Delaware, courts issuing emergency (ex parte *) orders may order respondents* to turn over their firearms to the police or to a federally-licensed firearms dealer. When a court orders the respondent to turn over their firearms, the court will also tell the respondent he/she/they are not allowed to purchase or possess* firearms while the order is in effect.5 All respondents to protection from abuse orders are prohibited from possessing or purchasing guns for as long as the order lasts.6 Courts can order respondents to turn over their firearms to the police or to a federally-licensed firearms dealer.7 If the court orders the respondent to hand over their firearms, the respondent will have to:
- Turn over their firearms to:
- If the police officer serving the order asks for them, to the officer serving the order; or
- If the officer serving the order does not ask for the firearms, to the police or a federally-licensed firearms dealer within 24 hours of being served* with the order; and
- Within 48 hours of being served, file proof with the court that they have turned their firearms over as ordered.8
At the petitioner’s request, sometimes courts provide additional protections from gun violence, such as:
- Ordering law enforcement to retrieve the respondent’s firearms;
- Requiring the respondent to appear before the court to self-report turning over their firearms as ordered;9
- Directing law enforcement to follow up with the respondent to make sure the respondent turned over their guns as ordered;
- Scheduling a follow up compliance hearing* to ensure that the respondent has not accessed additional firearms since the order was issued;
- Ordering law enforcement to go to your home at scheduled times to check in on your safety;
- If the guns are shared marital property, the court can order the sale of the guns and divide the money between you;
- Ordering the respondent to stay away from you, your children, your family, and anyone else in immediate danger, based on the threats and/or actions of the respondent;
- Ordering the respondent not to hurt you or threaten to hurt you in the future;
- Anything else you need to be safe.10
How will the court know what you need to protect you from the respondent’s firearms violence?
In your petition* and during any of the hearings* you participate in when you are seeking protection, you will have the opportunity to tell the court about the respondent’s* threats or acts of abuse, especially ones involving firearms. Every situation is different, and it is important to talk to a lawyer about your specific situation. You can find a lawyer using the Delaware Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, information about free- and low-cost legal help is available from Delaware Legal Help Link.
Your story will help the court decide what relief* to give you. Whether you are filling out court forms or speaking directly to the court, it is important to tell the court about the violence you experienced (working with your lawyer if you have one), especially if the respondent used or threatened to use a firearm against you, a member of your family, any member of the community, or your pet. This includes telling the court:
- About incidents of physical violence or threats of physical violence and include dates wherever you can;
- How the respondent used firearms to hurt or threaten you, your family, your pet(s), or anyone in the community;
- If you fear that the respondent may use firearms violence or threats of firearms violence in the future;
- If the respondent has threatened to harm him/her/themself. This may be a sign that the respondent intends to use a dangerous weapon like a firearm against you, themself, or other people;
- If you can, the type(s), number, and location of firearms the respondent has access to.