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What to Do When Faced with a Military Protective Order

— April 16, 2021

When MPOs are issued based on baseless allegations of sexual assault or domestic violence, it’s helpful that service members know that they can exhaust available remedies within the military justice system for redress. 

Few forms can incite various emotions in a military service member more than receiving a DD Form 2873, which is more commonly known as a Military Protection Order (MPO). Getting one may often come as a surprise. What could you have possibly done to your partner or to your children to receive such an order over spurious allegations of domestic violence? Again, you’ve recently divorced, and it appears that this could be her way of getting custody of your children. 

Surprise may give way to shock when you get to read all the restrictions imposed by your unit commander. Besides telling you to refrain from contacting your partner and maybe even your children in every form possible, you’re ordered to stay within a considerable distance away from your marital home and your partner’s workplaces. How are you supposed to work things out when you can’t talk or even get close? 

Shock may turn to dismay when you realize you have to move out of your home and transfer to a temporary barracks. You may even feel concerned about how you can participate in training or perform your duties when you’re being stripped of your service firearm. Aside from that, you’re ordered to dispose of all your firearms. How can you serve without your gun? 

Counseling is probably the only thing you agree to the protective order being served, but that doesn’t guarantee that things will get better. An MPO lasts for 31-61 days up to two years, and you are at the mercy of your commanding officer as they call the shots when to lift the protective order. So, what now?

Steps to Take When You Get an MPO 

MPOs are often issued without any hearing, and some may even extend to an undetermined date that has the potential to restrict your movement and interfere with your military career. It may also cause further strain on your family relationships. Worse, it can result in a Court-martial and may even serve as grounds for discharge. 

If you find yourself at the receiving end of a baseless military protective order, here are some steps to take to help you seek redress through military and civil courts.

  1. Comply with the MPO 

While you may disagree with the MPO conditions, you’ll need to comply since it’s essentially an order from your commanding officer. You may contemplate breaking it, but remember that doing so leads to further disciplinary actions against you.

Soldiers in truck; image by Diego González, via
Soldiers in truck; image by Diego González, via

Failure to comply is punishable under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) with non-judicial punishment.

  1. File a UCMJ Article 138 Complaint

Most military members think that there’s no recourse for a military protective order. In truth, Article 138 of the UCMJ allows every military member to file a complaint against their commanding officer if they’ve been wronged in any way. 

You would need to submit a formal written complaint within 90 days for the Army and Marine Corps and 180 days for the Air Force to your commanding officer. 

  1. Exhaust All Avenues

Once your commanding officer receives your complaint, they need to decide whether to grant or deny your request. In case of denial, they would need to inform you of the basis of their decision. 

There are other remedies within the military that you can use to lift the MPO. Using your unit commander’s denial and your previous Article 138 complaint, you can direct it to your immediate supervisor. They’ll then forward it to the officer exercising General Court-Martial Convening Authority (GCMCA) who can decide your request.

  1. Consult a Military Defense Lawyer

If military venues decide against you, you can turn to military defense lawyers for assistance. Apart from showing the Judge Advocate General (JAG) proof that your MPO is detrimental to you and your family, they can help counter false charges and assist you in divorce or custody proceedings. They can also offer legal advice regarding your protective order and even represent you in court. 


Military protective orders (MPO) affect service members and their families in various ways. For instance, they strain personal relationships, tarnish reputations, and hinder careers. When MPOs are issued based on baseless allegations of sexual assault or domestic violence, it’s helpful that service members know that they can exhaust available remedies within the military justice system for redress. 

Suppose subsequent decisions uphold the MPO but become detrimental to the service member and their families. In that case, they can turn to experienced military defense lawyers to help dispel these charges and restore them to active service.

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