When the Cops Tell You It’s a ‘Civil Matter’ that Means They Are Not Going to Help You

By Jedidiah McKeehan

From time to time I have individuals call me and recount to me a story about trying to obtain their kids from their ex-spouse, or trying to have someone arrested for assaulting them and the story will occasionally include a part where the person tells me something like this, “I showed them the court order where it’s my time with the kids but the cops said it was a civil matter and I need to hire an attorney.” Or, “I told the cops I wanted them to have my husband leave because he choked me and they said it was a civil matter and I should file an Order of Protection the next day.”

I will freely admit I was not there when these interactions took place so all of my information is obtained second hand, but when a cop states that something is a “civil matter” at any point, that is code for, “they are not going to help you or be arresting anyone.” Maybe the matter truly is a civil matter, but be aware of what you are actually being told when you hear these words from law enforcement.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including family law, criminal, and personal injury. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.