Some family situations may call for a restraining order or protective order, particularly if they involve domestic violence or “family abuse,” as it is called in Virginia. Whether you’re a family abuse victim in need of protection, or you are the one against whom the order is filed, here are answers to questions you may have. For legal advice specific to your case, please consult with a trusted family law attorney at Holcomb Law today by calling (757) 656-1000.
What are protective orders in Virginia?
In Family Law in Virginia, restraining orders are legally called “protective orders”. There are various types of protective orders in the state:
- Emergency protective order (EPO) – This can be given immediately and on any day of the year to address urgent situations. In many cases, the complainant can request this via law enforcement officers, who will then ask the court for the order. The judge may also give it ex parte, meaning without notifying the defendant. Emergency orders last only three days.
- Preliminary protective order (PPO) – When a complainant has filed a court petition for a longer-lasting protective order, the court may provide a preliminary order as temporary protection while the petition is pending. This preliminary order lasts until the court hearing or up to 15 days.
- Full protective order (PO) – Sometimes called the “final protective order” or “permanent protection order,” this legal protection lasts up to two years, but can be extended in the future if the judge sees it fit. The court grants a PO only when both parties in the case have explained their sides in a hearing, and the judge determines that the abuse victim needs protection.
What qualifies for a restraining order in Virginia?
A person qualifies to get a protective order in Virginia if they have been abused by a household member or family member. This includes:
- A current spouse
- A former spouse
- A parent, stepparent, or grandparent
- A child, stepchild, or grandchild
- A brother, sister, half-sibling, or stepsibling
- A person with whom the complainant has had a child
- An in-law who lives in the same house
- Anyone who has lived in the same house in the last 12 months.
Perfect strangers may also request and obtain Protective Orders (for example, disputing neighbors).
How do I get a protective order in Virginia?
These are the steps to get a full protective order in Virginia:
- Filing a petition. Go to your county’s circuit court or juvenile and domestic relations court, and ask the clerk to file a protective order petition.
- Judge review. The court will review your petition and set a hearing date. The judge will also decide whether to give you a preliminary protective order.
- Service of process. The court will serve (notify) the defendant by sending them a copy of the petition papers.
- Hearing. Both parties need to attend the hearing to state their side to the judge. Each party may bring a lawyer if they choose. At this hearing, the judge will decide whether to grant the final protective order.
Note that the above steps are for obtaining a full protective order. If your situation requires urgent protection – for example, if you or your children are in imminent danger – contact the police in your area and ask for an emergency protective order.
What proof do you need for a restraining order in Virginia?
The proof needed for a Virginia protective order depends on what kind of order is requested. If you are petitioning for a full PO, you’ll need to gather all evidence of the abuse or violence you have suffered in your household. If you also need a preliminary protection while your case is pending, you must show the court that you are facing present or immediate danger of family abuse – that is, that the abuse is ongoing or has recently occurred.
For emergency protective orders, the court will also need proof that you or your children are in immediate danger. You or the law enforcement officer may need to give testimony under oath about this probable danger.
How long does a protective order last in Virginia?
A full/permanent protective order in Virginia lasts two years. At the end of this duration, the judge may decide to extend it another two years if the victim still needs protection. There is no limit to the extensions a judge can give to a protective order.
A preliminary protective order in Virginia lasts until the hearing or up to 15 days. It can also be extended for good cause.
An emergency protective order in Virginia typically lasts 72 hours, but if the court is not in session on the order’s end date, the end date will be moved to the next business day. The judge or magistrate may also extend the emergency order in serious situations such as if the victim is hospitalized.
What protections can I get with a Virginia restraining order?
Protective orders in Virginia are legal orders with specific provisions to shield household abuse victims from their abuser. With a full protective order, you may get the following protections:
- Prohibiting further acts of abuse or violence
- Prohibiting the abuser to contact the victim or their family
- Providing a companion animal to the victim, if they meet owning criteria
- Granting the victim temporary possession of the residence
- Granting the victim exclusive use of the family vehicle
- Granting the victim temporary custody of their child
- Requiring the abuser to undergo counseling, treatment, or other programs.
Is a Virginia restraining order valid in other states?
Yes, through the Full Faith and Credit Clause, a Virginia restraining order is valid in other states and will provide the same protections. Likewise, a family protective order from another state is valid in Virginia. Federal law guarantees that all states enforce each other’s protective orders.
What violates a protective order in Virginia?
A respondent violates a restraining order or protective order in Virginia if they fail to uphold the specific provisions of the order. Violating a protective order is a crime in Virginia, amounting to a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is the most serious level of misdemeanor in the state. It is punishable with up to one year of jail time and up to $2,500 in fines. The court will also impose an additional protective order against the defendant. Additional or subsequent violations can carry mandatory minimum jail time.
How do I fight a protective order in Virginia?
If a person has filed a protective order petition against you, it’s important to call a defense attorney right away. You will have the opportunity to respond to the petition in court, convincing the judge that there are no reasonable grounds or not enough evidence to grant the order against you.
If there already is a protective order against you, be it a temporary or permanent order, either party may still request the court to modify or cancel it. A competent lawyer should help you strategize on the amendments you’re requesting, and help you present a compelling case to the court.
Contact an Experienced Protective Order Attorney
The lawyers at Holcomb Law, P.C. have decades of combined experience in Family Law and Criminal Defense. Our firm is known among Virginians for our client-focused legal service which untangles the most complex and delicate family situations. We are ready to assist you in getting a protective order or defending yourself against one. Call Holcomb Law today at (757) 656-1000 to schedule a confidential consultation.