Family Abuse or Domestic Violence Protective Orders
There does not need to be an outstanding charge against your abuser in order to seek a protective order. Even if there is not an outstanding charge against your abuser, you still may be eligible for a protective order. You can seek a protective order whether or not the abuser is charged with a crime.
To get a protective order, the victim must first contact the Court Service Unit in their jurisdiction to make an appointment to file a petition. To be eligible for a protective order, one of the following statements must be true about the petitioner (victim) and respondent (abuser):
- They must be cohabitants (living together), or have lived together within the last 12 months (Cohabitants can include parents and children, step - or adoptive parents, and their children, brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandchildren and in-laws)
- They must be spouses or ex-spouses
- They must have a child in common (together)
- Alternative housing provided by the respondent
- A prohibition of contact between the abuser and the victim
- A prohibition of further acts of abuse
- Exclusive possession of a jointly owned or rented residence--The abuser can be ordered out without affecting the title or lease
- Protection for other family or household members
- Sole use of a jointly owned motor vehicle
- Temporary custody or visitation of children
Stalking or Bodily Injury Protective Orders
There are 2 other additional types of protective orders available in Virginia. Victims and offenders do not need to be family or household members to seek these types of protective orders, but the offender must have been charged with one of the following offenses: stalking, sexual assault (rape, sodomy, aggravated sexual battery) or physical assault (assault and battery resulting in physical injuries, maiming, malicious wounding.) To seek a ‘Stalking of Bodily Injury' Protective Order, victims must complete a petition at the General District Court Clerk's Office. The clerk will set a hearing date for an initial hearing; a second hearing may also be required to finalize the protective order.
Important information to consider about protective orders:
- A violation of a protective order is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, carrying up to a $2500 fine and one year in jail.
- Caution: A protective order is only a piece of paper. As such, there is never a 100% guarantee that the violence will stop just because a piece of paper indicates it should.
- Even permanent protective orders can only be granted for a maximum of 2 years.
- Either petitioner or respondent can petition the court to modify the protective order at any point after it is granted.
- Permanent protective orders go into a statewide, nationwide system, so that police are alerted to the protective order upon a call from the victim indicating another incident with the abuser.