In Virginia, domestic violence is called family abuse, which is when a family or household member commits an act involving violence, force, or threat that results in bodily injury or places one in reasonable fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury. Family abuse includes any forceful detention, stalking, criminal sexual assault, or any criminal offense that results in bodily injury or places one in reasonable fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury.
A protective order is a court order designed to stop violent behavior and keep an alleged abuser, or defendant, away from the victim. There are three relevant types of protective orders:
Emergency Protective Order – designed to give a person immediate protection if a judge believes the person is in immediate danger. An emergency protective order can be given ex parte by a judge, meaning the defendant does not have to be present, although the individual will need to be served with the order before it takes effect. A law enforcement officer can also request an emergency protective order for an individual. An emergency order lasts 3 days and can prohibit acts of family abuse or any contact by the defendant with the victim or their family or household members. Emergency protective orders can also prohibit an abuser from being in a victim’s presence and force the removal of the defendant from a shared residence.
Preliminary Protective Order - the first step in obtaining a permanent protective order. A preliminary protective order is similar to an emergency protective order, except it lasts up to 15 days until the court hearing is scheduled for a final protective order.
Protective Order – a final protective order can last up to 2 years. A protective order can only be granted after a court hearing where both parties are present. An individual can file to have a protective order extended. The protections awarded under a protective order will depend on the specific facts of each case, but can:
- Prohibit further acts of family abuse;
- Prohibit contact by the defendant with the party, family and household members;
- Exclude the defendant from the shared residence
- Prohibit the defendant from terminating utilities in the premises awarded to the party;
- Grant the party exclusive temporary possession or use of a shared motor vehicle;
- Require the defendant to provide suitable alternative housing for the party and any other family or household member;
- Order the defendant to participate in treatment or counseling;
- Grant temporary custody or visitation of a minor child;
- Award temporary child support;
- Assess costs and attorney fees against either party; and
- Provide any other necessary relief to protect the victim and their family.
If you are experiencing domestic violence and need assistance obtaining a protective order or are unsure whether a protective order is right for you, General Counsel, P.C. can help. Our family law attorneys are experienced assisting individuals across Virginia and can help you through the process.