Most people are familiar with the concept of a restraining order used in the context of a domestic violence case. The idea, of course, is that the order keeps the fractious parties apart until they can resolve their differences in a civil manner. Virginia law provides a framework for obtaining protective orders (Virginia’s term for a restraining order) in family abuse cases (Virginia’s term for domestic violence.) The process for obtaining a protective order will be detailed below.

Overview of Virginia’s Family Abuse Law

Virginia’s family abuse law protects household members from violent conduct or the threat of violent conduct. The law applies to some people regardless of household status such as spouses, former spouses, parents, stepparents, children, stepchildren, brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, grandparents, and grandchildren. The law applies to others only if they reside together such as in-laws. It also applies to people who have a child in common regardless of the residency situation. Finally, it also applies to any people who have cohabited within the household in the last 12 months.

Types of Protective Orders

Virginia has three types of protective orders on the books. They are called emergency protective orders, preliminary protective orders, and protective orders. Each serves a similar purpose but the duration of each and the process to obtain each one is different.

Emergency Protective Orders

As the name indicates, this type of order is issued in response to existing dangerous conditions.  Emergency protective orders can be issued by any circuit court, district court, juvenile and domestic relations court and magistrate in Virginia. If the situation leading to the need for an order requires law enforcement intervention, law enforcement may request an order be issued.  If this is not the case, the injured or threatened party can go to any of the previously referenced courts and obtain an order. These orders are only good for 72 hours or, if the court is not in session at that time, 5 PM of the next business day after the expiration.

Preliminary Protective Orders

During the pendency of the emergency order, the injured party can file for a preliminary protective order. A petition for a preliminary order is filed in the juvenile and domestic relations court. The preliminary order’s primary practical purpose is to extend the emergency order out 15 days. Virginia law requires a hearing within 15 days on the merits of the preliminary order.  During this hearing, the court will hear testimony regarding the facts of the case and the defendant will be given a chance to be heard. Both parties will be able to submit evidence to either prove or disprove the allegations.

Protective Orders

If, during the hearing for the preliminary protective order, the court finds that the allegations of family abuse have been proven, the court can issue a protective order. The protective order can last as long as two years.

Protective orders are designed as a court-imposed cooling off period. As such, under Virginia law, they follow a logical progression from a duration of three days to 15 days to up to two years. The law contains provisions to ensure that orders are fairly easy to obtain in emergent situations and as the situation cools off, they become more constrained and concerned with the liberty of the defendant as well as protecting the victim. It is important that you know your rights, regardless of which side of a protective order you find yourself on. Jad Sarsour has vast experience in both obtaining protective orders and in defending clients against them in Northern Virginia. He can help you understand your rights in the process and how to secure terms that are best for you and your situation. Give him a call at (571) 367-7009 to set up a consultation today. Put his expertise and experience in your corner and he will fight to get you the results you deserve.