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Can I Still Obtain a Protective Order in VA During COVID-19 Quarantine?

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought life as we know it at a standstill. Most businesses (except for grocery stores, pharmacies, and other essential services) are closed. The courthouses remain closed to the public and only operating under limited circumstances.

Since families are forced to stay home at all times during the coronavirus quarantine, this will lead to an increase in domestic violence incidents in the coming months. Many victims are wondering if they will be able to seek a protective order from the courts.

Fortunately, most courthouses either consider protective order cases as “emergency matters” or remain on the docket as scheduled or accepted at the clerk’s office. In Fairfax General District Court, for example, while regular court hearings will not hold regular court hearings through April 17, 2020, but will still hold protective order hearings, custody dockets, and specialty dockets. Arlington, Alexandria, Loudoun and Prince William County Courts are still handling protective order cases.

The following are three types of protective orders for domestic violence (or family abuse) in Virginia:

  • Emergency protective order - This type of restraining order provides immediate protection and can be issued on weekends and after business operation hours--which means even when the court isn’t opened. If a victim is in immediate danger, it can be issued ex parte (without the abuser present) by a judge. An emergency order expires after the third day or until the next business day, whenever court is in session.
  • Preliminary protective orders - This type of restraining order is issued prior to a permanent protective order. Rather than a police officer filing on a victim’s behalf, he/she must file a written petition to the court. A preliminary order is valid for up to 15 days or until the next day the court is open.
  • Permanent protective order - This type of restraining order is not necessarily permanent but lasts up to two years. After a court hearing is held with both the victim and abuser present, the judge will determine whether to grant a final protective order.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, here are several resources to seek help:

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached by telephone at 1-800-787-3224 or 24/7 online chat
  • Virginia’s Family Violence and Sexual Assault hotline by calling 1-800-838-8238
  • Local Departments of Social Services
  • Shelters and programs can be accessed through the Action Alliance Sexual & Domestic Violence Member Agencies in Virginia.

At The Law Office of Ann Thayer, PLLC, we are still open and available to help domestic violence victims in Northern Virginia obtain a protective order. Additionally, we provide criminal defense services to individuals accused of domestic violence.

For more information about our legal services, contact us today at (703) 940-0001 and discuss your case over the phone or through two-way video conferencing.