Victims of domestic violence often feel like there is no way out of their situation. While it may seem easy to leave, escaping an abusive household situation is not as easy as one might think. Doing so could put the victims and their children or other family members at an even higher risk of danger. However, domestic violence victims may find peace of mind in knowing that they can petition the court for a legal order to protect the health and safety of themselves and their family or household members. This is called a protective order, commonly referred to as a “restraining order.”
A court will only grant a protective order to a victim if, within a reasonable period of time, they have been subjected to an act involving violence, force, or threats, or experienced a threat that places them in reasonable fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury. With this in mind, if you are a victim of domestic violence, you may be eligible to get a protective order against your abuser.
In Virginia, there are three types of protective orders that you can access. They include:
Emergency Protective Orders (EPO): You may go to the magistrate to request them to issue an EPO, which is effective for up to 72 hours. Before that time is up you can then go to the Juvenile and Domestics Relations or District Court in the county where you live to try to obtain a preliminary protective order. Which court you must file in depends on your relationship to the offender and whether Virginia law deems that person a family or household definition. When an officer arrests an offender for domestic assault or assault and battery, an EPO will be issued by the magistrate for up to 72 hours. If an EPO is granted, the following conditions may be imposed:
- Prohibits all contacts by the respondent (the abuser) with you or your family or household members
- Prohibits acts of violence, force, or threat or criminal offenses by the respondent that result in injury to your person or property
- Allows you to possess a companion animal if you meet the definition of owner
- Grants temporary possession of the residence to you and your family/household members, if your case concerns family abuse
- Other conditions in which the judge or magistrate deems necessary to protect you and family/household members
Preliminary Protective Orders (PPO): Unlike EPOs, only a judge can issue a PPO, which lasts for 15 days or until the final Protective Order hearing, which will be scheduled by the judge and stated on your PPO. You must petition for a PPO shortly after you experienced domestic violence and provide a sworn statement (this is done in a sworn affidavit you handwrite out or verbally depending on the county you are filing in) to a judge for them to decide whether or not to grant you this type of protective order. Keep in mind that your abuser will not appear at the hearing in which you give your sworn statement as this is done exparte with the Judge.
To protect the best interests of you and your family, a PPO can impose the following conditions on your abuser:
- Prohibit all contacts by the abuser with you and your family or household members
- Prohibit acts of violence, force, or threat or criminal offenses resulting in injury to your person or property
- Allow you to possess a companion animal if you meet the definition of owner
- Other conditions that the judge sees necessary to protect you and family/household members
If your case concerns family abuse, a PPO will also do the following:
- Grant temporary possession of the residence to your family/ household members
- Require the respondent to maintain utility services for the household, or if appropriate, order them to restore such services
- Grant you temporary possession of a jointly owned vehicle
- Require the abuser to provide suitable alternative housing for your family/household members
- Require any other relief necessary for the protection of you and your family/household members
Permanent Protective Order (PO): A permanent protective order lasts up to two years but can be extended for an additional two years upon your request and the judge’s approval. You can extend a PO as many times as you need because there is no limit on PO extensions in Virginia. To get a Permanent PO, you and the respondent must appear at the final Protective Order hearing and have a trial. However, you do not have to contact your abuser to appear at the final hearing, as the Court will subpoena them instead. At that hearing, the Respondent must have been served with the PPO and had notice of the hearing in order to proceed. If there is no notice or the person has not been served then the Judge will continue the case out to a new date. You will be issued a new protective order that lasts until the date of the new hearing. If the person appears at court and requests a continuance this is usually granted by the Judge but a new PPO will be issued until the new date. If the person appears and agrees to the order or has been served and does not appear you will be issued the 2-year order.
If a judge grants you a PO, the abuser must comply with the same conditions imposed in PPOs but for up to two years at a time. If your situation concerns family abuse, however, a permanent protective order will include the following terms:
- Require the abuser to participate in treatment, counseling, or other programs required by the court
- Provide for temporary custody or visitation of a minor child
Are You Accused of or a Victim of Domestic Violence?
As you can see above, protective orders can impact families significantly. They can provide much-needed protection and peace of mind for victims and their families while placing strict limits on alleged abusers. Essentially, protective orders can drastically alter the lives of both victims and their reported abusers.
If you want to petition the court for a protective order or received such an order from a reported victim, our Fairfax domestic violence lawyer can help you. We represent both victims and accused abusers in domestic violence matters, regardless of the circumstances they’re up against. We understand that domestic violence allegations can have serious outcomes for both sides, which is why you can count on us to go the extra mile to ensure your rights and best interests are protected at every stage of the process. Because these hearings are set so quickly due to Virginia law you should contact an attorney immediately to discuss your options.To schedule a free, confidential consultation, reach out to us online or at (703) 940-0001!