In Virginia, you can obtain an immediate protective order to protect you against acts of domestic abuse, which is defined as family abuse if the person abusing you is a family or household member. Under the law, domestic abuse can include acts of violence, force, or threats that put you in fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury. If you are a victim of abuse and need to obtain a restraining order, our experienced family law attorneys are here to help you get the immediate help that you need to stop the abuse, remove the abuser from your home, and prevent him from contacting you.
What Types of Protective Orders Are Available in Virginia?
There are three types of protective orders that you can obtain in Virginia, and they are all civil court orders. They include the following:
- Emergency Protective Order. An emergency protective order is an immediate order that is issued without a court hearing and can be obtained any day or night, even when the court is closed. It expires at the end of the third day after it was issued.
- Preliminary Protective Order. A preliminary protective order is the first step in obtaining a permanent protective order and can be issued if you suffered recent abuse or are in imminent danger of family abuse. The order is effective for 15 days but can be extended for up to six months.
- Permanent Protective Order. A permanent protective order will only be granted after a full hearing where both you and the abuser are present and testify as to what occurred. These orders can protect you for up to two years.
How Do You Obtain a Protective Order?
It is always best to retain an experienced family law attorney to obtain a protective order so that it is done properly, you obtain the full protections that you need, and you obtain it as fast as possible. However, it can be useful in understanding the basic steps in obtaining a protective order:
- File a petition. You can obtain the forms at the court where you live or download the forms through the Virginia Judicial System website. If you are in immediate danger and the court is closed, you may be able to obtain an emergency protective order by going to your police department. There is no filing fee to file this petition.
- Filling out the form. If you are completing the form yourself, you should understand that you are the “Petitioner” and your abuser is the “Respondent.” You should describe recent incidents of violence and use descriptive language to describe what was done to you. Sign the petition in front of the clerk.
- Bring ID and abuser information. You will need to bring your driver’s license or other type of identification as well as a photo, home and work address, and other information about the abuser.
- Review of order. Once you have filed the petition, the clerk will take it to the judge. He may have questions for you when he reviews it and decides whether to issue an order. A hearing will be scheduled before you can obtain a permanent protective order.
- Serve the papers. If the judge signs your order, you will need to arrange to serve the abuser with the order and any notice of hearing. Often, you can arrange to pay the sheriff or police to serve him.
- Hearing. A hearing will most likely be scheduled in your case if you are asking for more than an emergency order. This hearing could be scheduled within 15 days after you file your petition. You will be required to attend this hearing, and it is in your best interest to have an attorney represent you at this hearing. Other court hearings may be scheduled as necessary.
If you need a protective order to stop family abuse, contact our office immediately for assistance in obtaining it. Call our office to schedule your free consultation and be sure to let us know that you need immediate help.