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Protective Orders for Family Abuse

Updated: Jan 3, 2019

Protective Orders are an important tool for circumstances involving physical violence or the threat of violence.

What most people think of as “restraining orders” are called “protective orders” in Virginia. Protective orders can require that a person have no contact with another person (usually a household member or spouse). Protective orders can also:

  • Require that the Respondent stay a minimum distance from the Petitioner at all times.

  • Grant a Petitioner “exclusive use and possession” of a shared residence.

  • Address temporary custody and visitation of the parties’ children.

  • Order temporary child support.

  • Require that the Respondent continue to pay certain utilities.

In addition, once a protective order is entered, the Respondent’s name is put into a statewide electronic database used that will prevent that person from being able to purchase a firearm.

Protective orders can be entered for a period of up to two years. In many situations, such as when police respond to domestic violence calls, an “emergency protective order” will be entered that prohibits contact for up to 72 hours. It is up to the Petitioner to then Petition a court to extend the protective order for a longer period of time.

In order for a court to be able to grant a request for a protective order, a judge must make a finding that the Petitioner has a “reasonable apprehension of bodily harm.” Such apprehension can result from verbal threats made by the Respondent or prior acts of physical abuse.

If a person thinks that he or she may wish to pursue obtaining a protective order, it is important to act quickly. If too much time passes between the conduct that serves as the basis for the protective order request, and the filing of the actual request, this delay could be interpreted to mean that there was not sufficient “apprehension of bodily harm” on the part of the petitioner.


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