Virginia Protective Orders 101

In Virginia, protective orders can be issued between family or household members under Virginia Code Section 16.1-253.1 or if the parties do not meet the definition of family or household member under Virginia Code Section 19.2-152.9.  The Virginia Code defines family or household members as “the person’s spouse, the person’s former spouse, the person’s parents, stepparents, children, stepchildren brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, grandparents and grandchildren, in-laws, individuals with a child in common and individuals that cohabitate within the previous 12 months.”

Under Virginia Code Section 16.1-253.1, a preliminary protective order in family abuse cases may be granted in an ex parte proceeding.  Ex Parte means that only the petitioner goes before a judge seeking a protective order. The Court may grant the preliminary protective order upon an affidavit or sworn testimony by the Petitioner.  To grant the preliminary protective order, the court must find the following:  The Petitioner was the subject of an act involving violence, force, or threat that resulted in bodily injury or placed one in reasonable apprehension of death, sexual assault, or physical injury.  The events alleged by the Petitioner under Virginia Code Section 16.1-253.1 must have occurred within a “reasonable time.”

When granting a preliminary protective order, the Court may impose the following conditions: prohibit acts of family abuse, prohibit contact between family members, grant possession of residence to petitioner, grant possession of vehicles, grant possession of companion animals as defined, and forbid either party from cutting off utilities to homes.

Within 15 days of issuing a preliminary protective order, the court under Virginia Code Section 16.1-279.1 must hold a full hearing on the matter.  This means that the Respondent can hear the evidence against them, confront their accuser, cross-examine the accuser, and put on any evidence they wish the court to listen to. 

After the entire hearing, if the court finds that by a preponderance of the evidence, the Petitioner has proven they are the victim of family abuse, a final protective order for up to two years may be issued against the Respondent.  After a full hearing for a protective order in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, either party may appeal the outcome to the Circuit Court within ten days of the ruling.

Individuals who do not meet the definition of family or household members may seek a protective order in the General District Court under Virginia Code Section 19.2-152.9 if they have been subjected to violence, force, or threat.

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