A protective order, also called a restraining order, is a court order that blocks someone from doing something that could lead to assault or harassment. These orders are often granted to victims of violence or those who receive credible threats thereof, and they can provide valuable space and time to secure your safety.
How to Get a Protective Order
You must file a petition in court to receive a protective order, and the court where you file the petition will depend on the grounds for requesting the protective order. If you are alleging domestic violence or have been threatened with violence by a family member, you will file in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
Such family members include the following:
- Step-parents and step-children
- Siblings and half-siblings
- The other parent of your child
- In-laws, who live in the same home
For cases of violence or threats thereof from anyone else, you must file your petition with the General District Court.
Types of Protective Orders in Virginia
Virginia has three kinds of protective orders, and the steps for having one put into effect will vary, depending on the type of order you seek.
Your options are as follows:
Emergency Protective Order
A victim or police officer can request an emergency protective order granted by a judge based on a written statement of the facts. The petitioner will not need to go to court, and the person named in the petition will not be able to oppose it.
The judge will grant the order so long as the written statement alleges factually valid grounds for it, such as:
- Force that results in a bodily injury
- Sexual assault
- Forceful detention
- Threats that place the petitioner in fear of death, injury, or sexual assault
Once granted and served on the person named in the order, the emergency protective order lasts for 72 hours or until the court’s next session, whichever occurs last. It prevents the person from contacting, entering the property of, and abusing the victim.
Preliminary Protective Order
A preliminary protective order provides greater protection than an emergency protective order but also requires a greater showing.
The petitioner will allege the same grounds and file a petition in the same courts as the emergency order, but to be granted a preliminary protective order, you must appear in court. As such, a judge can question you and even deny the order based on your written petition or your answers in court.
Upon granting a preliminary protective order, the judge will set the date for a full hearing at least 15 days out, which will be the other person’s first opportunity to oppose the protective order.
Permanent Protective Order
A permanent protective order lasts for up to two years after the grant, but because the protection lasts so long, the other party will be allowed to oppose the petition.
These orders can be granted at the hearing that follows the expiration of a preliminary protective order, but you can file a petition for a permanent protective order without first seeking a preliminary order at all.
Getting Legal Help
You can get an emergency order without help, but judges scrutinize petitions for temporary and permanent orders more carefully. That said, you should strongly consider seeking legal assistance from an experienced Virginia family law attorney to help you prepare your petition and represent you at your hearing.