Virginia Domestic Relations: Family Abuse Protective Order

Domestic violence can happen to any family. If you or your children have been the subject of domestic violence, there are several protections under the law that are available to you. The court system has the power to protect you and your children from family members that are threatening or engaging in physical harm.

So what powers does the court have, and what do you need to know when requesting a protective order?

What is the Definition of Family Abuse?

A protective order can be granted by the court in circumstances in which you or your children have been the subject of family abuse. Family abuse is defined as “any act involving violence, force, or threat that results in bodily injury or places one in reasonable apprehension of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury and that is committed by a person against such person's family or household member.”

Family abuse can be as simple as a Father or Mother threatening to hit their children with an object of some kind. There does not need to be an actual physical attack to qualify as family abuse.

What Should You Do If You Were Subject to Family Abuse?

The first thing you need to do is to go to your local court and speak with the intake office about why you feel you have been the subject of family abuse. Documents will be sent to the judge and the judge will decide if the facts you have given are enough to prove family abuse. If you have established family abuse, the court then has a number of options. The first thing the court will do is enter an emergency protective order. If the court feels you were not subject to family abuse, then the court will deny your request. Either way, you also be given a court date in five (5) days for the court to determine whether a longer protective order is necessary.

What is in a Protective Order?

A protective order can have a number of different provisions. The court can require that the abuser vacate the home, turn over certain vehicles, let you keep telephones, prohibit contact, and much more. Protective orders can also vary in how long they are granted for. They can range from as much as two (2) years to as little as two (2) weeks. It depends on the severity of the case.

Why Hire a Lawyer?

Even if you file for a protective order and receive a preliminary one, it is important to hire an attorney to advocate for you in court. You must still meet your burden of proof for the judge to extend the protective order. Contact a lawyer if you have been the subject of family abuse.