Virginia Domestic Violence Laws

IF YOU ARE IN AN EMERGENCY SITUATION, CALL 911.

In Virginia, domestic violence (family violence) is considered a pattern of behavior, and a method of control. It is a means of establishing a hierarchy of power within a relationship, in which one partner dominates the other through use of physical violence and/or psychological abuse. Family violence includes five primary categories of abusive behaviors: physical violence, emotional abuse, sexual assault, economic control and neglect.

  • Physical Violence (hitting, slapping, choking, kicking, biting, pushing, and using weapons, etc.)
  • Emotional Abuse (humiliation and intimidation tactics such as calling the victim degrading names, diminishing the victim’s sense of self-worth, threatening harm to the victim or family, torturing pets, and destroying personal property)
  • Sexual Assault (forcing the victim to engage in sexual acts against the victim’s will)
  • Economic Control (discouraging or forbidding employment, withholding information about family finances, controlling all family finances and accounts, or improper use of power of attorney)
  • Neglect

What Protections Are Available in Addition to Criminal Prosecution?

There are several remedies and legal protections available for victims of domestic violence in Virginia. These may include:

  • Address Confidentiality Program (ACP): Victims can get a legal substitute address (usually a post office box) to use in place of their physical address; this address can be used whenever an address is required by public agencies. First class mail sent to the substitute address is forwarded to the victim's actual address.
  • Protective Orders: Victims of domestic violence can apply for a protection from abuse (PPO) order, a court order signed by a judge that offers protection to victims.
  • Civil lawsuit: The victim may file a civil lawsuit to recover losses and expenses such as medical bills or pain and suffering damages.
  • Custody/child or spousal support orders: These may be modified to prevent any further incidence of violence between spouses, children, or other persons.

The following table highlights the main provisions of Virginia's domestic violence laws. See How to Stop Domestic Violence and Filing a Domestic Violence Lawsuit for more information.

Code Sections Code of Virginia §18.2-57
What Protections are Available?

Civil and criminal

Definition of Domestic Violence/Family Abuse

"Family abuse" means any act involving violence, force, or threat including any forceful detention, which results in physical injury or places one in reasonable apprehension of serious bodily injury and which is committed by a person against such a person's family or household member.

Family/Household Member Relationship Requirement
  • Spouse, regardless of residence,
  • Ex-spouse, regardless of residence,
  • In-laws who live in the same home,
  • Persons who have a child in common regardless of residence,
  • Co-habitants, and
  • Those who have cohabited in the past year and their children.
Penalties

Any person who commits domestic assault and battery or family abuse shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. Three or more convictions in a 10-year period elevate the crime to a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. The prior convictions can be from other jurisdictions in Virginia, but they must have occurred on different dates.

Types of Protective Orders Available

Protective Orders

 

More Resources:

Because domestic laws can sometimes get complicated, it may also be a good idea to consult an experienced domestic violence attorney if you have questions about your specific situation.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.