Virginia Protective Orders

In Virginia, a restraining order or protective order is a legal document issued by a judge to protect the health and safety of a person who is alleged to be a victim of any act involving violence, force or threat that results in bodily injury or places that person in fear of death, sexual assault or bodily injury.

What Type of Protective Orders are Available?

In Virginia, there are 3 kinds of protective orders that can help you or others in your family or home:

1. Emergency Protective Order (EPO): Expires at the end of the third day following issuance or the next day court
is in session, whichever is later)

2. Preliminary Protective Order (PPO): Lasts up to 15 days or until a full hearing.

3. Final Protective Order: Can last up to two (2) years.

*** Any person in an emergency situation requiring immediate intervention should call 911 for assistance. ***

How Can a Restraining Order Help Me?

A restraining order can do the following:

  • The court can order the abuser not to have any contact with you, in person or by phone, at home, work or almost anywhere you ask the court to put in the order. The order against contact may also protect other people in your family.
  • The court can order the abuser to leave the house or apartment that you and the abuser share, even if it is the abuser’s home.
  • Grant you custody of your minor children.
  • Order the abuser to pay child support and support you.
  • Order the abuser to pay for costs that resulted from the abuse; for example, household bills that are due right away, medical/dental treatment, moving expenses, loss of earnings
  • Order the abuser to pay attorney’s fees, and can make the abuser pay damages to you or other people who helped you or got hurt by the abuser
  • Order the abuser to receive professional domestic violence counseling, or tell the abuser to go get evaluated or go to AA or NA

How Can I Get Protection?

To get a protective order, the abused person will file a petition in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Division of your local court. Each county has its own filing procedure. Click here for assistance with filing out the forms. Most courts have a system allowing you to file pro se (on your own), or through your attorney or the local legal services office.

What Happens After I File a Petition?

When you first get protection, it's only temporary. The order is called a PPO. You must return to court on the date indicated in the PPO, usually about 15 days, so the judge can determine if a full Protective Order is necessary. Both you and the abuser will be asked to appear in court on that date. During the 15-day period, the police will serve the abuser with a copy of the order, so the abuser will know when the hearing is scheduled.

The following table highlights the main provisions of Virginia's restraining order laws. See Harassment, Restraining Orders, and Filing a Domestic Violence Lawsuit for more information.

Code Sections Protective Orders: Virginia Code §16.1-228, §19.2-152.10 , et. seq
Who Can Ask for a Restraining Order?

Anyone who is being abused by:

  • A current or former spouse;
  • A parent, child, stepparent, stepchild, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, grandchild , or grandparent, regardless of whether or not you live together;
  • Your mother-in-law, father-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law or sister-in-law, if you live with that person;
  • Anyone you have had a child with, whether or not the two of you have been married or have ever lived together; or
  • Any individual (or their child) who lives with you or has lived with you (in an intimate relationship) within the past 12 months.
Type of Orders

Emergency Protective Orders (EPO), Preliminary Protective Orders (PPO) and Final Protective Orders

Length of PPO

Expires after ten (15) days unless extended

Length of Final Protective Order

Two (2) years

How to Apply

File a petition in court or at the request of the district attorney, or a law enforcement officer in connection with a criminal case.

Penalty for Violations

Criminal contempt charges and/or more formal criminal charges including a jail sentence, fines, etc.

Virginia Domestic Violence Resources:

Because domestic laws can sometimes get complicated, it may also be a good idea to consult an experienced domestic violence lawyer or a legal aid provider if you have specific questions.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.