Virginia Domestic Violence Laws

NOTE: If you or someone close to you is the victim of domestic violence, you can get immediate help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 911 if it's an emergency.

In Virginia, domestic violence (also called family violence) is considered a pattern of behavior and a method of control over family or household members. It's 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. The specific criminal statute that addresses domestic violence in Virginia is "assault and battery against a family or household member."

Overview of Virginia Domestic Violence Laws

Since statutory language can often be written in a confusing way, it can be helpful to read a summary of the laws in plain English. The following table highlights the main provisions of Virginia's domestic violence laws and provides links to relevant statutes.

Statute(s) Virginia Code. Title 18, Chapter 4, Article 4. Section 18.2-57.2 (Assault and battery against a family or household member)
Definition of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence 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.

Defining Family and Household Member

The following are defined as family or household members for purposes of Virginia domestic violence laws:

  • 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 cohabitated in the past year and their children.
Charges and Penalties

Domestic assault and battery against a family or household member is generally charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or fines of up to $2,500. However, three or more convictions in a 10-year period elevate the crime to a Class 6 felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison, or in the discretion of the judge/jury, up to 12 months in jail and/or fines of up to $2,500.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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 preliminary protective order (PPO), a court order signed by a judge that offers protection to victims.

Victims may also be able to file a civil lawsuit to recover losses and expenses such as medical bills or pain and suffering damages. It's also possible to get child custody orders modified to prevent any further incidence of violence between spouses, children, or other people.

Virginia Domestic Violence Laws: Related Resources

For more information and resources related to this topic, please click on the links below.

Questions About Domestic Violence Laws in Virginia? Talk to a Lawyer

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

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.