No one should be subjected to abuse. If a person physically injures or threatens harm to another individual, courts have the power to issue a Protective Order to protect the health and safety of the individual. In some states, a protective order is referred to as a restraining order. In Virginia, orders which protect someone from physical or threatening abuse are called Protective Orders. A Protective Order can be issued to prevent that person from having contact with the victim.
If someone is hurting you or is threatening to hurt you, there are many different things you can do to get help. If you are in a life-threatening situation or your safety is immediately in danger, you should call 911. Protective Orders often come about as a result of a person being arrested for violence.
If someone is hurting you, or you feel like someone is trying to hurt you, seek help. You have a right to live in peace and safety without violence or threat of harm. If you are afraid that the person will hurt you, you can ask the court for a Protective Order. At Court, the judge will decide if you receive the protective order.
If you feel threatened by another person and feel it is safe to do so, you can leave. If you don’t have any friends or relatives you can stay with, you can ask to go to a safe shelter. For some people, leaving is the best option, but for others it is not. Contact an attorney at Leary Law to help understand your options.
What are Protective Orders?
A Protective Order is a document signed by a judge or magistrate that tells the person who is hurting or threatening you that they cannot do that anymore. Protective Orders are designed to protect the health and safety of a person who is the 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. Protective Orders are intended to protect people from abuse. If you are the victim of abuse, understanding your rights and options is very important to help you stay safe from harm.
A Protective Order can say that another individual can have no contact with you and that they are not permitted to further abuse or harm you.
Where to File a Protective Order in Virginia?
Depending on whether the abuser is a family member or a non-family member, protective orders can be filed in two general district courts:
- Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court (JDR)
- Family or household member
- General District Court (GDC)
- Non-family or household members
In Virginia, there are 2 kinds of Protective Orders that can protect you from Non-Domestic Abusers:
- Preliminary Protective Order – issued as a result of a victim of abuse going to a court and providing information regarding the abuse in order to obtain an order of protection. In comparison, a preliminary protective order will last 15 days or until a full hearing by a judge.
- Protective Order – issued following a hearing with a judge in which evidence in presented by the victim of abuse and the person who is causing harm. A full protective order may be imposed for a period of up to 2 years. The order may be terminated early by agreement of the parties and may also be extended when necessary.
Where do I go to request a Preliminary Protective Order?
If the person from whom you want protection is a stranger or non-domestic, you must go to the general district court in the county in which you live. When you go to the court, you will meet with a specialist in the Intake Office. The Intake Office is responsible for receiving and reviewing requests for new matters which are to be initiated in the court. When you go to the general district court, you will be guided through the process of how to obtain a preliminary protective order.
How do I get a Preliminary Protective Order?
When you arrive at court, you will be directed to fill out court forms. When possible, you should come prepared to describe the incidents of abuse which have caused you to seek a protective order. You should try to bring with you the contact information and identifying information for the individual you are seeking a protective order against. If the court agrees to issue a Preliminary Protective Order, the court will need to have the individual served with a copy of the order. To do so, the court must have a way to contact and find the individual.
Once you complete any necessary paperwork, you will be asked to appear before a judge and explain your situation. The judge may have questions for you to understand what has been happening in your life and to determine whether a protective order can be issued.
How much does it cost to file for a Protective Order?
There is no court cost or filing fee to request a Protective Order from the court.
What should I bring with me when I go to court to ask for a Preliminary Protective Order?
You should bring the name, address and identifying information of the person from whom you are seeking protection and a full description of the event that led you to seek a protective order. The address should be the place where the person can be found and not a P.O. box.
If you have other paperwork, such as the business card of a law enforcement officer whom you spoke to regarding any issues with the individual, you should bring those materials as well. You will be asked to provide information about the most recent incident of abuse as well as other incidents in the recent past. You should be prepared to provide the court with dates and details that will help the judge determine what can be done.
How long should I expect to spend at court?
Once you are at the courthouse, you could be there for a few hours while you fill out paperwork and wait to be seen by a judge.
How long does a Preliminary Protective Order last?
If the judge grants your request for a Preliminary Protective Order, the Order will be valid for 15 days. The Order will also include a date for the court to have a full hearing, or in other words, a trial relating to your request. If a trial takes place within that first 15 day period, then the Preliminary Order can be extended. If the case is continued, the Court will issue a new Preliminary Protective Order through the later court date.
A full hearing occurs when both you and the individual come to court at the same time and each of you are able to present any evidence and witnesses in support of your request.
When you go to Court to obtain a Preliminary Protective Order, the judge will tell you your next court date and you will receive paperwork confirming what happened in court and when you need to return.
What can I ask the Court to do with a Protective Order?
In addition to ordering a person not to commit further acts of abuse, courts also have the power to do the following with a Protective Order
- Order the Abuser to leave you alone
- Ordering the Abuser to participate in mental health or substance abuse evaluation, counseling and treatment
- Granting you from seeing the abuser
- Granting you from being stalked by the Abuser
Contact Leary Law to understand how a Protective Order can help you and what you should be prepared to ask for from the court.
What evidence must I bring to court to ask for a full 2 year Protective Order?
At court for the full hearing or trial for a 2 year Protective Order, you must present any evidence or witnesses which you want the court to consider. Evidence includes photographs, videos text messages or emails which establish an act of abuse. Witnesses can include yourself and anyone else with first-hand knowledge of any acts of abuse or history of abuse.
When you have never been to court before, a trial can seem very overwhelming. Having capable legal counsel to assist you and help you prepare and present your case insures that you have guidance from someone who goes to court regularly and is familiar not only with the legal requirements of a protective order but also the judges who will be deciding your case. The Protective Order Attorneys at Leary Law have nearly 20 years of experience practicing before courts in Virginia seeking protective orders on behalf of victims of abuse. Call our firm today to request a meeting to discuss your case.
What if I do not go to the full hearing, or the trial, for the Protective Order?
If you do not appear on the court date set for the Protective Order, the Preliminary Protective Order will expire and you will no longer be under its protection.
What if I believe the other person is not coming to the Protective Order hearing?
Even if you know that the other party is not going to come to court, you should still go and ask the court for a protective order. If you do not appear, the Preliminary Protective Order will expire.
When does the Protective Order take effect?
The court will sign the Protective Order paperwork in the courtroom. However, it is very important to understand that the Protective Order becomes effective when the other party is “personally served” with a copy of the order. In other words, the other party must have notice of the court’s order and receive a copy of the document. Service occurs when a law enforcement officer or court official provides the Protective Order to the person from whom you want protection.
Because service of the Protective Order is necessary, it is important for you to provide the court or law enforcement with information that will allow them to find the other party and provide them with a copy of the order. Helpful information includes that individual’s address, phone number, place of work, and/or photograph.
How will I know if the person against whom the order was issued has been served?
In order to check on the status of the service of the Protective Order, you may call law enforcement and ask if the person has been served.
What if the person against whom the order was issued does not obey the order?
Once the Court issues a Preliminary Protective Order or a full Protective Order, the individual is under specific instructions as to how they can or cannot have contact with you. If the individual tries to call you or contact you in violation of the Order, you should call law enforcement. If in violation of the Order, the person can be arrested and criminal charges filed for failing to obey the Protective Order.
What if the person comes to my house or work place?
The Preliminary Protective Order or full Protective Order will tell the other party whether and if they can have contact of any kind with you. If the person is not permitted to be around or near you and they show up at your home or your workplace, call the police. They are in violation of the order and can be arrested and charged with a crime.
What if I need to change part of the Protective Order?
Protective Orders are civil in nature. This means that the parties to the order are you and the individual from who you are seeking protection. If an agreement is later reached to amend or change the order, it is necessary for paperwork to be provided to the court requesting that the court change the Protective Order. Otherwise, the Order’s terms and conditions remain in place.
What is a “no contact” provision in a Protective Order?
No contact means no contact. If you ask that the individual have no contact whatsoever with you, then then Order will say that . Contact includes phone, email, text message and in person contact.
What if I must sometimes contact the other person?
When you request a Protective Order, if there is a reason you still want to be able to have some kind of contact with the individual, you must tell the judge that at the hearing.
If I go to another state, will my Protective Order be valid in that state?
Federal law requires all states to enforce protective orders issued by other states. You should contact the nearest court in that state for more information.
What if the Person who is Hurting or Threatening You is not your Family or Household Member?
Then, you have to ask for a Non-Abuse Protective Order. You can ask for a Non-Abuse Protective Order when the person who is hurting you or threatening to hurt you is not your Family or Household Member.
Who can you get protection from under a Non-Abuse Protective Order?
- Your caregiver;
- Your neighbor;
- Someone who is threatening to hurt you or someone who is hurting you even if you do not know him or her;
- Someone who is contacting or trying to contact you when you do not want them to; • Your co-worker;
- Your friend;
- Your boyfriend or girlfriend who you don’t have a child with or you have not lived with within the past 12 months;
- Anyone who is hurting you or threatening to hurt you.
Protective Order in cases of Stalking
In Virginia, stalking is a serious crime in which intended conduct places a person, or his or her family, in reasonable fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury.
Who can a Protective Order Protect me from in cases of Stalking?
The conduct intended to cause fear must be directed at another individual. The other party can be the intended victim or it can be directed at a family member or household member of the intended victim. Under Va. Code §16.1-228 a family or household member is defined as follows:
- The person’s spouse
- The person’s former spouse
- The person’s parents, stepparents, children, stepchildren, brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, grandparents and grandchildren
- The person’s mother-in-law, father-in-law, sins-in-law, daughters-in-law, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law who reside in the same home with the person.
- Any individual who has a child in common with the person
- Any individual who cohabits or who, within the pervious 12 months, cohabited with the person, and any children of either of them then residing in the same home with the person.