Protective Orders in Virginia: Bill Expands Safeguards For Victims

A common way to protect against domestic violence and other threats of bodily harm in Virginia is to seek a protective order. However, until recently, this protection was not available for many under Virginia law. As a result, state leaders have taken steps to expand the scope of protective orders. In short, the new law allows Virginia courts to issue protective orders against anyone, regardless of their relationship to the victim.

Previous law regarding protective orders required the person filing for the protective order to be a family or household member of the alleged abuser, including relationships were individuals had cohabited. If the alleged abuser was not a relative or had not cohabited, the previous law required the person seeking the protective order to prove a fear of stalking, sexual abuse or serious bodily injury.

Additionally, prior law did not allow an individual to seek a protective order against a juvenile.

Under the new law any person can seek a protective order against anyone-family member or not-if he or she fears "an act of violence, force or threat that results in bodily injury or places one in reasonable apprehension of death, sexual assault or bodily injury."

Protective Orders Explained

A protective order is a legal document provided by a judge that can provide many different forms of assistance, including:

  • Prohibit abuser from contacting victim
  • Order abusive person removed from the home
  • Require abuser to pay for victim and children to live in another home
  • Require abuser to receive treatment or counseling

Protective orders are designed to protect individuals from violence, forceful detention, stalking or sexual assault. These orders are commonly issued to protect an abused person against a family or household member, including spouses, ex-spouses, parents and children. However, under the new law, they may be issued against anyone who assaults or threatens the victim with violence or force.

Once issued, the order can last up to two years. At the time of expiration, the victim may request a hearing to extend the order. Depending on the severity of the offense, a person who violates a protective order may face misdemeanor or felony charges and be subject to fines and mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment.

If you or a loved one is the victim of domestic violence, stalking or threats of violence or bodily harm, the first and most important step is to ensure your own safety. Once in a safe place, a protective order is intended to help you avoid future abuse. Contact an experienced attorney who can explain the protective order process to you and work to stop the abuse or harassment.