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Know the Laws: Virginia

UPDATED November 18, 2016

Protective Orders (for Family Abuse)

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A family abuse protective order is a civil court order that is designed to stop violent behavior and keep the abuser away from you.

Who is eligible for a protective order

back to topWho can get a family abuse protective order?

You can get a protective order if you have been abused by a family or household member, which is defined as:

  • 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, but only 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 who lives with you ("cohabits") or has lived with you within the past 12 months (or his/her child who also lives in the home).*  Note: The law uses the word "cohabit" and the definition of "cohabit" generally implies there is an intimate or sexual relationship.

To read the exact terminology, please see the VA Legal Statutes page.

* Va. Code § 16.1-228

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back to topCan I get a protective order against a same-sex partner?

In Virginia, you may apply for a family abuse protective order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Who can get a family abuse protective order?  You must also be the victim of an act of domestic violence, which is explained here What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Virginia?

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back to topWhat if I do not qualify for a family abuse protective order?

In Virginia, family abuse protective orders generally do not cover people who are/were not family or household members.

However, assault, stalking, and harassment are against the law. If one of these crimes is being committed against you, you may want to consider calling the police. If criminal charges are pressed against the abuser and a warrant is issued for the abuser's arrest, a judge may be able to order him/her to stay away from you. You can also visit our Staying Safe page for ways to increase your safety.

If you do not qualify for a protective order based on domestic violence, you may be able to file for a Protective Order for an Act of Violence, Force or Threat.

If you are being stalked or harassed, go to the Stalking Resource Center website for more information on stalking and harassment laws, as well safety planning information.

Protective orders also do not cover many types of emotional or mental abuse. If you're being mentally or emotionally abused, please contact a domestic violence organization in your area. They can help you figure out your options and offer you support. See: VA Where to Find Help.

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