En Español
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or (TTY) 1-800-787-3224

Know the Laws: Virginia

UPDATED November 18, 2016

Moving to Another State with a Protective Order

Print this page
View by Section

If you are moving out of state or are going to be out of the state for any reason, your protective order can still be enforceable.

General rules

back to topCan I get my protective order from Virginia enforced in another state?

Yes. If you have a valid Virginia protective order that meets federal standards, it can be enforced in another state.  The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which is a federal law, states that all valid protective orders granted in the United States receive "full faith and credit" in all state and tribal courts within the US, including US territories.  See How do I know if my protective order is good under federal law? to find out if your protective order qualifies.

Each state must enforce out-of-state protective orders in the same way it enforces its own orders.  Meaning, if the abuser violates your out-of-state protective order, s/he will be punished according to the laws of whatever state you are in when the order is violated.  This is what is meant by "full faith and credit."

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topHow do I know if my protective order is good under federal law?

A Virginia protective order is good anywhere in the United States as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.*
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.**

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

* 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
** 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a), (b)

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topI have a preliminary (ex parte) order. Can it be enforced in another state?

Yes. An ex parte preliminary order can be enforced in other states as long as it meets the requirements listed in How do I know if my protective order is good under federal law?*

Note: The state where you are going generally cannot extend your ex parte preliminary order or issue you a permanent order when the temporary one expires. If you need to extend your preliminary order, you will have to contact the state that issued the order and arrange to be at the hearing in person or by telephone (if that is an option offered by the court). However, you may be able to reapply for one in the new state that you are moving to if you meet the requirements for getting a protective order in that state – but, if you apply for one in a new state, the abuser would know what state you are living in, which may put you in danger.

Did you find this information helpful?

Getting your protective order enforced in another state

back to topHow do I get my protective order enforced in another state?

Federal law does not require you to take any special steps to get your protective order enforced in another state.

Many states do have laws or regulations (rules) about registering or filing of out-of-state orders, which can make enforcement easier, but a valid protective order is enforceable regardless of whether it has been registered or filed in the new state.* Rules differ from state to state, so it may be helpful to find out what the rules are in your new state. You can contact a local domestic violence organization for more information by visiting our State and Local Programs page and entering your new state in the drop-down menu.

Note: It is important to keep a copy of your protective order with you at all times. It is also a good idea to know the rules of states you will be living in or visiting to ensure that your out-of-state order can be enforced in a timely manner.

 * 18 U.S.C. § 2265(d)(2)

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topDo I need anything special to get my protective order enforced in another state?

In some states, you will need a certified copy of your protective order.  A certified copy says that it is a "true and correct" copy; it is signed and initialed by the clerk of court that gave you the order, and usually has some kind of court stamp on it.  In Virginia, if you are given a certified copy at the time your protective order is issued, the order will have the judge’s original signature on it.  However, if you need to get another certified copy for any reason, or if you were not given one originally, you can call or go to the courthouse that issued your order.  The clerk’s office will be able to help you get a certified copy of your order, which will have a stamp on it from the court clerk’s office.  There is no fee to get a certified copy of your order.

Note: It is generally a good idea to keep a copy of the order with you at all times.  You may also want to leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children's school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.  You may want to give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.  You may also want to give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topCan I get someone to help me? Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer to get your protective order enforced in another state.

However, you may want to get help from a local domestic violence advocate or attorney in the state that you move to. A domestic violence advocate can let you know what the advantages and disadvantages are for registering your protective order, and help you through the process if you decide to do so.

To find a domestic violence advocate, go to our State and Local Programs page.  To find an attorney in the state you are moving to, go to our Finding a Lawyer page.

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topDo I need to tell the court in Virginia if I move?

It may be a good idea to give the court that issued your protective order an up-to-date mailing address in case court personnel needs to communicate with you if anything happens to your protective order (for example, if the abuser asks the court to dismiss/modify the order).  If you will not be receiving mail at your old address, you may want to provide the court with a new address where you can receive mail.  If you feel unsafe giving your new address, you may want to use the address of a friend you trust or a P.O. box instead.

Did you find this information helpful?

Enforcing custody provisions in another state

back to topI was granted temporary custody with my protective order. Can I take my kids out of the state?

Maybe.  It may depend on the wording of the custody provision in your protective order (if there is a custody provision).  You may have to first seek the permission of the court before leaving.  If the abuser was granted visitation rights with your children, then you may have to have the order changed, or show the court that there is a fair and realistic alternative to the current visitation schedule.

If you are unsure about whether or not you can take your kids out of the state, it is important to talk to lawyer who understands domestic violence and custody laws, and can help you make the safest decision for you and your children.  You can find contact information for local domestic violence organizations and legal assistance in the Virginia area on our VA Finding a Lawyer page.

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topI was granted temporary custody with my protective order. Will another state enforce this custody order?

Yes.  Custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in a protective order can be enforced across state lines.  Law enforcement and courts in another state are required by federal law to enforce these provisions.*

* 18 USC § 2266

Did you find this information helpful?

WomensLaw.org would like to thank the Virginia Poverty Law Center and Hunton & Williams for their assistance in providing the following information.

back to top