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Legal Information: Virginia

Restraining Orders

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Updated: 
December 4, 2020

What is the definition of an act of violence, force, or threat?

For the purposes of getting this protective order, an act of violence, force or threat means any act that involves violence, force, or threat; and

  • results in physical injury; or
  • reasonably makes you fear death, sexual assault, or physical injury.1

Some examples of acts that could qualify as acts of violence, force or threat are:

  • forceful detention;
  • stalking;
  • any criminal sexual assault crime (including, rape, sexual battery, sodomy, and more - all are listed here in Article 7); or
  • any criminal offense that results in physical injury to the body or reasonably makes you fear death, sexual assault, or physical injury.1

1 Va. Code § 19.2-152.7:1

What types of protective orders for an act of violence, force, or threat are there? How long do they last?

Emergency protective order
An emergency protective order can be requested by you or by a police officer if you are/were the victim of an act of violence, force, or threat.  This is usually done orally in front of a judge or magistrate without filing a written petition.  It is an ex parte order, which means that the abuser is not present in court or notified beforehand.  A judge or magistrate can give you an emergency protective order if:

  • there is probable danger of another act of violence, force, or threat against you; or
  • there is a petition or a warrant for the arrest of the abuser for any crime resulting from the act of violence, force, or threat against you.1

An emergency protective order will only last for 3 days after the judge grants it.  If the third day is a day that the court is not in session, it will be extended until the end of the next day that the court is in session.2

Preliminary protective order
A preliminary protective order can be granted when you file a petition in court.  To get a preliminary protective order, you must allege in your petition that:

  • You are or have recently been the victim of an act of violence, force, or threat; or
  • There is a petition or warrant for the arrest of the abuser for any crime resulting from the act of violence, force, or threat against you.3

A judge can give you the order in an ex parte proceeding, meaning that the abuser is not notified ahead of time and is not present when the judge grants you the order.  To get this order, the judge must believe that there is enough evidence to prove that there is an immediate and present danger of any act of violence, force, or threat, or that there is evidence that it is likely that an act of violence, force, or threat has recently occurred.3

This order will last until there is a full court hearing, which generally is within 15 days.  However, if you are unable to have the abuser served with the petition, the preliminary order can be extended up to six months while you attempt to serve him/her.4

Final protective order
This protective order can be given:

  • if there is a petition, warrant, or conviction of any crime resulting from the act of violence, force, or threat; or
  • after a hearing is held where you prove that you have been (within a reasonable period of time) the victim of an act of violence, force, or threat.5

This (final) protective order will last up to 2 years (but it can be extended for two-year periods).  If there is no expiration date given on the order, it will end 2 years from the date it was issued.  However, during those 2 years, either party can file a motion in court asking that it be modified (changed) or dissolved (canceled).6

1 Va. Code § 19.2-152.8(B)
2 Va. Code § 19.2-152.8(C)
3 Va. Code § 19.2-152.9(A)
4 Va. Code § 19.2-152.9(B)
5 Va. Code §§ 19.2-152.10(A), 19.2-152.9(D)
6 Va. Code § 19.2-152.10(B),(G)

What protections can I get in a protective order for an act of violence, force or threat?

Emergency, preliminary and final protective orders can order the abuser to:

  • not commit acts of violence, force, or threat, or crimes resulting in injury to a person or damage to property;
  • prohibit any contact by the abuser with you or your family or household members (and, for emergency orders only, this can include prohibiting the abuser from being in your/their “physical presence,” which includes intentionally maintaining eye contact with you/them or unreasonably being within 100 feet from your/their home or work);
  • grant you possession of a pet or companion animal (if you are considered an owner of the pet); and/or
  • follow any other orders the judge decides are necessary to prevent:
    • acts of violence, force, or threat,
    • crimes resulting in injury to a person or damage to property, or
    • communication or other contact of any kind by the abuser.1

1 Va. Code §§ 19.2-152.8(B),(J); 19.2-152.9(A); 19.2-152.10(A)

If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?

When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.

There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:

  1. The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
  2. One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
  3. If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.

However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.

You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.

Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.