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Legal Information: Virginia

Restraining Orders

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December 4, 2020

Can the abuser have a gun?

Once you get a protection order, there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession.  There are a few places where you can find this information:

  • first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in Virginia have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
  • second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
  • third you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal laws that apply to all states.

You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website

What should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some things you may want to consider doing. However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation.

  • Review the order before you leave the court room.  If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to correct the order before you leave.
  • Make several copies of the protective order as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the childrens school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • The court should file a copy of your order with the local law enforcement agency.  Check and make sure a copy has been filed. Take one of your extra copies and deliver it to the police if necessary.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number, as well as taking other security precautions.

You may also wish to make a safety plan.  People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school.  Many abusers obey protective orders, but some do not and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  Click on the following link for suggestions on Staying Safe.  Also, advocates at local domestic violence organizations can assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support.  To find a shelter or advocate in your area please visit the VA Advocates and Shelters page.

I was not granted a protective order. What can I do?

If you are not granted a protective order, there are still some things you can do to stay safe.  It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic violence resource centers in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe.  They can help you come up with a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need.  You will find a list of resources on our VA Places that Help page.  You can also find safety planning tips on our Safety Tips page.

You may also be able to reapply for a protective order if a new incident of domestic violence occurs after you are denied the order.

What happens if the abuser violates the order?

If the abuser violates the protective order, there are two general options. You can file for a violation petition in the court that issued the order and ask the judge to hold him/her in civil contempt. Another option is that you can call the police and the abuser can be arrested, fined and even jailed for violating the protective order. Even if you think it is a minor violation, it can be a crime and contempt of court if the abuser knowingly violates the order in any way.

It can be a Class 1 misdemeanor when s/he violates the part of the order that prohibits the abuser from:

  • going or remaining upon land, buildings, or premises;
  • committing family abuse;
  • committing a criminal offense; or
  • contacting you or your family or household members.1

It can be a Class 6 felony crime if the abuser:

  • secretly enters your home while you are there;
  • secretly enters your home while you are not there but remains until you arrive;
  • commits an assault and battery against you, which results in bodily injury;
  • stalks you;
  • violates any provision of the protective order while knowingly armed with a firearm or other deadly weapon;2
  • is convicted of a third or subsequent offense of violating the protective order (within 20 years of the first conviction) and any of the offenses are based on an act or threat of violence.1

The abuser can be prosecuted in the county where the protective order was issued or in the county where the violation took place.3

It is a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge number in case you want to follow up on your case. You should also make sure the police or sheriff write a report on the incident even if the abuser is not arrested. The report could be valuable documentation if you try to modify or extend your order.

1 Va. Code § 16.1-253.2(A)
2 Va. Code § 16.1-253.2(B), (C)
3 Va. Code §§ 16.1-253.2(E); 18.2–60.4(F)

How do I change or extend the permanent order?

Only a judge can modify a protective order. If you or the abuser wish to change the terms of the order, a motion to modify can be filed. If you wish to cancel the order, a motion to dismiss can be filed. The court may be less willing to offer you its protection in the future if you have an order dismissed (canceled).

If you want to extend the order, you can file a motion to extend. This must be filed before your protective order expires. Proceedings to extend a protective order are supposed to be given high priority by the court. If you were a member of the respondent’s family or household at the time the initial protective order was issued, the court may extend your protective order for a period of up to two years to protect the health and safety of the you or your current family or household member(s). You can file to extend your order more than once.1

For any of the above motions that are filed, the court will set a date for a hearing and the abuser will be served with a copy of the motion and a request to be present. You must attend this hearing and tell the judge why the change, extension, or dismissal (cancellation) is necessary.

1 Va. Code § 16.1-279.1(B)

What happens to my order if I move? Is it still valid?

Your order is valid and enforceable wherever you go throughout Virginia.

Additionally, the federal law provides what is called “full faith and credit,” which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. territories and tribal lands.  Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders.  

If you are moving out of state, please check the Restraining Orders pages for that state on this website for information on how to have your order enforced there.

Please see our Moving to Another State with a Protective Order section for more information about moving out of Virginia with your protective order.

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.