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Legal Information: Virginia

Restraining Orders

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Updated: 
December 4, 2020

What types of protective orders are there? How long do they last?

A family abuse protective order is a civil court order that is designed to stop violent behavior and keep the abuser away from you. There are three types of protective orders for family abuse:

Emergency Protective Order: An emergency protective order is designed to give you immediate protection, and can be given on the weekends or after business hours when the courthouse is not open. It also can be given ex parte by a judge, if s/he believes that you are in immediate danger. Ex parte means the abuser does not have to be present or know that the order has been requested. However, the abuser will have to be served (given the order) before it takes effect.

You can petition for an emergency order with a magistrate at the Court Service Unit of a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, or at a General District Court or Circuit Court. A law enforcement official may also request that one be given to you.

An emergency order expires at the end of the third day following issuance. If it expires at a time when the court is not in session, the order will be extended until the end of the next business day the court is in session. An additional three days extension may also be granted, if you are hospitalized or otherwise incapacitated.1

The judge or magistrate should provide written information regarding protective orders that shall include the telephone numbers of domestic violence agencies and legal referral sources on a form prepared by the Supreme Court.1

Preliminary Protective Orders: A preliminary protective order is the first step in obtaining a (permanent) protective order. It is similar to an emergency order, but law enforcement officials cannot request a preliminary order for you. You must file a written petition yourself at the intake office of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations courthouse. You can fill out the forms through the courthouse website system called I CAN.

A preliminary order lasts up to 15 days until the court hearing for a final protective order. If the court is closed on the 15th day, it would last until the next day that the court is open. If the respondent fails to appear at this hearing because the respondent was not personally served, the court may extend the protective order for a period not to exceed six months. The extended protective order shall be served as soon as possible on the respondent.2

Protective Orders: A (final) protective order can last up to two years.3 It can only be granted after a full court hearing where both you and the abuser have an opportunity to tell your own sides of the story to a judge. However, you can file to extend it before your order expires. See How do I change or extend the permanent order? for more information.

A permanent protective order takes effect after it has been served (given) to the abuser. You should be notified when the abuser is served.

1 Va. Code § 16.1-253.4
2 Va. Code § 16.1-253.1(B)
3 Va. Code § 16.1-279.1(B)