Restraining orders legally protect individuals from another person. Here’s how to get a restraining order in Virginia.

Virginia has three different restraining order types. Virginia residents may file for an emergency, preliminary, or permanent protective order depending on the circumstances.

What is a Restraining Order?

A restraining order, or protective order, is used by a court to protect a person, object, business, company, state, country, establishment, entity, and the general public. Restraining orders apply in domestic violence, child abuse, assault, harassment, stalking, or sexual assault situations. The person filing for a protective order is called the “petitioner,” and the person facing the protective order is called the “respondent.”

While restraining orders offer legal protection, parties should not use them to deter violence. If a person feels threatened with physical violence, they should contact a domestic and sexual violence advocate for assistance.

Three types of Restraining Orders

Virginia offers three types of restraining orders, including:

1. Emergency Protective Order (EPO)

Law enforcement officers mostly request emergency protective orders. This restraining order applies if an officer finds any probable danger of family abuse, violence, force, or threat. An EPO lasts for 72 hours or until the next court session. A magistrate or a judge can only issue an EPO. A person who has experienced abuse may petition for an EPO at the magistrate’s office. An EPO lasts for 72 hours or until the next court session.

An EPO can impose the following conditions on the respondent:

  • Prohibit all contact with the victim or the victim’s family
  • Prohibit acts of violence, force, or threat against the victim
  • Possession of a companion animal for petitioner
  • Grant temporary possession of a residence to family or
  • household members
  • Other conditions a judge or magistrate deems necessary

2. Preliminary Protective Order

A preliminary protective order, or PPO, can only be issued by a judge. A petitioner must obtain a PPO as soon as they have been abused or threatened with acts of violence. Based on the circumstances, a judge will decide whether or not to grant the PPO. If a judge grants the PPO, the order will last 15 days or until the final protective order hearing.

A PPO can impose the following conditions on the respondent:

Prohibit all contact with the victim or the victim’s family
Prohibit acts of violence, force, or threat against the victim
Possession of a companion animal for petitioner
Grant temporary possession of a residence to family or household members
Grant temporary possession of a jointly owned vehicle
Require the respondent to provide an alternative living for family or household members
Other conditions a judge deems necessary

3. Permanent Protective Order

A “permanent” protective order, or PO, can last up to two years. A petitioner must attend their final protective order hearing to obtain a PO. The respondent must attend the hearing, and both parties must describe the events leading to the petition. If a petitioner requests an extension, the judge may extend the PO.

In addition to the conditions set by a PPO, a PO can also impose the following terms:

  • Require respondents to participate in treatment, counseling, or other programs mandated by the court.
  • Provide temporary custody or visitation rights to a minor child’s parent(s).

How to Request a Protective Order

A petitioner may file a petition for a protective order at a juvenile and domestic relations court or circuit court. A petitioner must ask a court clerk for a protective order application to file. The petitioner can also access the forms online at the VA Download Court Forms page. Once the form is complete, a petitioner must take it to court.

On the protective order form complaint, the petitioner must describe the reason for filing. The petitioner must describe the most recent incidents of violence using specific details.

If a petitioner is in immediate danger, they may get an emergency order at the nearest police department. However, an EPO will only last for 72 hours.

FAQs about Restraining Orders in Virginia

How much does it cost to obtain a protective order in Virginia?

Under Virginia law, one petition for a protective order, file copies of a protective order or serve a restraining order free of charge.

Do I need a lawyer to obtain a protective order in Virginia?

Virginia offers free legal services for low-income victims. A petitioner does not need an attorney to file for a protective order. However, having an attorney would be useful to prove allegations of abuse or violence.

Do I have to press charges to get a protective order?

Filing for a protective order is not the same as pressing criminal charges. A petitioner may obtain a protective order without pressing charges against the respondent.

Related: How to Terminate a Restraining Order in Virginia

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