What a Protective Order Does

            A protective order is a legal document mandating that a particular person does or does not do certain activities. These activities may include: prohibiting further acts of family abuse, prohibiting contact between the parties, granting the abused spouse sole possession of the house, requiring the abuser to provide alternate housing to the abused and any children, ordering the abuser to participate in rehabilitative activities, and any other relief necessary for the abused and any minor children involved. 

Types of Protective Orders


  • Issued when requested by a law enforcement officer or if a magistrate or judge deems it necessary
  • In effect for three days or until the next court session, whichever is later



  • Accessible to the public 
  • Remains in effect until there is a hearing – must be within 15 days of the order being given
  • Result of hearing could be a dismissal or the entrance of an order


Full Order:

  • Comes after a preliminary protective order if the judge decides the petitioner has presented enough evidence. 
  • Can last up to 2 years


How to Get a Preliminary Protective Order

            To obtain a protective order you must go through your local court system. If you want protection from a family member or a juvenile, or if you are a juvenile, you will be required to go through the juvenile and domestic relations court system. In any other case, you must go to the general district court. 

            Once in the correct court, you must fill out forms that the court will provide for you. On these forms, you will fill out why you are requesting a protective order and who it is against. If you have an emergency protective order, you should also bring that with you. You would then file the papers for the protective order with the court. Once filed, you will go before a judge and have him or her ask you questions regarding the order. If the judge decides you have presented a compelling case, he or she will grant the preliminary protective order. There is no cost for filing a protective order.

The Hearing

            Since preliminary protective orders are granted ex-parte, meaning without the defendant, the court has a hearing to decide the matter as quickly as possible. Therefore, the hearing on a preliminary protective order must be within 15 days after the order has been granted. At the hearing, you and the opposing party will present evidence for your position. Once both sides have presented evidence, the judge will decide on the validity of the order for the particular case, either dismissing the order or keeping the order in place for up to two years. 

When the Order Takes Effect

            A protective order does not take effect until a police officer serves the party it is imposed upon.

Enforcement of the Order

            If the defendant defies the terms of the order he or she may be charged as a criminal and arrested. 

Why you Need an Attorney

            Presenting your evidence in a clear and persuasive way will be the difference between receiving a protective order, or if you are a wrongfully accused defendant, clearing your name. Having an effective advocate will be the best way to accomplish that goal. The attorneys at Smith Strong regularly litigate protective orders and will use their experience to help you throughout this process. If you need help with a protective order please call one of our offices at (804) 325-1245 (Richmond) or (757) 941-4298 (Williamsburg). One of our attorneys will meet with you and guide you through this trying time in your life.

Editorial Assistance by: Michael Gee

H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg