The Protective Order Process

Attorney Van Smith and the law firm of Smith Strong, PLC have much experience in helping client’s file for or defend against frivolous protective orders. A protective order is a court order instructing a person to stop abusing or harassing the petitioner for a specified period of time. It is important to have a knowledgeable attorney at your side throughout the process – and each attorney at Smith Strong has monthly, in-court experience handling protective order matters in Virginia.

Types of Protective Orders

There are different types of protective orders that can be filed. It is important to know what each protective order does in order to ensure you are obtaining the right one to serve your needs. A protective order can be filed against a family or household member, someone you have lived with within the past 12 months, a spouse or previous spouse, or someone that you have a child in common with.    

An emergency protective order may be obtained by a police officer or a victim from a magistrate. These are usually good for 72 hours.

A preliminary protective order may be obtained by a victim from the Juvenile and Domestic (J&D) Relations Court. This petition must first be filed through the J&D Court Intake Office. The petitioner then appears before a judge, ideally with their attorney from Smith Strong, PLC beside them. A protective order specialist may also assist in the process. A preliminary protective order is usually good for 15 days.

A permanent protective order hearing date is set once a preliminary protective order has been issued. Both parties must be present at this hearing and may have legal representation and witnesses. A protective order specialist can help the petitioner find a no-cost attorney if one is needed. In our experience, all parties should strongly consider hiring an attorney for their case.

Protective orders are not in effect until both parties have been served.

What to Ask For When Petitioning for a Protective Order

A protective order is usually put in place to forbid your abuser from committing any further acts of abuse against you. You can request that the judge forbids the abuser from having any contact with you or any other members of your family or household. If you for any reason feel that it is necessary to maintain contact with your abuser for limited purposes (i.e. arranging visits with your children) you can ask the judge to forbid all contact with you except for specific purposes, like visitation with minor children.

If you want to live in your current home, and your abuser lives there as well, you can ask the judge to forbid the abuser from living in the current mutual home. This is known as having “exclusive possession of the home.” You and your family can stay in your current home, but the abuser will not be able to stay. He will be forced to leave.         

If you do not want to remain in your current shared home, you can request the judge to order your abuser to pay you a specific monetary amount each month that would provide you with alternate living arrangements. This is known as providing “suitable alternative housing.” You will need to request a specific amount of money per month and have proof to show why you need that amount for housing each month.    

You can also ask the judge to allow you  to have “exclusive possession of a motor vehicle” that both you and your abuser share. The judge could order the abuser to not use the car.      

Additionally, you can ask the judge to order your abuser to participate in treatment or counseling for anger management, substance abuse issues, and a variety of other programs.

Courts may enter a Preliminary Protective Order for up to two years in duration.

What to do if Your Protective Order is Violated

Call the local police department right away if your protective order is violated and ask to make a report. Do not wait on this, not even several hours or until the next day. Call the police immediately. The police will be able to make an arrest and enforce the protective order quicker if they know about the violation as soon as possible.

The protective order will state and list out what your abuser is not allowed to do. If any of these are violated, the protective order has been violated, and you should contact the police. Violating a protective order if a Class 1 misdemeanor.

It is important to always keep a copy of your protective order with you. You should also give a copy to your employer incase your abuser shows up at your place of work.       

It does not matter if a protective order violation occurs in a different town or state than where the order was given. The protective order is good anywhere. You should still call the police. Show your protective order to the police and explain how the order was violated so the police can take action for your protection.         

If the protective order violation was over the phone, give the police the time of the call, where the call was made from, if you know the number, what was said, and record the call if you are able to.       

If the protective order violation is in person, give a description of what the abuser is wearing, the type of car they were in, the plate number if available, and the direction in which they left the scene.        

Always be sure to report these violations to the police immediately.

Also note, text messages, unless permitted, are considered “contact,” so be careful to have the court clarify if text message contact is acceptable or not. 
H. Van Smith
Trusted Virginia Family Law Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg