If you or your child is the victim of family abuse, there are several statutes to protect you and your family. A civil protective order may be preferable to bringing a criminal action against the abuser. The attorneys at Gravitt & Gravitt, P.C. can assist you through this difficult process.
A magistrate can issue an emergency protective order if court is not in session upon a finding that probable cause exists that family abuse occurred and that there is probable future danger to the victim or the children.
Family abuse is defined by statute:
"Family abuse" means any act involving violence, force, or threat including, but not limited to, any forceful detention, which results in bodily injury or places one in reasonable apprehension of bodily injury and which is committed by a person against such person’s family or household member.
Virginia Code §16.1-228
An emergency protective order will expire at 5:00 PM on the next business day that the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court is in session or 72 hours, whichever is later.
Virginia Code §16.1-253.4
If you want to extend the emergency protective order, you must appear before a judge of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in the city or county where you live before the emergency order expires. Based on your sworn testimony, the judge can issue a preliminary protective order for up to 15 additional days. The preliminary protective order can be ex parte, meaning based on your testimony alone. At a scheduled hearing at the end of the 15 day period, you can request a two year extension, but the alleged abuser will have the right to appear with an attorney and oppose the protective order. If the alleged abuser has an attorney for the hearing, you should have an attorney as well to help present your case to the judge.
Virginia Code §16.1-253.1
A judge can impose any of the following terms in a protective order:
Prohibit further acts of family abuse.
Prohibit contact between the abuser and the victim or household members.
Grant possession of the family residence or the family vehicle.
Enjoin the abuser from terminating any necessary utility service to the family home or to restore it if it has been terminated.
Require the abuser to provide the victim with suitable alternative housing and, where appropriate, requiring the respondent to pay deposits to connect or restore necessary utility services in the alternative housing provided.
Any other relief necessary for the protection of the petitioner and family or household members of the petitioner.
Virginia Code §16.1-279.1
When your children have been victims of family abuse, you should consider calling your local department of social services to report child abuse. The state Child Abuse Hotline is 800-5252-7096 (Instate) or 804-786-8536 (Out-of-state).
The Court can order that the abuser get counseling, anger management or parenting classes. The local social services agency may be able to offer services for the family to prevent future abuse or to help the victims cope with what they have experienced.
If you obtain a protective order against a family or household member, you should keep a certified copy with you at all times. The police, if called, will want to review it.
The violation of a protective order is a crime punishable by up to a year in jail. A person against whom a protective order has been issued may not purchase or transport a firearm during the period of the protective order.
After a protective order has been issued, either party may file a motion to dissolve or change the order. A hearing will be held on the motion and it should be given priority on the docket.