If you are worried about abuse by a family member, someone at work, someone you are dating, or otherwise, you can seek out a Protective Order.
Use this guide to understand the different kinds of Protective Orders in Virginia, how to file for an order, and how to deal with changes or enforcement if you have an order. Find resources and organizations that can help you more.
You can contact your local Virginia legal aid group by calling 1-866-534-5243. You can also look up your local legal aid group online.
Lawyers can help you understand your options and next steps for your specific situation. Legal aid lawyers provide free help to people who qualify.
If you need help with domestic violence, call the police at 911 if you need immediate protection.
For non-emergencies, reach out to the Virginia Statewide Hotline for domestic violence at 1-800-838-8238 (available 24/7). Or text the hotline at 1-804-793-9999.
Follow the steps to get a protective order to deal with domestic violence or harassment.
Learn about what Virginians can do about domestic violence, harassment, and protective orders.
Find services, shelters, hotlines, and more information on domestic violence & protective orders
You might want to apply for one if you have been the victim of violence, force, threats, or stalking.
Learn more about what types of protective orders you can get at Step 1 of the guide.
If you want to apply for a Protective Order, go to your local court in Virginia to start the process.
If courts are closed and you need immediate help, you will need to call the police to request an Emergency Protective Order.
Learn more about finding the right court or getting emergency help at Step 2 of our guide.
You may also want to make a plan to keep yourself safe. Connect with a domestic and sexual violence advocate to get help with this.
Call the 24-hour Hotline at 1-800-838-8238 (toll free), or text an advocate at 804-793-9999. Learn more at Step 3 of our guide.
When you're at court, you can ask for a preliminary order. It will last for 14 days -- until you have a court date for the full Protective Order.
Learn more about getting a preliminary order at Step 4 of our guide.
You can get free legal advice or representation for your protective order case.
Call your local Virginia legal aid at 1-866-LEGLAID to request help. See Step 5 of our guide for more info.
The court will tell you when the hearing for your protective order will be. This is when the 'respondent' (the abuser) may come and tell their side of the story. You can present your evidence, witnesses, and other information.
Learn more about the hearing at Step 6 of our guide.
After the hearing, the judge may give you a Protective Order. If they do, the other person should obey it.
If they violate the order, you can call the police and who the order. The other person may face jail or fines. Learn more about your options at Step 7 of our guide.
You can ask the court to get a Protective Order if you are or were the victim of an act of violence, force, or threat (which includes stalking).
There are 3 types of protective orders in Virginia:
If you would like legal advice on whether to seek a protective order, you can call your local legal aid at 1-866-LEGLAID.
To talk to a domestic and sexual violence advocate, you can call the Family Violence and Sexual Assault 24-hour hotline at 1-800-838-8238 (toll-free). Or text an advocate at 804-793-9999.
You can go to court to start the Protective Order process.
If you need a Protective Order immediately, and the courts are closed, you will need to call the police. The police can request an Emergency Protective Order, or you can go to your local magistrate and request an Emergency Protective Order. This emergency order will last 3 days and allow you to have the time to access the courts when they are open.
When the courts are open, you can go to your local court to request a Protective Order. You will need to figure out which kind of court to go to. This will depend on whether you have a relationship with the abuser. You would go to either:
Find your local court's location at the Virginia court website: https://www.vacourts.gov/courts/home.html. Choose the J&DR court or Circuit court in your county.
You will need to fill out a Petition for a protective order. If you would like to fill out the forms before going to court, you can use the I-CAN! Virginia online program. It is available in English and Spanish. If you need an interpreter, let the clerk know when you submit your documents. If you would like to keep your address confidential, tell the clerk when you file your petition.
At many courthouses, when you file a petition for a protection order you will also get referrals for domestic and sexual violence advocates.
They can help you with creating a plan to stay safe from your abuser and can provide you with some resources that may help you.
To talk to a domestic and sexual violence advocate, you can call the Family Violence and Sexual Assault 24-hour Hotline at 1-800-838-8238 (toll free), or text an advocate at 804-793-9999.
When you file your petition for a protective order, you can ask the court for a preliminary protective order, which would last 14 days, and until the next court date.
In some courts, you may see a Judge and the Judge might ask you questions about why you are asking for a protective order.
In other courts, you may be asked to fill out a paper stating why you are asking for a protective order.
The court can give you a preliminary protective order if you have been subjected to family abuse, which is an act of violence, force or threat, within a reasonable period of time, in order to protect your health and safety or the health and safety of your family and household members.
If you would like legal advice or representation for your case protective order, you can call your local Virginia legal aid at 1-866-LEGLAID.
You should try to call an attorney as soon as possible because there is not much time between when you file your petition and your court date.
Your protective order hearing will be scheduled 14 days after you give your petition to the clerk.
At the hearing, you are considered the “Petitioner” and the abuser is considered the “Respondent.”
When you come to court, you should bring:
If the Respondent (the abuser) has not received a copy of the petition for a protective order from law enforcement, the Judge will set a new court date to give law enforcement more time to “serve” the abuser. In this situation, the Judge will continue the Preliminary Protective Order until the new date.
If the Respondent (the abuser) is present and wants a trial, each person will have the opportunity to tell the Judge what happened. You should tell the Judge if you have any evidence or witnesses.
The Judge will grant a Protective Order if it is proved by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning you have more evidence than the Respondent, that the Respondent committed an act of violence, force, or threat, and that a protective order is necessary to protect your health and safety.
The judge will let you know if you will be given a Protective Order and how long it will be for.
If the other person does not obey the Protective Order, call the police and show them a copy of the Protective Order.
A violation of a protective order is a crime. The police can arrest the other person. The other person may go to jail or pay a fine.
You should keep a certified copy of the Protective Order in a safe place. You should also carry a copy of the Protective Order at all times and have a picture of it on your phone.
You should consider providing a certified copy of the Protective Order to your employer, your child, or children’s schools or daycares.
In Virginia, a protective order is a piece of paper signed by a judge that orders another person to stop hurting or threatening you.
A Protective Order might also include special instructions, depending on what you ask for and what the court includes in the order:
The Protective Order can also protect not only you, but your children and other family members. It might include provisions like:
In Virginia, Protective Orders are either for family or non-family situations. The kind of Order and court process will be different for these situations.
A Family Abuse Protective Order is decided in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
A Non-Family Abuse Protective Order is decided in the General District Court)
There are three types of protective orders: Emergency ones, Preliminary ones, and Full ones.
You can read on the rest of this page about how to get a full Protective Order.
Read here about Emergency and Preliminary Protective Orders.
Emergency Protective Orders are for short-term protection in emergency situations.
Preliminary Protective Orders are to provide protection while a person is waiting for hearing for full Protective Order.
If you disagree with a judge’s decision about the Protective Order, you have 10 days to appeal to Circuit Court.
A Protective Order in Virginia can be modified by the agreement of both parties, or through a court procedure.
Modifying (Changing) an order: You must file a motion with the court requesting that the Protective Order be modified.
Applying for an extension: Before the end of the Protective Order, you may apply for an extension by filing a motion with the court requesting that the Protective Order be extended for up to two years.
If the other person does not obey the Protective Order, call the police and show them the certified copy of the Protective Order. They can arrest the other person. The other person may to jail or pay a fine.
You should keep a certified copy of the Protective Order in a safe place. You should also carry a certified copy of the Protective Order at all times.
You should consider providing a certified copy of the Protective Order to your employer, your child or children’s schools or daycares.
If you want to talk to an advocate about your options and resources, contact Fairfax County's Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC).
You can use the Fairfax County – Family Abuse Protective Order Packet
And find additional help at Fairfax County – Assistance with Protective Orders
You can reach out to the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
Reach out to groups who can help you deal with harassment, domestic violence, and other issues you might be dealing with.
Police - Call 911 if you are in danger or need immediate help.
Virginia Statewide Hotline for domestic violence
Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault live chat on a website run by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance
Find local offices and agencies that can help you.
Virginia Action Alliance map of local agencies and help centers
Find your local Virginia county Department of Social Services
Find a Private Lawyer: To connect with a private lawyer, call Virginia Lawyer Referral Service at 1-800-552-7977 or go to their website at https://vlrs.community.lawyer/. Some lawyers charge $35.00 for an initial interview.
Contact Legal Aid: You can call the Virginia Legal Aid Hotline 1-866-LEGLAID (1-866-534-5243). This will help you find your local free legal aid group.
If you are in Northern Virginia, seek help from the legal aid group Legal Services of Northern Virginia, visit https://www.lsnv.org or call (703) 778-6800.
If you are not in Northern Virginia, or need to find other groups, you can find a list of Virginia legal aid and help groups here, for more legal and financial assistance.
Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of a person's situation. The information on this page cannot replace the advice of competent, local legal counsel.
Before taking action based on the information on this site, first check for up-to-date information with your local court system, and seek the advice of licensed local attorneys in Virginia (or your state).
This platform is not a substitute for qualified legal advice.
Please contact a lawyer in Virginia to help you with your specific situation. You can find a private lawyer by calling 1-800-552-7977 or find a local legal aid group by calling 1-866-LEGLAID (1-866-534-5243).
Do you have issues with divorce, child custody, support, separation, or domestic violence? These guides can help.
Are you ending your marriage or partnership in Virginia?
Use this guide to explore your options for divorce, separation, spousal support, and child support.
Are you trying to establish who can visit your children, and where they live? And who can make decisions about their schooling, finances, and other life choices?
Use this guide to understand your options around custody and visitation in Virginia.