A protective order or restraining order is a legal order to protect a person who feels threatened by another person. Often seen in domestic cases, protective orders can have a major impact on the outcome of a divorce, custody or visitation dispute.

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A Protective Order is a legal order that protects a person from the physical abuse or threat of abuse of another. They are most commonly used in the context of a domestic assault allegation. There are three types of protective orders:

  • Emergency Protective Order (EPO) An EPO is usually issued by a magistrate against someone accused of committing an assault. EPOs last only 72 hours and usually prohibit all contact with the alleged victim. The threshold to obtain an EPO is low and is usually obtained by the proffer of evidence by a law enforcement officer.
  • Preliminary Protective Order (PPO) – A PPO is obtained by the submission of an affidavit by the person seeking a protective order. The affidavit must allege a recent act of violence or threat against them and explain why they feel they need a protective order. The affidavit then goes to a judge for approval and if granted will last up to 15 days. A hearing will be scheduled prior to the expiration of the statutory period. Similar to an EPO, the threshold to obtain a PPO is low as the respondent is not afforded an opportunity to be heard or present evidence.
  • Protective Order Within 15 days of a PPO being issued a full hearing must be held to determine whether a protective order is warranted. Both parties are allowed to have an attorney and are afforded the opportunity to subpoenas witnesses and introduce evidence. A protective order can be valid for up to two years and grants the Court discretion to order support, exclusive use of a residence, temporary custody of children, require the respondent to attend drug screening or mental health evaluation and can include additional family members of the petitioner. The Court is given broad discretion to protect the safety of the petitioner.

A protective order is an extraordinary remedy in Virginia and is not to be taken lightly. If a protective order is granted the respondent’s name is entered into the Virginia Criminal Information Network and is not permitted to purchase or transport a firearm. Additionally, a violation of a protective is a misdemeanor and requires the person violating the protective order to serve at least one day in jail.