How Do I File for a Protective Order or Restraining Order in Virginia?

By Katarina Nguyen

A protective order is the same thing as a restraining order–both are meant to protect you and Virginia uses the term protective order instead of restraining order. A protective order is meant to protect you from someone who has physically or sexually harmed you or threatened to harm or kill you by preventing this person from even contacting or approaching you.

If you’re filing for a protective order, you are called the “petitioner” and the offender is called the “respondent.”

In Virginia, there are two categories of protective orders: general protective orders and those in cases of family abuse. General protective orders are codified under Virginia Code Sections 19.2-152.7:1 to 19.2-152.12, and family abuse protective orders are codified under Virginia Code Sections 16.1-25316.1-253.116.1-253.4, and 16.1-279.1.

General protective orders are filed in the General District Court, while family abuse protective orders are filed with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations (“JDR”) District Court. You can obtain a family abuse protective order at any time, including during the pendency of a divorce, support, custody, or visitation case. Each variety offers the same essential protection of preventing the respondent from contacting or coming near you, while the family abuse variety offers specific related relief, such as giving you possession of the residence and/or vehicle and ordering the respondent pay temporary child support.

I.  Obtaining a Protective Order

The first step is determining whether you need a general protective order or a family abuse protective order. Family abuse protective orders are issued in cases of family abuse committed by a “family or household member” against you or another member of your family.

General protective orders are used for everyone who does not fall under the family abuse protective order definition.

The process for obtaining protective orders in either category is virtually identical and the Virginia court system has aimed to streamline this process. For instance, there is no filing fee required when seeking a protective order.

A.  Types of Protective Orders

There are multiple types of protective orders, depending on how immediate the threat of harm is.

The first is the Emergency Protective Order (Virginia Code Section 16.1-253.4 for family abuse protective orders, and Section 19.2-152.8 for general protective orders), which only lasts three days. Emergency Protective Orders are typically obtained by a law enforcement officer because the situation is so dire that you cannot wait to have a petition filled out and processed by the court. To secure further protection after the Emergency Protective Order expires, you must file for a Preliminary Protective Order before the emergency protective order expires (Virginia Code Section 16.1-253.1 for family abuse protective orders, and Section 19.2-152.9 for general protective orders). A preliminary protective order typically lasts either 15 days or until the date of a full hearing. You are not required to get an emergency protective order before filing for a preliminary protective order.  At the full hearing, the court determines whether to award the third type, which is a Final or Full Protective Order (Virginia Code Section 16.1-279.1 for family abuse protective orders, and Section 19.2-152.10 for general protective orders). Final protective orders may last up to two years.

B.  Types of Harm Sufficient for a Protective Order

To obtain a general protective order, you need to demonstrate to the judge that the offender has subjected you to an act of violence or a threat of violence. Alternatively, you can show that the offender is the subject of a petition or warrant for arrest for committing a crime involving an act of violence or threat of violence. You must show that a protective order is necessary to protect the health and safety of yourself and/or your family.

To obtain a family abuse protective order, you need to demonstrate to the judge that the offender has subjected you to family abuse, as defined under Virginia Code Section 16.1-228, which can include acts of violence, threats of violence, sexual assault, forceful detention, and stalking. This abuse needed to have taken place within a reasonable period of time prior to your filing for a protective order. You must show that a protective order is required to protect the health and safety of yourself and/or your family.

The relief or protections available differs depending on the type of protective order. A full Protective Order can order the respondent to get treatment or counseling or that you receive temporary custody or visitation of a minor child in cases of a family abuse protective order, whereas a Preliminary and Emergency Protective Order cannot provide as much relief because a full hearing has not been held.

C.  Filing Your Petition for a Protective Order

If you believe you have grounds to file for a protective order, you must fill out Form DC-383 for a general protective order, which is available for download here, along with instructions on how to fill out the form here. For a family abuse protective you must fill out Form DC-611, which is available for download here, along with instructions on how to fill out the form here (Note: you can delete the “Virginia Beach” insertion at the very top of the form and specify the court in which you are filing).

You must provide the contact information for the respondent and describe how he or she has harmed or threatened to harm you or members of your family. If seeking a family abuse order, you must check the appropriate boxes describing your relationship to the respondent. You can then check the box stating you are seeking a Preliminary Protective Order during the interim leading up to the full hearing. After that, you check the boxes for each type of relief you are seeking (see subsection D below for more details). On the second page, for service of the petition, you only need to fill in your name and the name and address of the respondent. The rest is filled out by the court and the serving officer. You are not required to disclose your address and phone number in the form. This information is kept confidential by the court.

You may be required to fill out a separate affidavit detailing the supporting facts showing good cause if seeking a Preliminary Protective Order. Good cause is when you can show an immediate and present danger of an act of violence or threat of violence, or you provide evidence to show probable cause that an act of violence of threat of violence recently occurred.

D.  Available Relief 

For family abuse protective orders, the following relief is available:

  • Prohibiting further acts of family abuse or criminal offenses that result in injury to person or property
  • Prohibiting such contact with you and/or your family as the judge deems necessary for your health and safety
  • Granting you possession of the home at the exclusion of the respondent, if you and the respondent live together
  • Prohibiting the respondent from necessary utility services to the home, or requiring the respondent to restore such services
  • Granting you temporary exclusive possession or use of a motor vehicle jointly owned by you and the respondent or owned by you alone
  • Prohibiting the respondent from terminating the auto insurance, vehicle registration, and taxes on the motor vehicle, or requiring the respondent to maintain the above
  • Requiring the respondent provide you and/or your family with suitable alternative housing, including requiring him or her to pay the deposit needed to connect or restore necessary utility services in the alternative housing
  • Granting temporary custody or visitation of a minor child or children to you
  • Provide you with temporary child support for the minor children
  • Granting you possession of a companion animal, as defined under Virginia Code Section 3.2-6500 (assuming you meet the definition of an owner under the same Section)
  • Any other relief necessary for your protection

For general protective orders, the following relief is available:

  • Prohibiting acts of violence, force, or threat or criminal offenses that may result in injury to person or property
  • Prohibiting such other contact with you and/or your family as the judge deems necessary for your health and safety
  • Granting you possession of the companion animal, as defined under Virginia Code Section 3.2-6500 (assuming you meet the definition of an owner under the same Section)
  • Any other relief necessary to prevent acts of violence, force, threat, criminal offenses resulting in injury to your person or property, or communication or contact of any kind by the respondent

E.  The Hearing 

At the full hearing, the respondent will have the opportunity to defend his or herself against your allegations. You have to show by a preponderance of the evidence (i.e., more likely than not or 51%) that (1) you were subjected to an act of violence or threat of violence, (2) the respondent was convicted of a criminal offense due to an act of violence or threat of violence, or (3) a warrant was issued against the respondent alleging he or she committed an act of violence or threat of violence. If the court believes you are at risk for harm, it will grant your petition and issue a full Protective Order.

II.  After Getting a Protective Order

A.  Extending Your Protective Order

When the expiration date of your protective order is approaching, you may apply to extend the Protective Order using Form DC-630 for a period of up to 2 years if the respondent continues to pose a threat to you or your family. The same form is used for both family abuse and general protective orders. The form is available for download here, along with instructions on how to fill out the form here. (The second page is for the clerk and serving officer to fill out.) There is no limit on the number of extensions that can be requested. If granted, a new Protective Order is issued.

B.  Dissolutions and Modifications of Existing Protective Order

Both you and the respondent also have the right to file a motion to modify or dissolve the Protective Order. If modified, the court will issue a new Protective Order.

C.  Violations of the Protective Order

If the respondent violates the Protective Order and you feel threatened, you should call the police immediately. The respondent can be punished under Virginia Code Sections 18.2-60.4 and 16.1-253.2. If a family abuse protective order was violated, then you must first file Form DC-635 in the JDR District Court, available for download here and instructions here, which is a motion for show cause detailing how the respondent violated the order. If a general protective order was violated, you must file Form DC-420 in General District Court, which is available for download here and instructions here. If the court grants your motion, the respondent will be found guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. After the second offense, the respondent may be imprisoned for at least 60 days if violence or the threat of violence was involved. The court will also enter an additional protective order for up to 2 additional years beginning from the date of conviction.

III.  Other Resources

For additional help on determining whether you qualify for a protective order and what type to seek, the Virginia court has I-CAN. Once you register, you fill out the questionnaire, which takes approximately 30 minutes. This website does not file a petition for you, but helps determine what forms you will need.

If you need assistance filing a protective order or representing you in court, please feel free to contact us for a free phone consultation.

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35 Responses
  1. Quick question, in Virginia do I file out restraining/protective order on the offender in the city the they live or the city (my home) where offense occurred

  2. My niece went to file a protective order against her live in boy friend. She was told by the magistrate that she could not get one because the boyfriend left her house seven days ago. (Although he returned today and took their car.) Is this true?

    1. @Dell — The judge probably felt that b/c the boyfriend moved out and your niece waited seven days to file, she wasn’t really afraid of him. Had she filed right after the incident, her odds would have been better.

  3. Sir, My brother in law has been told not to call us, but he continues to the point where we have to keep our phone off the hook. In just a few days, he has left 14 nasty messages that go on and on. If he didn’t live 4 hours away, he would likely be at our door. Showing us that we can’t control what he does. My husband and I are so upset and depressed. He hasn’t threatened violence. But is enjoying tormenting us with non stop calls. How can we stop him?

  4. Due to verbal abuse and threats to my life, I filed a 72 hour Emergency Protective Order against my ex-boyfriend. He was served and removed from my home, where he has lived with me and our daughter for over two years. He has not worked or contributed to the household for those two years. I have now changed the door locks so he can not reenter my home. After the 72 hours are over, can he demand access to my home where he has “established residence” in?

    1. @Bena — You’ll need to file for a temp protective order prior to the expiration of the emergency protective order and then there will be a full hearing on the dispute — usually within 2 weeks.

  5. I have recently separated from my husband of 5 years. I am in the navy and on deployment. He is refusing to sign divorce papers (which I can handle) however he is also making threats by way of facebook messages. So I have proof, is there a way I can get him out of my house even though I won’t be home till late December? Kind of worried what will happen when I do get home.

  6. Sir,

    I have been wanting to get a restraining/protective order to keep an ex boyfriend from harassing me. He has left numerous inappropriate emails,.mostly voicemails just telling me he will be at my house or he sent “his people” to my house to get his things or has threatened my job telling me that he would make up some story to get me fired. I have not has physical.contact with him since late March of this year. I have managed to keep him at bay but it is taking a toll in my quality of life specially my mental.and emotional health. I tried getting a protective order before but was denied because there “was no physical harm done to me.or my property”. Do I need to get harmed.first just so that I can get some kind of protection? I’m very frustrated at this point. Please help.

  7. @Angel – The voice message threatening to harm you that you described should be enough to get temp protective order, so I’d go to the court and/or police and file.

  8. My 13 yr old daughter used to be best friends with my FORMER friend’s daughter. We (the 2 moms) are no longer friends, and the kids are no longer friends, but still take dance team classes together- on the same dance team. The other Mom (my former friend) pointed her finger in my daughter’s face and yelled at her a few days ago. I was in a different room when this happened, but another parent witnessed it all. My daughter was visibly shaken, crying, and scared. My daughter is still scared. She dances with this woman’s daughter 6 days a week and now my daughter is scared to even go in to the dance studio without my husband or I walking her inside. She’s worried that this woman will yell at her again – she’s very scared. What can I do?

  9. It was very informative when you said that a general protective order is used for everyone who is not part of your family. My sister has been dealing with an ex-boyfriend who has been stalking her at work and harassing her in public. It might be beneficial for her to talk to an attorney about filing a protective order against him.

    1. My boyfriends ex wife repeatedly calls both of our phones leaves text messages voicemails making threats to get protective orders against us if we do not do what she tells us to do most of this is replies to their two children they share. Whenever something is not done the way she wants it or she does not like something that I said to her usually truth. She threatens to get a protective order to keep both of us away from the children. We have never threatened her threatened harm threaten violence anything. This is just normal back-and-forth between two code parenting parents and one that likes to gain control over the other. She threatens on a weekly basis to get to protective orders against us constantly tells the father she’s going to keep the kids from him so he needs to go get an order from the court to see them again. They have no custody in place Through the court system yet because she will not agree on anything. She constantly threatens to keep the kids and get protective orders against us. If there is no evidence such as text messages voice messages if she actually able to get one as easily as she states she can??.this is exhausting.

    2. @Richard – It likely depends why the person cannot file. If the person is incapacitated, then the guardian could file (just as a parent can file for a minor).

  10. My mother in law came to my home unannounced today. She lives 4 hours away and neither me nor my husband knew she was coming. She came when she knew we would be at work and our caretaker would be home alone with our children. When we got home this evening, our caretaker told us what happened and was surprised to find out that we weren’t aware. This makes me extremely uncomfortable and a little scared. She was told a few weeks ago that she couldn’t come back to our home because she threatened me physically and swore at me in front of our children. I’ve since let our caretaker know to not let anyone in our home without our express permission but I still feel incredibly violated. If she shows up again, is there any recourse we could pursue to formalize our request for her to not come to our home? For what it’s worth, she knows she only has to apologize to me and we can start trying to rebuild our family. She just can’t bring herself to do it and then makes matters worse by pulling this stunt.

    1. P – If she threatens you again, you may need to file a protective order, but there’s no way to prevent her from coming onto your property other than telling your caretaker not to let her in and if she arrives again to call the police.

  11. My husband and I just got into a physical fight. After the police looked over everything, I was the one to be arrested for domestic violence. My husband is the only one that has the protection order on himself. Could I file a restraining order on him well being on the protection order? Or do I wait till after the 72 hours?

    1. @Vanessa — Without knowing all the details, it’s hard to say, but if the current protective order expires then maybe it’s not worth filing, but if you want to file, you don’t have to wait.

  12. If my roommate verbally threatens me with violence will I be able to get a protective order or will my allegations just be considered hearsay and my petition rejected?

  13. I have a question. If you already have a protection order in place on your spouse, and they file a warrant in detinue is that a violation. I’ve returned everything the judge asked me to, but for some reason he states “failure to comply with court order to return personal property” he’s trying to get things we bought mutually and that are of value. These things get taken care of in the divorce proceedings correct?

    1. @Melodie — Yes, this should be resolved as part of the divorce, but if he filed the detinue claim, you’ll have to defend it (feel free to contact my office if you decide to hire an attorney).

    1. @Shane – Ignore her or get a lawyer to contact her to see if she’s willing to dismiss the order (my firm is happy to help if you decide to retain an attorney).

  14. Hi Steven,
    My ex boyfriend from 3 years ago is trying to insert himself back into my life a month before I’m supposed to get married. He called the cops accusing me of posting his number and email on craigslist and of also sending his girlfriend inappropriate clothing. This guy was extremely abusive, physically and mentally. The reason i finally was able to get out of the relationship was because he got caught rapping young girls at a small christian college. But no charges were ever filed against him, because he threatened to release pictures. I have no evidence from when i dated him. But i need him to leave me alone. Is there any chance i would be granted at order of protection?

    1. @Jane – It depends on what he’s doing to insert himself into your life again. It’s possible that his actions could be enough to get a protective order. Feel free to call our office and we’ll try to be helpful.

  15. My wife has been hospitalized multiple times over the past 5 years by a temporary detainment order due to manic episodes related to her bipolar disorder. Most recently, she was committed up to 30 days, but released after the treatment team determined her to be stable. She is not. She has been verbally and emotionally abusive to me and our children. She is not following the hospital’s instructions for her care, including follow up appointments to get medication refills. She is often drunk and disorderly, and driving. She is able to present well in ways that make an Emergency Custody Order an unreliable option. I have been told that physical violence is the threshold to obtaining a PO. What can I do to keep my children and myself safe from a toxic and abusive home situation?

  16. I got into a large fight with my roommate where cops were called and it was physical I have a black eye and he bit a chunk out of my husbands arm as well as other injuries. I’ve never had to file but I’m concerned that they Will turn us away because he lives under the same address even though our landlord is about to evict him. This was less than 24 hours ago and I’m very scared for him to come back

  17. My son past away this past summer. He leaves behind a 2 year old son. The mother (never married to my son) is a drug addict. She is constantly calling me telling me someone is breaking into her house, following her and most recently she told me And others she thinks so.eone is trying to kill her. My grandson has been with me 90% of the time since the death if his father and probably 60% before his death. The mother doesn’t work, hasn’t paid rent for the past couple of months. She was living off about $800 per week unemployment since start of the pandemic bit her benefits ended. She has allowed random people to stay at her house since June, also drug addicts. Most recently she allowed two strangers to stay at her home, use her vehicle and they have never brought it back. My concern is for my grandsons safety. I’m concerned about the people she lets into her home and around him. The fact that there are drugs in the house that he could get ahold of and also her thinking someone is trying to kill her. I’m afraid if I take her to court and for some reason I’m not awarded custody she will keep him from me forever. Btw…she lost custody of her 1st son who is now 5 years old for pretty much the same reason. What steps do I take first? Honestly I would live to see her get help for her addiction and be the mother I know she could be to my grandson. I do care very deeply for her. I love her like my own daughter.

About the Author

Steven Krieger and guests (lawyers and non-lawyers) will periodically post about topics relevant to his firm and practice areas. Your comments and feedback are always welcome. 

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