When a relationship ends, it’s ideal to part amicably. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen. If you have decided to leave a relationship because of abusive behavior by your spouse or live-in partner, you can take measures to protect yourself and your family. A restraining order, or protective order, is a good first step. Here are a few things to know:
There are three different types of protective orders. In Virginia, you can apply for:
- An Emergency Protective Order, which is good for 72 hours. EPOs can be issued if the petitioner swears under oath they have been victimized by a current or former spouse, or domestic partner (see Virginia Code §16.1-228, §19.2-152.10). Unlike other restraining orders which require a judge’s signature, an EPO may be issued by a local magistrate.
- A Preliminary Protective Order, which is an extension of an EPO and valid for fifteen days. PPOs are granted based on sworn affidavits of abuse or the potential for abuse. The respondent named in this order is also entitled to a trial to plead their case in this time period.
- A Permanent Protective Order, which is granted when the petitioner can prove an act of abuse was committed or that the threat of abuse remains active and serious. Despite the name, a permanent order is valid for two years.
Before you file for any restraining order, gather as much information as possible. Threatening emails, texts, voice messages and other tangible evidence can help tip the decision in your favor.
A protective order does more than keep your abuser away. A judge can use a restraining order to set specific conditions the respondent must meet, including:
- Ceasing contact with your children and/or other immediate relatives
- Paying lawyer’s fees, medical bills and other expenses resulting from abusive acts
- Attending meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous, or receiving professional counseling
If you move out of state, your Virginia protective order remains valid. According to federal law, all states must recognize and enforce protective orders issued elsewhere. If you leave the area, you can contact the General District Court of the city or county of your new home and register a copy of your order. This will help local law enforcement should you need their assistance.
If your abuser violates the protective order, contact law enforcement immediately.� For your restraining order to remain valid, you and your abuser should not have any deliberate contact. Keep a copy of your order with you at all times, especially if you encounter your ex in public. Attend all hearings related to your protective order when possible.
Retaining the services of a Suffolk divorce lawyer ensures that you are aware of your rights in the event you need a restraining order. At Bush & Taylor, P.C., we can assist in petitioning the court for a permanent protective order and provide legal counsel regarding support payments, distribution of property and divorce. If you have questions about what to do to protect yourself, contact us today.