Protective Orders in Virginia

In Virginia, you may get a protective order if you have been the victim of abuse by a family or household member. A protective order may be necessary to prevent further acts of abuse.




What is a Virginia Protective Order?

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, a protective order is a legal document issued by either a magistrate or judge that is intended to protect the health and safety of alleged victims of abuse including “any act involving violence, force, or threat that results in bodily injury or places that person in fear of death, sexual assault or bodily injury”.

If you believe that you need to obtain protection for you or your family through the filing of a Protective Order, you should immediately consult with an attorney about whether the facts and circumstances of your situation are grounds to have a Protective Order issued, and to help you file to obtain such protection.

Protective Orders vs Restraining Orders in Virginia

Some states differentiate between protective orders and restraining orders. In Virginia, these terms are used interchangeably—though the proper legal name of the order is Protective Order.

What types of Protective Orders are available in Virginia cases of family abuse?

There are three types of protective orders designed to offer protections against an abusive family member or household member:

  • Emergency Protective Order
  • Preliminary Protective Order
  • Protective Order (permanent)

Emergency Protective Orders

This order is sometimes known as the “cool-off” order and expires 72 hours within issuance. If the expiration period falls during a time when the courts are closed, the order expires at 5:00 p.m. on the next business day that the juvenile and domestic relations district court is in session.  The petition may be filed by the abuse victim or a law enforcement officer.  An emergency protective order cannot be used as evidence of wrongdoing by the alleged abuser.

What if the 72 hours of protection given by an Emergency Protective Order isn’t long enough?

If you need protection for longer than 72 hours, you must ask the court for a Preliminary Protective Order (PPO).

Preliminary Protective Orders

A preliminary protective order, or PPO, will be issued upon the petition of a person who is, or has been, within a reasonable period of time, subjected to family abuse.  The order stays in effect until there is a full hearing on the issue of whether the PPO should be continued.  This hearing is typically held within 15 days of the issuance of the PPO. At the full hearing, both you and the alleged abuser will be able to present evidence before the court. The judge should make you aware of when the full hearing will be, and the date will be written on the Preliminary Protective Order. If you don’t attend the hearing, the PPO will cease to be effective on the date of the hearing. You should attend your hearing even if you don’t believe the other party will attend, as you will still be able to present evidence and ask for a permanent Protective Order.

Where do I get a Preliminary Protective Order in Virginia?

If you are seeking protection for a family member, household member, or juvenile (or if you yourself are a juvenile), request a PPO through your juvenile and domestic relations district court. Otherwise, request the PPO through your general district court.

How do I get a Preliminary Protective Order in Virginia?

 To get a PPO, you fill out and file the appropriate court forms—either with the Court Services Unit of your juvenile and domestic relations district court, or at the general district court clerk’s office depending on the circumstances (see above question to see which is relevant to your case).

When you go to file for a Protective Order, make sure you are prepared to share the name, address (physical living address—not a P.O. Box), and identifying information of the person from whom you are seeking protection, as well as a detailed description of the event(s) that led you to file for protection. You should also bring a copy of your Emergency Protective Order and any warrants or petitions issued alleging acts of violence, force, or threats.

After completing the forms, you should be able to enter a courtroom where a judge may speak with you to gather any more information needed to decide whether a PPO should be granted.

Allow at least two hours at court for the process of filing for your Protective Order.

Protective Orders

Following a full hearing after the issuance of a Preliminary Protective Order, the court may issue a protective order (also known as a permanent Protective Order).  If granted, it will take effect when the alleged abuser is “personally served”, meaning a law enforcement officer or court official has physically given the Protective Order to the alleged abuser. You can call your local law enforcement department to ask if your Protective Order has been served. The Protective Order will remain in effect for a standard of two years, unless specified to expire sooner by the court. If you wish to change any part of your Protective Order, you must fill out and file the proper forms again with your court.  

What happens if a Protective Order is violated in Virginia?

It is both critical to know your rights if a protective order you filed is violated, and to understand what you are required to do (or not do) if you have had a protective order issued against you.

Virginia takes protective orders very seriously. At least some jail time is mandatory if you are convicted of even a single violation of a protective order. Multiple violations within a certain number of years require mandatory minimum sentences ranging from 60 days to 6 months. If someone you have filed a protective order against has violated it, you should notify local law enforcement officials immediately. The person can be arrested and have criminal charges filed.

What is a “no contact” provision?

In a Protective Order, a “no contact” provision can be included that means the alleged abuser cannot contact you, neither directory nor indirectly except as authorized by the court. If for some reason you must have contact with the other person, you should tell the judge at your hearing.

If I obtained a restraining order against an abuser in another state, then moved to Virginia, do I need to get a new protective order in Virginia? 

No, you do not need to get a new protective order.  Assuming the other court gave the abuser notice of the proceeding and gave him an opportunity to be heard, your order will be enforced here in Virginia as if it was issued by a Virginia court.  You should, however, file an attested copy of the order with a juvenile and domestic relations court or family court in Virginia.  Once you have done so, the court will forward the order to your local police department to be entered into their system.

If I am granted a Protective Order in Virginia, then move to another state, will it be valid in that state?

Federal law requires that all states uphold protective orders that are issued in other states, but you should contact the nearest court in your new home state to discuss details and notify local law enforcement of your Protective Order.

How much does it cost to get a Protective Order in Virginia?

There is no fee to file for a Protective Order.

Can the Protective Order be dropped before it expires?

Yes. In Virginia, either party may at any time file a written motion with the court requesting a hearing to dissolve or modify the order.  The court gives these types of motions priority over other matters, so you are likely to get a (relatively) quick hearing on your motion.




Local Courts and Law Enforcement

General District Courts

City of Alexandria

Fairfax County

Loudoun County

Prince William County

Arlington County

Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts

City of Alexandria

Fairfax County

Loudoun County

Prince William County

Arlington County

Law Enforcement

City of Alexandria

Fairfax County

Loudoun County

Prince William County

Arlington County



If you fear for the immediate safety of yourself or your family, call 911.

For help dealing with sexual assault, stalking, controlling behavior, or intimate partner violence, and connect you to resources in your area, call:

Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline



For additional information on the legal process, your rights and options, and other resources, call:

Virginia Victim Assist Helpline



For low-income legal assistance, call:

Virginia Poverty Law Center


(Family & Sexual Violence: 804-782-9430 ext. 204)


For assistance with filling out protective order petition forms online follow the below link:

I-CAN!™ Virginia Form Completion System for Protective Orders



Learn More About Us

m FL