Frequently Asked Questions
The following information was taken from the Virginia State Supreme Court website, from the section titled “Additional Filing Information for a Family Abuse Protective Order." More information can be found on that site, however some of the most commonly asked questions are listed below.
Is there a fee for filing a Family Abuse Protective Order?
There is no fee for filing a Family Abuse Protective Order.
What should I bring with me when I come to file?
You must have:
- A full description of the event that led you to seek a protective order. You will need this same information for the full hearing (where both parties are before the judge) that will be scheduled if a preliminary order is issued. You will be asked to testify at the full hearing (where both parties are before the judge) about the event that made you want to seek protection.
- The name and full address of the person from whom you are seeking protection - A full and complete address of the person is required, including an apartment number or unit number, not a P.O. Box.
- Any prior or existing protective orders you have in your possession, even if from another state or Virginia jurisdiction.
Other important information you should bring with you include:
- Any photographs, medical records related to the event that led to the petition for a Family Abuse Protective Order, or anything else you think will help prove your case
- The names and full addresses of anyone who witnessed the event
- As much identifying and contact information as possible about the person from whom you are seeking protection - This information is essential because the sheriff must be able to find this person for the protective order to take effect. Please provide:
- Name, nicknames, aliases
- Date of birth
- Home, work, cell phone, and pager numbers
- Addresses for home, work, friends, relatives, and places frequented
- Age, height, weight, eye color, hair color, distinguishing marks
- Social Security number
- Tendencies towards violence
- Information on ownership or possession of weapons, especially firearms
- A recent photograph of that person
- A copy of an Emergency Protective Order, if one was issued
- If possible, birth certificates and Social Security numbers for children for whom you may be seeking protection.
When can I file for a Family Abuse Protective Order?
The court is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday except for holidays. You must first go to the Court Services Unit to complete a petition. From, there you will bring the petition to the Court and have it reviewed by a judge the same day, if timely possible. (A petition is a formal written request asking the court to take a certain action on a matter.)
What should I do if I feel I am in immediate danger?
If you feel you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1 for law enforcement assistance.
What should I do if an Emergency Protective Order that was issued expires before I am able to have a petition for the Family Abuse Protective Order reviewed?
Emergency Protective Orders are most often issued by magistrates and may last only 72 hours.
The Magistrate's Office issues warrants and Emergency Protective Orders relating to family abuse, stalking offenses, and domestic assault offenses. If an Emergency Protective Order has expired before you are able to get to court and have your petition heard, you may ask the magistrate to issue another protective order.
Do I need a lawyer to file for a Family Abuse Protective Order?
You do not need a lawyer to file for a preliminary protective order. The Juvenile Services Intake Unit will provide assistance to help you complete the necessary paperwork and will provide basic information about preparing for your court hearing. The unit, however, cannot give you legal advice. You may want to hire a lawyer to represent you at your full hearing (where both parties are before a judge), especially if the person from whom you want protection will have a lawyer.
What should I do if I am the person named as “respondent” in a Family Abuse Protective Order?
A “respondent” is the person against whom the order is issued.
You will receive a copy of the order from the sheriff. Read the order carefully. Strict compliance with the order will avoid additional problems that can result in criminal penalties.
You may ask the court to dismiss or change the terms of the order. Only a judge may dismiss or change the terms.
The order will have a date and time for a hearing, arrive at the courthouse at least 30 minutes ahead to allow time for parking. You or your lawyer may tell your side of the case at the hearing.
How will I know when the Protective Order is served on the person from whom I want protection?
Contact the Sheriff’s Office, Monday through Friday (except on county holidays), from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.