Dannenbaum Law Firm, PLLC

Domestic Violence: Obtaining Emergency Protective Orders:

What is a protective order?

A protective order is a court order signed by a judge or magistrate that protects a person's health or safety. In the context of family law, the order can be entered when an act of family abuse has occurred. 

What is family abuse needed to obtain a protective order?

Family abuse is any act involving violence, force, or threat that results in bodily injury or places one in reasonable apprehension of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury and that is committed by a person against such person's family or household member. Such act includes, but is not limited to, any forceful detention, stalking, criminal sexual assault, or any criminal offense that results in bodily injury or places one in reasonable apprehension of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury.

How do you obtain a protective order?

Any judge or magistrate may issue an emergency protective order (often abbreviated at EPO) to protect the health or safety of any person. An emergency protective order or EPO expires at the end of the third day following issuance or the next day the court is in session, whichever is later. If you need a protective order for longer than a 72-hour period, you should apply for a preliminary protective order (which we will address in a later blog).

How do you obtain an emergency protective order? Go to the police, a magistrate, or the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court's court in take office. The magistrate's office is located next to the courthouse. It is open 24 hours.

If the person you are seeking protection from is a family or household member or a juvenile, then you go to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District. If not, then you go to the General District Court. For our purposes, we will focus on a family or household member.

What is a family or household member?

"Family or household member" means (i) the person's spouse, whether or not he or she resides in the same home with the person, (ii) the person's former spouse, whether or not he or she resides in the same home with the person, (iii) the person's parents, stepparents, children, stepchildren, brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, grandparents and grandchildren, regardless of whether such persons reside in the same home with the person, (iv) the person's mother-in-law, father-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law who reside in the same home with the person, (v) any individual who has a child in common with the person, whether or not the person and that individual have been married or have resided together at any time, or (vi) any individual who cohabits or who, within the previous 12 months, cohabited with the person, and any children of either of them then residing in the same home with the person.

As the Virginia statute provides:

When a law-enforcement officer or an alleged victim asserts under oath to a judge or magistrate that he or she is being or has been subjected to and on that assertion or other evidence the judge or magistrate finds that (i) there is probable danger of a further such act being committed by the alleged offender against the alleged victim or (ii) a petition or warrant for the arrest of the offender has been issued for any criminal offense resulting from the commission of an act of violence, force, or threat, the judge or magistrate shall issue an ex parte emergency protective order imposing one or more of the following conditions on the perpetrator:

1. Prohibiting acts of violence, force, or threat or criminal offenses resulting in injury to person or property;

2. Prohibiting such contacts by the alleged offender with the alleged victim or the alleged victim's family or household members, including prohibiting the alleged offender from being in the physical presence of the alleged victim or the alleged victim's family or household members, as the judge or magistrate deems necessary to protect the safety of such persons;

3. Such other conditions as the judge or magistrate deems necessary to prevent (i) acts of violence, force, or threat, (ii) criminal offenses resulting in injury to person or property, or (iii) communication or other contact of any kind by the alleged offender.

4. The EPO can also order temporary exclusive possession of the parties' residence to the victim.

5. Order possession of a companion animal if the victim meets the definition of an owner of such animal.

In the next blog, we will discuss obtaining a preliminary protective order (PPO).

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