Being the victim of domestic violence is overwhelming and difficult enough. Not knowing where to turn or what steps to take first, while dealing with family issues, can feel impossible. Below, attorney Charles Hatley discusses what steps to take and what to expect during your protective order case.
In cases involving family abuse, the first step is to seek a protective order. If a criminal case has been filed, a protective order may be issued at the same time.
Types of Protective Orders in Virginia
Protective orders are intended to keep one person away from the other by order of the court. In Virginia, there are three types of protective orders for instances of family abuse.
Emergency Protective Orders
The first type is an Emergency Protective order. These can be obtained at any time even if the courthouse is not open. The victim must be able to tell a magistrate what abuse has been committed and why they are in fear of additional abuse.
Emergency protective orders are issued by a judge or magistrate after a request is made by the victim or law enforcement. These protective orders can also be issued “ex parte” (without notice given to the other side). To be effective, the protective order will need to be served on the opposing party.
An emergency protective order expires 72 hours after the order is issued or at 5:00 p.m. on the next business day after it was set to expire if the court is closed.
Preliminary Protective Orders
Before the emergency protective order expires, you will want to seek a preliminary protective order.
To obtain a preliminary protective order you must file a written petition with the court. The court will issue an order and set a hearing date within 15 days.
If the police are not able to serve a copy of the protective order on the opposing party, the preliminary order may be continued for up to six months.
At the hearing date, the respondent may request a continuance in order to obtain counsel, subpoena witnesses, or to issue discovery. In that case, the court will grant the request to continue and the protective order will stay in place until the next hearing.
Permanent Protective Orders
Permanent protective orders are issued by the court after a full hearing before a judge. At this hearing, both sides will appear and present evidence to support their case. At this stage, it’s essential to have counsel. If you represent yourself, the court will require you to follow all procedural rules of the court. If you don’t have a legal background, it can be difficult to present your case effectively.
After the hearing, the court may issue a permanent protective order that can last up to 2 years.
Tips for Domestic Violence Victims
If you are experiencing threats of domestic violence from your spouse or significant other, consider the following tips to protect your legal interests:
- Contact the police. If you or your children are in immediate danger, or if you need emergency help, call 9-1-1. For non-emergencies, call your local police station.
- Find a private space to speak with a counselor. You need to find a private space where you can speak to domestic violence support counselors. The National Domestic Violence Hotline professionals can be reached by phone at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or via live online chat at www.thehotline.org. The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance Statewide Hotline professionals can be reached by phone at 1-800-838-8238, by text message at 804-793-9999, or via live online chat at www.vadata.org/chat. The Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS) also provides a directory created by the Alliance consisting of shelters or programs in jurisdictions throughout Virginia. You can find the Alliance directory and other information and resources on the Domestic Violence page of the Virginia DSS website.
- Contact an experienced lawyer. Speak with a family law attorney in your area about how you can protect yourself. Each case is unique, and an attorney can provide guidance for your individual situation.
- Seek Judicial Help. You can go to the court and request an emergency or preliminary protective order. You need to consider whether you need protection for a few days or up to two years by seeking a full protective order.
- Make a Plan. You need to protect your emotional and physical safety as much as possible while going through this process. Gather financial resources and important personal documentation in case you need to leave your home.
- Get a Support Group. Reach out to loved ones and identify people in your life who you can talk to for emotional and financial support. You also may need to identify a place where you and your children can go.
- Document Everything. Do your best to keep records of instances when your spouse or significant other has acted violently towards you and/or your children. You should include dates, times, names of everyone present during each incident, and detailed descriptions of what happened, including if the police were notified. This can be written by hand, or it can be kept electronically (e-mailed to yourself or a trusted person, or saved to a document on your phone). If you chose to create an electronic log, then make sure that the other side other does not have access to your passwords or electronic accounts.
- You may need to Leave the Home. It is important to remember that protective orders are reactionary, at best. A protective order is not a physical barrier. So, if the other side chooses to violate the protective order, the best you can do is call the police. If the other side is violating the protective order, you may want to leave the home, if possible, until the other side can no longer come to the home.
- It is not your fault. Being a victim is never the victim’s fault. Generally, abusers will try and convince you that you did something to deserve the abuse, but this is never true.
- Do not retaliate. Do not respond to violence with more violence, unless it is absolutely necessary to defend yourself or your children’s physical safety. Do not engage with the abuser more than is required. When in doubt, call the police and remove yourself and your children from the situation as fast as possible.
About Melone Hatley, P.C.
If you are facing domestic violence, it’s time to get counsel.
The top-rated attorneys at Melone Hatley, P.C. are here to help! Melone Hatley, P.C. is a family and estate firm serving Virginia Beach and Northern Virginia. Our philosophy is to provide all of our clients with the highest quality legal representation, innovative legal solutions, and unsurpassed dedication to customer service. Through our high standards, we strive to be a trusted resource to our clients.
We know from experience that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on our ability to understand your needs and objectives. For more information about child support, contact our Client Services Coordinator at 1-800-479-8124 or book your appointment online.