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The Evolution of Protective Orders

The laws on “protective orders,” or what are commonly referred to as restraining orders, have been drastically changing over the last few years.
For example, one of the greatest changes was in 2010, when the Virginia state legislature changed the law to allow for people to seek an extension of an existing protective order.  Prior to this change, a protective order could only be in effect for a maximum of two years and after the two years it automatically expired.  However, under the new law, prior to the expiration of a protective order, a petitioner may file a written motion requesting a hearing to extend the order.  And if warranted to protect the health and safety of the petitioner or persons who are family or household members of the petitioner, then the protective order could be extended for up to an additional two years, with no restriction on the number of extensions that may be requested or issued.
In 2011, the Virginia state legislature further changed the protective order laws to allow anybody to file for a protective order, rather than the previous restrictions to a family or household member or those victims involved in an arrest for stalking, assault, or sexual battery.  This change was mainly in response to the tragic murder of UVA student, Yardley Love, who was unable to file for a protective order against her boyfriend under the prior laws.  As a result, beginning July 1, 2011, those in dating relationships, neighbors, or any other members of society afraid for their health and safety could file a protective order in the General District Court.
Over the last few years since the expansion to non-family or household members, the Virginia state legislature has expanded and clarified the types of relief one can request in a protective order.  As of July 1, 2014, a person filing for a family abuse protective order against a family or household member could request and possibly be granted the following relief (with the new changes in bold):
  1. Prohibiting acts of family abuse or criminal offenses that result in injury to person or property;
  2. Prohibiting such contacts by the respondent with the petitioner or family or household members of the petitioner as the court deems necessary for the health or safety of such persons;
  3. Granting the petitioner possession of the residence occupied by the parties to the exclusion of the respondent; however, no such grant of possession shall affect title to any real or personal property;
  4. Enjoining the respondent from terminating any necessary utility service to the residence to which the petitioner was granted possession pursuant to subdivision 3 or, where appropriate, ordering the respondent to restore utility services to that residence;
  5. Granting the petitioner temporary possession or use of a motor vehicle owned by the petitioner alone or jointly owned by the parties to the exclusion of the respondent and enjoining the respondent from terminating any insurance, registration, or taxes on the motor vehicle and directing the respondent to maintain the insurance, registration, and taxes, as appropriate; however, no such grant of possession or use shall affect title to the vehicle;
  6. Requiring that the respondent provide suitable alternative housing for the petitioner and, if appropriate, any other family or household member and where appropriate, requiring the respondent to pay deposits to connect or restore necessary utility services in the alternative housing provided;
  7. Ordering the respondent to participate in treatment, counseling or other programs as the court deems appropriate;
  8. Granting the petitioner the possession of any companion animal as defined in § 3.2-6500 if such petitioner meets the definition of owner in § 3.2-6500; and
  9. Any other relief necessary for the protection of the petitioner and family or household members of the petitioner, including a provision for temporary custody or visitation of a minor child.
    A1. If a protective order is issued pursuant to subsection A, the court may also issue a temporary child support order for the support of any children of the petitioner whom the respondent has a legal obligation to support. Such order shall terminate upon the determination of support pursuant to § 20-108.1.
As you can see by the possible consequences, a protective order can dramatically change the dynamics in a family.  Due to seriousness of the remedies requested and the ever-changing laws on protective orders, it is strongly suggested you discuss your options and strongly consider hiring an attorney for these cases.  The Dua Law Firm has the experience and expertise to help those needing legal counsel in a protective order matter.  If interested, then please contact us today to schedule a free 30 minute consultation.