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What Can I Do About A Family Household Member Who Has Been Abusive To Me Or My Children?

Virginia law offers remedies to those who fear for their or their children's physical safety due to the behavior of a family or household member. Should you find yourself in such a position, you may ask the court for a family abuse protective order, which offers significant protection against the abuse or threat that you face.

With evidence that an act of "family abuse" has occurred, the perpetrator can be barred from a shared residence, ordered not to make contact other involved parties (adults and children alike), required to pay the rent/mortgage and utilities on a shared residence, or even provide financial support to a spouse or children. Violation of such a protective order is a criminal offense that carries mandatory jail time.

"Family abuse" has a broad definition. It is not just an act of physical violence, such as hitting, pushing, slapping or punching, but it can also include an attempted act of violence, a verbal threat of violence or harm, or any other type of action that puts the victim in reasonable apprehension of bodily harm.

Likewise, "family member" also has a broad definition, including not just the usual relationships of parent, child, grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc., but also unmarried individuals who have a child together, unmarried and unrelated individuals who live in the same residence, and other relationships. The term also fully encompasses same-sex relationships.

There are several means of requesting a protective order. The most common and most accessible method is to visit the Clerk's Office in your county's Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court and fill out a Petition for Protective Order. An intake officer will likely be able to offer assistance, explaining the forms and the information you need to provide. That Petition will be given to a judge while you wait, and if a judge believes that family abuse has occurred, the judge can enter a temporary protective order. This process does not require any notice at all to the party who has committed the family abuse.

Family abuse protective orders are given heightened priority by the Court. This means that you will not wait months and months to get your day in court if you seek a protective order. Once the court issues a protective order, it will be served on the other party, and will remain in effect for up to fifteen days. At the conclusion of those fifteen days, both parties will appear in court for a trial to determine if the protective order should remain in effect.

If you have been subjected to an act of abuse or a threat of physical harm, or if you otherwise fear for your physical safety from a family or household member, please contact an attorney at The Duff Law Firm to determine whether seeking a protective order may be appropriate. (703) 591-7475.

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Duff Kronfeld & Marquardt P.C.
11320 Random Hills Road
Suite 630
Fair Oaks Commerce Center
Fairfax, VA 22030

Phone: 703-591-7475
Fax: 703-273-4537
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