What to do if you are Served with a Protective Order

What to do if you are Served with a Protective Order

By: Divani Nadaraja


Family abuse protective orders are orders by a court prohibiting you, the Respondent, from committing acts of violence, force, or threats against the Petitioner, the person requesting the protective order. In Virginia, there are three types of protective orders: the emergency protective order ("EPO") can last up to 3 days, the preliminary protective order ("PPO") can last up to 15 days, and the protective order can last up to 2 years. Depending on which protective order you receive, there may be other restrictions against you such as a stay away or no contact provision. The restrictions of a protective order may also apply to the Petitioner's household members, to include for example children, parents, and siblings.


Being served with a protective order can be emotionally difficult, particularly if you did not do anything to warrant the protective order, or worse, you're the true victim and the protective order is being used to further the abuse against you. In some jurisdictions, you may receive an accompanying written statement that generally details the Petitioner's reasons for his or her request for the protective order against you. However, in other jurisdictions, you may not receive this statement because the Petitioner requested the protective order verbally in front of a magistrate or judge.

Whether you disagree with the issuance of a protective order or do not understand the reasons for it, you must strictly follow its terms. This can understandably be very difficult; you may be given short notice to leave your home, or even ordered not to contact your children. There may be a distance requirement that orders you to stay a certain amount of feet away from the Petitioner and/or the listed household members. You may have the urge to contact the Petitioner to find out more details. If the order prohibits you from doing certain things, you must refrain as any violations of the protective order, even of the shorter term EPO and PPO, can carry serious criminal charges. Moreover, violations make it far more unlikely to get your case ultimately dismissed in a final or future hearing.


If you have been served with a protective order, you should immediately contact a lawyer to help assess your case. Lawyers at ShounBach have significant experience with protective order cases and can help you understand your rights and navigate this process.