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Family Law & Divorce Attorneys in Virginia

How Do Protective Orders Affect Custody?

Experienced Virginia Attorneys
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If you have a protective order issued against you or believe one will be, you may have questions about how it affects your life beyond the order itself. You may have even heard that a protective order has the potential to derail your life. Indeed, protective orders (also referred to as restraining orders) can negatively impact many areas of your life, including important family law matters like custody. Keep reading to learn more.

Protective Orders 101: What Are They?

Protective orders are court orders that are designed to protect victims of domestic violence and abuse. A judge issues these orders in family court, and once issued, they are legally binding. Protective orders are governed by the Code of Virginia § 19.2-152.10. According to this statute, the courts are allowed to issue restraining orders “to protect the health and safety of the petitioner and family or household members of a petitioner.”

Once issued, a restraining order can impose the following prohibitions on the respondent:

  • Acts of violence, force, or threat
  • Criminal offenses that may result in injury to person or property
  • Contacting the petitioner or their family or household members as identified by the courts

The statute also notes that the protective order may also grant “any other relief necessary to prevent (i) acts of violence, force or threat, (ii) criminal offenses that may result in injury to person or property, or (iii) communication or other contract of any kind by the respondent.” Furthermore, a restraining order may also grant the petitioner possession of any companion animal owned by the petitioner.

For How Long Are Protective Orders Issued?

According to the Code of Virginia, protective orders may be issued for up to two years. However, there is a caveat to this time limit. According to the statute mentioned above, if the respondent has been convicted of an act of violence, the courts may issue a protective order for any length of time that is deemed reasonable, including “up to the lifetime of the defendant.” This is done when the court considers it a necessary measure to protect the health and safety of the victim.

Do Protective Orders Override Custody?

Because protective orders can inhibit your ability to contact both the petition and their household and family members, if you have one issued against you, it can impact your ability to see your children. This is the case even if you have custody or visitation with your children. In some cases, the person with the restraining order issued against them (or the domestic violence conviction) may see their visitation and custody reduced to supervised visitation only.

Having a restraining order issued against you (or having a history of domestic violence convictions) can also negatively impact your ability to receive custody of your children should you and your child’s other parent separate or divorce. You may be faced with losing your custodial rights, and in extreme cases, you may even have your parental rights terminated. This can be devastating.

Situations in which a restraining order may impact custody include:

  • When the restraining order forbids contact between the respondent and petitioner who share children, making exchanging children for custody and visitation problematic
  • When the restraining order is issued on behalf of the respondent’s child and the respondent is therefore directly forbidden from contact with the child
  • When the restraining order prohibits contact or communication between the respondent and the petitioner’s household or family members, thereby including the respondent’s shared children with the petitioner

It is important to remember that a restraining order will ultimately supersede custody and visitation orders. Therefore, if you have an order issued against you, your custody rights may be in jeopardy.

What to Do If You Are Accused of Domestic Violence or Abuse

The repercussions of a domestic violence conviction can be long-lasting and far-reaching. This is especially the case if you are dealing with other family law matters like custody. If you have been accused of domestic violence, or someone has requested a protective order against you, you should contact an experienced family law attorney, like ours at Malinowski Hubbard, PLLC.

The courts take a very hard line regarding domestic violence and abuse, and even if you think that your innocence is obvious, you cannot risk forgoing representation. Our attorneys have helped countless clients deal with protective order cases, including those involving false allegations of domestic violence. We are prepared to help you, too. Contact our firm online to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys.