Family Violence/Domestic Violence


Family abuse (also called domestic violence) is when one member of the household causes physical harm to another, when one person in the household forces sexual activity on another, or when one family member threatens to harm another. Family Violence/Domestic Violence happens between married couples and between couples who aren't married, between the members of the same family or household, between people who are related to each other, and between people who aren't related but who live together (boyfriends and girlfriends, in-laws).

If you are being physically hurt, sexually abused, or threatened by household or family members:

  • You can file criminal charges by getting an assault warrant from a magistrate. The police will tell you how you can do this. However, charges can only be dropped when you have appeared before the judge.
  • In cases of spousal abuse, you can file a civil case by asking this Court for a protective order.
  • You can file both a family abuse case (a civil case) at this Court and an assault case (a criminal case) through a magistrate.

What Is a Protective Order?

A protective order tells the person to obey certain rules before or after a court hearing. The person can be ordered to have no contact, or limited contact, with you or your children. The Court can order the person to leave your home and stay away for a certain period of time. This means that the person will be arrested or taken to jail if that person does not follow the rules. A protective order is sometimes called a restraining order.Family abuse is a serious problem. If you are afraid or worried that something else may happen before a protective order takes effect, you should stay with friends or go to a shelter. In an emergency, call 911.

If the person has physically abused children in the home or put the children in danger, Court personnel are required by law to report it to Child Protective Services (CPS).

If you would like to initiate court action, you must call the Domestic Relations Unit of the Juvenile Court. Their phone number is 703-246-3040. You will be given an appointment. Because there is paper work which must be completed prior to the appointment, we ask that you be prepared to arrive ½ hour before your scheduled appointment time.

What is the legal definition of family abuse?

According to Section 16.1-228 of the Code of Virginia, "Family abuse" means any act involving violence, force, or threat including, but not limited to, any forceful detention, which results in bodily injury or places one in reasonable apprehension of bodily injury and which is committed by a person against such person's family or household member.

What is the legal definition of family or household member?

According to Section 16.1-228 of the Code of Virginia, "Family or household member" means (i) the person's spouse, whether or not he or she resides in the same home with the person, (ii) the person's former spouse, whether or not he or she resides in the same home with the person, (iii) the person's parents, stepparents, children, stepchildren, brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, grandparents and grandchildren, regardless of whether such persons reside in the same home with the person, (iv) the person's mother-in-law, father-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law who reside in the same home with the person, (v) any individual who has a child in common with the person, whether or not the person and that individual have been married or have resided together at any time, or (vi) any individual who cohabits or who, within the previous 12 months, cohabited with the person, and any children of either of them then residing in the same home with the person.

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