Information on Virginia Domestic Violence Laws


Domestic abuse is typically a pattern of behavior and a method of control. It’s a form of establishing a hierarchy of strength within a relationship, where one partner dominates the other by means of physical and/or psychological abuse. Domestic violence is split into five main classes of abusive behaviors: physical violence, emotional abuse, sexual assault, economic control, and neglect.

Examples of these include:

  • Physical Violence (hitting, slapping, choking, kicking, biting, pushing, and using weapons, etc.)
  • Emotional Abuse (humiliation and intimidation tactics such as calling the victim degrading names, diminishing the victim’s sense of self-worth, threatening harm to the victim or family, torturing pets, and destroying personal property)
  • Sexual Assault (forcing the victim to engage in sexual acts against the victim’s will)
  • Economic Control (discouraging or forbidding employment, withholding information about family finances, controlling all family finances and accounts, or improper use of power of attorney)
  • Neglect

Are There Any Protections for Domestic Abuse Victims?

There are multiple outlets and legal protections provided to victims of domestic abuse in Virginia. These could include the following:

  • Address Confidentiality Program (ACP): Victims may request a legal substitute address typically in the form of a post office box to replace their physical address; this substitute address may be applied whenever an address is needed by public agencies. First class mail sent to this address will be delivered to the victim’s true address.
  • Protective Orders: Victims of domestic violence can apply for a protection from abuse (PPO) order, a court order signed by a judge that provides protection to victims.
  • Civil lawsuit: The victim may file a civil lawsuit to recover losses and bills such as medical expenses or pain and suffering damages.
  • Custody/child or spousal support orders: These may be modified to prevent any further incidence of violence between spouses, children, or other persons.

Remember that if you are a victim of domestic violence, you are not alone. There are organizations, support groups, and authorities dedicated to help those who endure domestic abuse. If you need legal assistance contact a local Richmond criminal defense attorney right away. The following table provides a summarization of the critical details of Virginia’s domestic violence laws.

Code Sections

Code of Virginia §18.2-57

What Protections are Available?

Civil and criminal

Definition of Domestic Violence/Family Abuse

“Family abuse” means any act involving violence, force, or threat including any forceful detention, which results in physical injury or places one in reasonable apprehension of serious bodily injury and which is committed by a person against such a person’s family or household member.

Family/Household Member Relationship Requirement

  • Spouse, regardless of residence,
  • Ex-spouse, regardless of residence,
  • In-laws who live in the same home,
  • Persons who have a child in common regardless of residence,
  • Co-habitants, and
  • Those who have cohabited in the past year and their children.


Any person who commits domestic assault and battery or family abuse shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. Three or more convictions in a 10-year period elevate the crime to a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. The prior convictions can be from other jurisdictions in Virginia, but they must have occurred on different dates.

Types of Protective Orders Available

Protective Orders