The effect of domestic PPOs on custody decisions

On Behalf of | Oct 7, 2021 | Family Law |

When couples get into fights, they say and do things that they may later regret. In the heat of the moment, it may feel like the right thing to do, but the fallout from a domestic dispute can have severe consequences for the accused, especially when there are children involved.

In Virginia, domestic violence is called family abuse. During custody hearings, all the old disputes and outcomes get aired in court, sometimes with conflicting recollections that can sway the court’s decision. As the judge makes custody and visitation decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child, any history of family abuse that occurred within the past 10 years will influence the outcome of their ruling.

Restraining orders in Virginia

There are three kinds of family abuse protective orders in the state of Virginia that will temporarily prevent the alleged abuser from having contact with a person with whom they have a domestic relationship:

  1. Emergency protective orders give someone immediate protection that will last three days, and a judge may issue the order on a weekend or holiday without the knowledge or presence of the alleged abuser. Law enforcement or the affected individual may request it.
  2. Preliminary protective orders occur when the alleged victim petitions the court. Law enforcement may not request this type of order. When granted, it will last up to 15 days unless the respondent does not appear, in which case it may extend up to six months.
  3. Protective orders are permanent order that may last up to two years or longer with an extension. The judge will grant such an order only after a full court hearing in which both parties have an opportunity to present their side.

Legal complications in family abuse accusations

In a custody hearing, both spouses may recount very different versions of previous conflicts that have occurred. If the court has imposed a protective order against one spouse in the past, however, it may have a negative influence on later custody rulings. This does not mean that the accused cannot have visitation or custody rights, but the court may impose restrictions.

If a restraining order is issued during a custody hearing or after the issuance of a previous custody order, it can drastically change the court’s opinion or lead to a modification of the previous order. In extreme cases, the alleged abuser may lose their parental rights.

If you have been served a protective order, it is important to find ways to protect your parental rights and to have the opportunity to defend yourself against accusations of family abuse.