Protection for a cohabiting partner in cases of family abuse.

Posted on June 30, 2011 in Family Law, Personal Representation

Pursuant to Section 16.1-279.1 of the Code of Virginia, one spouse may seek protection from the other in the appropriate Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court when there has been an act of family abuse, and when it is necessary to protect the health and safety of the person seeking the protective order. Family abuse is defined as “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 against such person’s family or household member.”

However, the definition of a “family or household member” also includes “any individual who cohabits or who, within the previous twelve months, cohabited with the person, and any children of either of them residing in the same home with the person.” As a result, a cohabiting partner and his or her children by the other partner may obtain a protective order which, among other things, may prohibit further acts of family abuse, prohibit contact between the parties, grants possession of the residence occupied by the parties to the exclusion of the other, require the other to provide suitable alternate housing for the other, and/or may order the partner to participate in treatment, counseling, or other programs as the Court deems fit. In this way, cohabiting partners enjoy some of the protections of married individuals.