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Domestic Violence in Virginia: Defining ‘Family or Household Member’

Domestic Violence In Virginia: Defining ‘Family Or Household Member’

Virginia takes domestic violence allegations very seriously. Each year, the Virginia Office of the Attorney General puts out a comprehensive report on the work being done by state and local officials to prevent domestic abuse and hold perpetrators accountable. What you may not know is that the Commonwealth of Virginia defines the term “domestic abuse” in a relatively broad manner.


Under Virginia law (Code of Virginia § 18.2-57.2), a defendant may be charged with this crime if the alleged victim is either a “family member” or a “household member.” As domestic assault can carry heightened penalties, it is important to understand the scope of this definition. Here, our Fairfax assault defense attorneys explain the term ‘family or household member’ under Virginia law.


Virginia Domestic Assault Laws: Family Members or Household Members


To convict a defendant of a domestic violence offense, a prosecutor must establish a qualifying relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim. Under Code of Virginia § 16.1-228, the following people all fit into the category of family and household members for the purposes of Commonwealth’s domestic assault laws:


  • Spouses: You can be charged with domestic assault if the alleged victim was your spouse. Notably, the law applies to former spouses as well. No matter when the marriage ended, a former spouse is included under the statute.
  • Co-Parents: Anyone with shared children is covered by the Virginia statute. A defendant can be charged with domestic assault of a co-parent even if they were never married, are not in an active relationship, and do not live in the same household as that individual.
  • Children: Virginia’s domestic assault & battery law covers children. To be clear, the statute extends beyond merely minors or dependents. An adult child is covered, even if they do not live currently under the same roof as the alleged offender.
  • Other Immediate Family Members: Other immediate family members beyond spouses and children are covered by the statute. More specifically, the law includes stepchildren, siblings, half-siblings, direct in-laws, and grandparents.
  • Intimate Partners: In Virginia, a defendant may be charged with domestic assault against an intimate partner if they are cohabitating, or cohabitated within the past 12 months.
  • Roommates: Finally, roommates are not covered by Virginia’s domestic battery laws if there is no other familial relationship or “cohabitation” (which requires an intimate relationship).


It is important to emphasize that the classification of a victim as a ‘family or household member’ is meaningful under the law. A defendant could face more serious consequences if they are charged with domestic assault instead of simple assault. In some cases, there may also be family law implications. The sooner you get an experienced Virginia defense attorney on your side, the better it will be to protect your rights.


Call Our Fairfax, VA Assault Defense Lawyers for Immediate Help


At Whitestone Young, PC, our Virginia criminal defense attorneys are committed to providing aggressive, trustworthy advocates for our clients. If you or your loved one is facing domestic violence allegations, we are available to offer legal guidance and support. Contact us now for a completely confidential review of your case. With an office in Fairfax, we represent defendants throughout Northern Virginia, including in Alexandria, Reston, Arlington, Falls Church, Haymarket, and Bristow.

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