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VA Laws Relating to Women

A Basic Overview

·         State Law Overview

o       Most of the laws relevant to domestic violence and sexual assault are based on state law.

·         Restraining Orders

o       Information about family violence protection orders and protective orders for stalking, sexual battery, and serious bodily injury in Virginia.

·         Custody

o       Information about custody in Virginia.

·         Parental Kidnapping

o       This page addresses the general (not state-specific) laws of one parent taking a child out of the state or country, without the other parent's consent.

·         Divorce

o       General information about divorce with links to Virginia-specific information.

·         Crimes

o       General information (not state-specific) about crimes the abuser may have committed.

·         State Gun Laws

o       If you are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, then it may be illegal for your abuser to buy or have a gun.

·         Suing Your Abuser

o       You may have a right to sue your abuser for medical costs, lost wages, and to recover your property.

Federal Laws

·         Immigration

o   Immigration information for victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse.

·         Federal Gun Laws

o   Under federal law, which applies to all states, an abuser may lose his right to have a gun.


·         Information about military protection orders and confidentiality on military bases.


Virginia Statutes

The statutes on these pages are provided only for your reference. Please be sure to check them at a law library in your state to make sure there have been no changes. We strive to keep them as up-to-date as possible, making changes on this website soon after legislative sessions close for each state.

The statutes are current through the 2010 Regular Session. Please check to make sure there have been no changes since this time.

You will find these and additional statutes online at:


Code of Virginia (select sections)

·         Title 16.1. Courts Not of Record

·         Title 18.2. Crimes and Offenses Generally

·         Title 19.2. Criminal Procedure

·         Title 20. Domestic Relations

·         Title 31. Guardian and Ward

·         Title 32.1. Health

·         Title 55. Property and Conveyances


Virginia Human Rights Act
Virginia Code Chapter 39


It is the policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia:

To safeguard all individuals within the Commonwealth from unlawful discrimination because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, disability, in places of public accommodation, including educational institutions and in real estate transactions; in employment; to preserve the public safety, health and general welfare; and to further the interests, rights and privileges of individuals within the Commonwealth; and to protect citizens of the Commonwealth against unfounded charges of unlawful discrimination.

Unlawful Discriminatory Practice Defined

Conduct which violates any Virginia or federal Statute or regulation governing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, disability.

Complaints of possible violations of the Act may be filed with:

Human Rights Council 
Sandra D. Norman, Director

1220 Bank Street Jefferson Building, 3rd floor
Richmond, Virginia 23218
(804) 225-2292

Where to Find Help

The website has a lot of good information on how to create a safety plan, including how to create a plan for leaving and how to plan for leaving in the event of an emergency.
You may also want to reach out to an advocate at your local domestic violence organization or at your State Coalition Against Domestic Violence for help with creating a safety plan.  To find help in your state, go to our State and Local Programs page. 

If you are planning to leave the abuser and take your children with you, or if you are considering leaving your children with the abuser, we strongly suggest that you get legal advice first if at all possible.  You can find free and paid lawyers near you on our Finding a Lawyer page.


Employment Discrimination


National Conference of State Legislatures

State Laws on Employment-Related Discrimination

October 2010


State and Citation



Prohibited Practices

Enforcement Agency

Complaint Process



§2.2-3900 et


employers with 5 or more employees


race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability


employers with 5 or more employees


Council on Human Rights, Equal Opportunity Council

complaint to Council within 60 days of alleged discrimination

Disability- other affirmative/equitable relief but not pain/suffering, attorney fees


Sources: Guide to Employment Law and Regulation, 2nd Edition, West Group/Thomson Publishing;

Manual of Employment Discrimination and Civil Rights Actions in the Federal Courts; 2 Manual on Employment Discrimination Appendix A3: Database updated June 2010;

State Net Bill Search “Employment Discrimination” Current Legislation


Property Laws


2006 Virginia Code - Property Rights of Married Women

·         55-35 - How married women may acquire and dispose of property

·         55-36 - Contracts of, and suits by and against, married women

·         55-37 - Spouse not responsible for other spouse's contracts, etc.; mutual liability for necessaries; respon...

·         55-38 - Wife's right of entry into land not barred by certain judgments; when she may defend her right in l...

·         55-39 - Rights of wife, etc., not affected by husband's acts only

·         55-40 - Description unavailable

·         55-41 - Conveyance from husband and wife; effect on right of wife or husband

·         55-42 - Description unavailable

·         55-42.1 - How infant spouse may release interests in spouse's property

·         55-43 - Appointment of attorney in fact by married women; effect of writing executed by such attorne...

·         55-44 - , 55-45

·         55-46 - How estate of a married woman to pass at death

·         55-47 - Description unavailable

·         55-47.01 - Equitable separate estates abolished

·         55-47.1 - Tangible personal property


Divorce Laws


A detailed description of Virginia Laws on Divorce can be found here. Be sure to double check the information, as the website has not been updated since 2002.


Breastfeeding Laws

Updated September 2010

Federal Health Reform and Nursing Mothers

President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, H.R. 3590, on March 23 and the Reconciliation Act of 2010, H.R. 4872, on March 30, 2010. (See the combined full text of Public Laws 111-148 and 111-152 here.)  Among many provisions, Section 4207 of the law amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 (29 U.S. Code 207) to require an employer to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express milk. The employer is not required to compensate an employee receiving reasonable break time for any work time spent for such purpose. The employer must also provide a place, other than a bathroom, for the employee to express breast milk.  If these requirements impose undue hardship, an employer that employs fewer than 50 employees is not subject to these requirements. The federal requirements shall not preempt a state law that provides greater protections to employees. For more information, see the U.S. Department of Labor's Fact Sheet on Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA.

State Breastfeeding Laws

§  Twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.)

§  Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace. (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.)


Va. Code § 2.2-1147.1 (2002) guarantees a woman the right to breastfeed her child on any property owned, leased or controlled by the state. The bill also stipulates that childbirth and related medical conditions specified in the Virginia Human Rights Act include activities of lactation, including breastfeeding and expression of milk by a mother for her child. (HB 1264)

Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-341.1 (2005) provides that a mother who is breastfeeding a child may be exempted from jury duty upon her request. The mother need not be "necessarily and personally responsible for a child or children 16 years of age or younger requiring continuous care during normal court hours." (2005 Chap. 195, HB 2708)

Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-387 (1994) exempts mothers engaged in breastfeeding from indecent exposure laws.

Va. House Joint Resolution 145 (2002) encourages employers to recognize the benefits of breastfeeding and to provide unpaid break time and appropriate space for employees to breastfeed or express milk.