If you are the victim of domestic violence, you may request an Order of Protection from a Texas family court. Family violence is generally defined as an act of violence or threat of physical harm by someone who lives in your household or is related by blood or marriage.
Examples of individuals who might be subject to an Order of Protection include:
- Anyone related by marriage or blood
- Spouses and former spouses
- Parents of the same child
- Foster children and foster parents
- Step-parents or step-children
- Any member or former member of your household
Any adult member of the household can apply for an Order of Protection for themselves or any other member of the applicant's family or household.
What is an Order of Protection?
An Order of Protection or Protective Order is a court order intended to stop family or domestic violence. It applies in situations in which a family member or other household member is stalking, harassing, abusing, or threatening another family or household member. The person seeking the Protective Order is the applicant or petitioner, and the abuser is referred to as the respondent.
A judge may include various conditions in an Order of Protection to protect the petitioner. For example, the judge may order the respondent to leave the home.
The Protection Order might also require that the respondent:
- Enter into counseling or therapy
- Turn over firearms or weapons
- Pay spousal support or other domestic support obligations
- Stay away from the petitioner's residence, workplace, school, or other locations
- Stay away from a protected child's school, daycare, and residence
- Refrain from communicating with the petitioner and other family members
- Stop threatening, harassing, or stalking the petitioner and any other protected person
- Refrain from committing any future acts of family violence
Respondents who violate an Order of Protection can be arrested and fined. The judge may impose other punishments depending on the circumstances of the violation.
How Can I Get an Order of Protection in Texas?
Courts may grant petitions for Protective Orders even if you have left your home to relocate to a safe location. If that is the case, the judge could order the abuser to leave the family home so that you can return to your home.
You must file an application with the court to obtain an Order of Protection. If you have an attorney, contact your attorney. You may also obtain the forms for requesting a Protective Order from a legal aid office or the district or county attorney's office.
Several domestic violence advocacy groups throughout Texas assist individuals in obtaining Orders of Protection. The application must be filed in the county where you live or the county where the abuser lives. Your address can be kept confidential to protect you from further violence.
Protective Orders are available in every county in Texas. There is not a residency requirement to file for an Order of Protection. Therefore, if you relocated recently to a safe place, you could proceed with filing an application for a Protective Order in the county of your current residence.
There is no fee for applying for a Protective Order. County and district attorney's offices and the sheriff's office are not permitted to charge fees related to filing, serving, or modifying applications for Protective Orders.
If the court finds the respondent committed family violence, the court may order the respondent to pay all court costs, fees, and expenses related to the application for the order. The respondent may be ordered to pay your attorneys' fees if you used a private attorney.
Issuing an Order and Conducting a Hearing
The judge reviews the application for a Protective Order. If the judge believes that there is a threat of family violence, the judge may issue a temporary order for up to 20 days. The order can be issued without the respondent's knowledge.
The court sets a hearing date within 14 days from the application's filing date. The respondent is served with the temporary order and the hearing notice. After a hearing, the judge may issue a final Order of Protection, which can be effective for up to two years.
In most situations, an Order of Protection is a deterrent to family violence. Local law enforcement agencies are notified of the Order of Protection. However, a piece of paper cannot protect you from all acts of violence.
Even though you receive an Order of Protection in Texas, you should continue to take steps to protect yourself and other family members from the abuser. You can obtain additional information from the Family Violence Program of the Texas Health and Human Resources and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.