If you need to get a protective order in Texas, you should first know all the important ins and outs of protective orders. Read on to learn what a protective order is, who can get one, how it can help you, and more.
What Is a Protective Order?
A protective order is a civil court order that can be obtained to prevent violence or harm to you. The protective order protects against family violence, stalking, human trafficking, and/or sexual assault. Family violence includes:
- An act by a member of a family or household that is intended to physically harm another family or household member
- A serious threat of physical harm to a family or household member
- The abuse of a child
A protective order can apply to relatives, former spouses, foster parents and foster children, and anyone else living in a house, even if they aren’t related.
Who Can Get a Protective Order?
You can file for a protective order for you and/or your child if the abuser is a family or household member, like a current or former spouse, a blood relative, an in-law relative, a person with whom you have a child, a household member, a foster parent, or a foster child.
You can also apply for a protective order if the abuser is someone you have dated, or are currently dating. And you can apply for a protective order if the abuser is, or was, married to someone you are or were in a past relationship with (i.e. your boyfriend’s ex-wife).
You can also apply for a protective order against someone who is not a family member, but who has sexually assaulted you.
Can the Abuser Be Removed from the Home?
It’s possible for a judge to rule that an abuser must leave the home where you live. For this to happen, you must jointly own or lease the home with the abuser, or you must own or lease it yourself. The judge may also rule that you may remain in the home while the abuser leaves if the abuser owns or leases the home, but has an obligation to support you and/or your child.
How Can a Protective Order Help You?
A protective order may prohibit the abuser from committing further acts of violence, harassments or threats, or even going near a school or daycare of a child protected under the order.
Some protective orders also include orders to:
- Establish possession and visitation of a child
- Pay child or spousal support
- Prohibit the transfer or disposal of property
If these orders are violated, the violator could be taken to civil court, fined, and even jailed.
What Types of Protective Orders Can Be Filed?
Texas has three types of orders when it comes to family violence, two of which you can apply for. A temporary ex parte protective order and a final protective order can be issued by the person who has been abused.
A third order, called the magistrate’s order of emergency protection, is issued after an abuser has been arrested for family violence. This third order is issued by the court.
Temporary Ex Parte Protective Order
For a temporary ex parte protective order to be issued, there must be a “clear and present danger of family violence, sexual assault, or other harm.” The applicant is responsible for providing detailed facts that demonstrate the need for the order. It usually lasts up to 20 days, but can be extended another 20 days in some cases.
Final Protective Order
A final protective order is meant to protect the victim and/or children from any future abuse by preventing contact in any way. The order will contain an expiration date, with two years as the maximum length for the order.
However, the judge may dictate that the final protective order lasts longer than two years if the abuser caused serious bodily injury to you or a member of your household.
The judge may also allow the protective order to last longer than two years if the abuser has had two or more protective orders issued against them in the past, and in those cases, the judge found that the abuser was likely to continue to commit family violence.
After one year, the abuser can ask for the final protective order to be dissolved. A judge will determine whether dissolution of a protective order is appropriate.
Magistrate’s Order for Emergency Protection
The criminal court issues a magistrate’s order for emergency protection if an abuser has been arrested for family violence, sexual assault, sexual abuse, or stalking. A magistrate’s order for emergency protection lasts between 31 and 61 days, but can be extended to 61 to 91 days when an abuser has been arrested for assault with a deadly weapon.
This order can be issued by your request, your guardian’s request, the request of a police officer, or the state attorney or judge.
How Do You File a Protective Order in Texas?
There are multiple avenues for applying for a protective order. You can do it through the district attorney, county attorney, a private attorney, or a legal aid service program. There is no certain length of time required for you to have lived in the county where you’re filing, but you must file in the county where you or the offender lives.
You’ll need to give the name of each victim and the county where they reside, as well as the name, address, and county of residency for the abuser. You’ll also need to provide the relationship between the victim and abuser.
Apply for a protective order as soon after the incident of violence as possible. Fill out the application carefully, making sure you understand everything being asked of you. Use specific details of how you were injured or threatened including:
- Where did the abuse occur?
- When did the threats happen?
- What types of violence occurred (hitting, threatening, choking, etc.)?
Include dates, photographs, police reports, text messages, and any other supporting evidence you have.
You’ll be expected to sign the application under oath in front of a notary public or a judge at the courthouse. Once the application is filed, it becomes public record.
How Long Will It Take to Receive the Order?
If the court finds clear and present danger in your case, a temporary ex parte order (valid for up to 20 days) may be issued. Otherwise, the court will set a hearing date within 14 days of application.
How Will the Abuser Know He or She Has a Protective Order?
The abuser will be served with a Notice of an Application for a Protective Order, along with the petition you file. The notice informs the abuser he or she has been accused of committing family violence and informs him or her of the hearing date.
Should You File for a Protective Order?
Only you can fully determine your situation and whether a protective order would benefit or harm you. A lawyer can also advise you on the steps that would help in your specific situation.
Ben Carrasco is an experienced family law attorney who can provide professional legal assistance with your protective order as well as many other legal matters involving divorce, child support, marital agreements, and more. Give Ben a call today at (512) 320-9126, or contact him online.