A protective order is a ruling that intends to safeguard survivors of family violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, or stalking from further hostility. Protective orders have their roots in the need to protect victims and promote accountability of aggressors. A court is empowered to grant such an order when it is presented with evidence of domestic violence and the likelihood of its recurrence. These orders are considered civil injunctions and do not create criminal records.
The main purpose of a protective order is to deter the abuser from further harming the victim and the victim’s children with the threat of facing criminal charges if he/she breaks the order. However, a protective order can prevent more than just physical harm depending on what the court includes in the order, it may also call for ceasing all communication, completing battery intervention or counseling, or staying away from the victim’s place of work, for example.
The court will set a hearing no later than 14 days after you file for the protective order. If the court finds the victim is in clear and present danger, it may even issue a temporary, emergency protective order, which is valid for up to twenty days. Once you obtain the final protective order, the order is effective for two years unless otherwise specified. The victim is also provided “restitution” after conviction, meaning they will be reimbursed for the costs and associated losses related to the case (e.g., hospital fees, psychologist session fees, attorney fees, etc.). If your abuser violates the order, call the police immediately. Law enforcement officials have a record of all protective orders in their area and are prepared to respond and make an arrest should someone break an order.
Thankfully, federal law requires that protective orders must be upheld if you move to another state or U.S. territory as long as the abuser received notice that he had the opportunity to present his side of the story in court (it doesn’t matter if he actually went or not, just that he was given the opportunity). This provision means your protective order issued in Texas is still valid if you move or travel to another state and vice versa. The order, if violated, will be enforced by the law in whatever state you are in.
Protective Orders are one of the most severe and serious aspects of Texas Family Law. Once granted, they are supposed to protect the safety and even lives of the person applying. Beyond that, they carry some important penalties for someone that a Protective Order is placed on. It ensures that they are not going to see their child on a regular basis or have any involvement in their child’s life decisions. We have found that different Judges in different Courts vary widely in granting them. Today it has now gotten more difficult to get them in other parts of Texas as well as Austin. Houston is considered one of the more difficult places to get one, although the Court in Harris County certainly does give them out.
Courts will consider the necessity of protective orders and presence of family violence on a case-by-case basis. Any act committed by a relative (by blood or marriage) which causes or intends to cause harm is considered an act of family violence. However, this definition may extend to include a foster parent, ex-spouse, foster children, or romantic partners. Additionally, any criminal mischief, physical restraint, bodily harm, abuse, threat, imprisonment, harassment, stalking, or sexual assault is considered an act of violence. Survivors of any age can obtain a restraining order. An adult can file for a protective order for him or herself, for a child, or for any member of her household. Alternatively, a prosecuting attorney may seek a court ruling on behalf of a client subject to family violence. An application may be filed in one of three places – where the applicant resides, where the accused resides, or where the incident of violence occurred. The duration and the extent of an order will depend on the court’s perception of the perceived threat of future violence.
A presiding judge has substantial discretion in approving the language of a protective order, including distance to be maintained by the accused or ordering the accused to leave a property he owns. Additionally, a spouse may be ordered to pay for childcare, medical treatment, household expenditures, or legal fees. A temporary ex-parter restraining order may be granted without notice to a respondent if a court finds a clear and present danger of family violence, however, these orders last only 20 to 30 days. A full protective order granted during a more detailed hearing can last up to two years. Local law enforcement agencies receive copies of all protective orders and are tasked with upholding them. Individuals who violate these orders are subject to fines, arrest, or imprisonment.
If you or a loved one is in need of a protective order, consider having an experienced licensed lawyer attend the hearing with you to speak on your behalf. Contact us and a member of the Walters Gilbreath, PLLC team can help guide you towards a safe path forward as soon as possible.