In Texas, protective orders are often issued in response to domestic violence and are designed to protect victims of abuse from future harm.
Most of the time, these orders are completely warranted and are a vital tool in helping to shield victims from their abusers. However, it’s not unheard of for a spouse to try and use this document as a means of gaining the upper hand in a custody battle.
If you’ve been issued a protection order, the first thing to understand is that you have rights too. While these are serious accusations, you will have the opportunity to tell your side of the story before a judge, which is why it’s so important not to ignore these orders.
Here’s what you need to know about protective orders in Texas, and what the North Texas Family Lawyers team can do to help if someone has filed one against you.
What is a Protection Order?
Before we talk about what you should do when served with a protection order, we first need to discuss what this document is, and what it means.
In Texas, a protection order is an enforceable legal document, which can be used to either prevent or require certain behavior out of a specific individual. Judges often order these in response to domestic violence, issuing them against an alleged abuser, in order to protect a victim from future harm—and this includes much. More than just physical injury.
According to the Texas Family Code, domestic violence occurs whenever a member of the same family or household does one of the following to another person in their family or household:
- Injures, assaults, or sexually assaults;
- Threatens to injure, assault, or sexually assault;
- Threatens to injure, assault, or sexually assault a loved one; or,
- Abuses another member of the household.
In Texas, dating violence is handled separately from family violence; however, the parameters are similar and include all of the aforementioned behavior, when committed by a current or former romantic partner, someone you’ve dated, or someone you share a child with.
When this type of abuse occurs, the court will often issue a protective order. This document can either require or prohibit certain behavior and attaches swift, severe legal action to any violations.
Not the Same Thing as a Restraining Order
While similar in function and name, a protective order is not the same thing as a restraining order.
Unlike a protective order—which is used almost exclusively to protect individuals from domestic violence—restraining orders have a much broader scope, and can apply to much more than just physical harm and threats. In fact, these orders are quite commonly used during divorce.
In this context, a restraining order may be used to help keep the marital status quo in balance while a case is being settled. For example, to protect assets, limit bank account withdrawals, prohibit the sale of property, require temporary alimony, or even to enforce temporary child custody arrangements.
When issued, temporary restraining orders generally only last until a more permanent arrangement can be reached (usually until the end of a case).
Types of Protection Order in Texas
In Texas, there are three different kinds of protective orders, and not all of them require a petitioner to notify an accused. Hence, if you’re issued one, it’ll be important to know what kind you have on your hands.
1. Emergency Protective Order
Emergency protective orders are typically issued in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence situation; usually when it’s obvious that some kind of physical harm, sexual assault, abuse, stalking, or trafficking has taken place, and that more harm could follow.
According to Texas law, an accused is not required to be in the courtroom for this type of order to be issued—in fact, neither does the victim.
In Texas, an emergency protective order can be requested by a guardian, police officer, attorney, or even at a judge’s own discretion. In fact, if a “deadly weapon” was involved (such as a gun or knife), then Texas judges are required to issue a protective order, as a matter of law.
2. Temporary Protective Order
A temporary protective order is similar to an emergency protective order, in that a judge can issue one, without an abuser being present; meaning an accused can be served, without having the opportunity to be heard in court.
That being said, temporary orders must be requested by the victim, themselves, and only after they’ve convinced a judge that there’s an immediate threat. In addition, the order will automatically expire after twenty days, unless an extension is granted.
Temporary orders will not become permanent until a judge has had the opportunity to review both sides at a formal hearing (which usually takes place within the twenty-day time frame).
3. Permanent Protective Order
A permanent protective order can only be issued after a hearing—a hearing that, by law, an accused has the right to be present at. Notification of this hearing must be issued via proper service.
At the hearing, both sides will have the opportunity to present evidence, and to tell their side of the story. Then, after reviewing the evidence, your judge will decide whether or not to issue a permanent order.
Texas is an at-fault divorce state, meaning that a permanent protection order can potentially affect not only your parental rights, but certain financial areas of your divorce, as well. Hence, if you’ve been accused, it’s vital that you take these proceedings with the utmost gravitas.
Someone Filed a Protection Order Against Me… Now What?
If someone has filed a protection order against you, the first thing you should do is obey it.
Yes. You read that right. Regardless of your innocence or guilt, it’s vital that you follow the parameters of a protective order exactly as outlined—and this is true, even if your accuser offers to meet up to reconcile.
Once a protective order has been issued, a victim has no authority to revoke it. Hence, whether their invitation to reconcile is sincere or not, the terms of your protective order still applies; meaning, if you violate them, you risk being found in violation of a court order. This can have serious legal and financial consequences, including contempt of court.
While you’re busy making sure you’re following those orders to a T, the second thing you should do is to lawyer up. A protective order implies a very serious level of wrongdoing, and, if convicted, could have a huge impact on many different areas of your life.
Hence, it’s extremely important to have an experienced attorney fighting for your rights during this critical process.
Do You Need Help Responding to a Protection Order in Texas?
Protection orders shouldn’t be taken lightly. These orders carry significant legal consequences, and can seriously impact the outcome of a custody dispute. That’s why if you’ve been served with one, you’ll want an experienced family law attorney fighting at your side.
If someone has filed a protection order against you—and you aren’t sure what to do next—we want to hear from you. Call the North Texas Family Lawyers team today at (972) 402-6367, or schedule a consultation online, and let us help fight for your rights in these important matters.