What Does a Protective Order Do?

If you are a victim of family violence, please seek help immediately.
What does a protective order do?

*Approximately 96% of domestic violence cases involve male perpetrators violating female victims.  While we acknowledge the 4% of victims who are men, we will refer to victims in the feminine form for purposes of this page.

Protective Orders in texas

Nationwide, 1 in 4 women in America are likely to experience domestic violence in their lifetime. In Texas, that statistic is worse. A June 2011 report on the prevalence of intimate partner violence in Texas, increased it to 1 in 3 women in Texas. Then, in 2013, Texas Council on Family Violence, Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, and Texas Advocacy Project released “Protective Orders in Texas,” a collaborative report based on a statewide study of policies and procedures about family violence and sexual assault protective orders (POs) in Texas. They concluded, “…inconsistent practices among prosecutors in Texas in filing or refusing to file protective orders on behalf of family violence and sexual assault victims results in a lack of access to one type of legal protection which can be crucial to victim safety…”

In response, the Supreme Court of Texas unanimously adopted a “Pro Se Protective Order Kit,” available to the public for free online here. The kit is available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, but the Supreme Court cautions that use of the packet is not a substitute for representation by a qualified attorney.

Should you need to apply for a protective order, it is important for you to know that you are not required to file a police report or have a pending criminal case in order to apply for a family violence or sexual assault PO.

What is a protective order (po) and how does it help?

A PO is a non-criminal court order to keep away your spouse or partner who has been physically violent or has threatened you or your family with physical harm. A PO orders your abuser not to hurt, threaten, or harass you or your children, either directly or through another person; to stay away from you, your family, your home, workplace, and children’s daycare or school; and to not carry a gun, even with a license. The Judge also has the discretion to set terms and conditions for visitation with your children, order your abuser to be drug tested, attend anger management classes and/or, a substance abuse treatment program, pay child and medical support, and to vacate your home via a “kick-out” order.

Will the court remove my abuser from our home?

An ex parte “kick-out” order can be issued if the court finds, based on your affidavit or testimony that you have lived in the home within the 30 days of your  application, your abuser committed family violence against you within 30 days prior to the application; and there is a clear and present danger of further violence. (*some jurisdictions have different time requirements, but 30 days is the norm).  If you are concerned about returning to the home, law enforcement can go with you to protect you and make sure your abuser vacates the property. If he fails or refuses to leave, law enforcement may arrest him for violating the court order. Tex.Fam.Code §86.003 and §86.004.

What is the process to obtain a protective order?

The first step is the application for an emergency (ex parte) PO, in which you must detail the facts and circumstances of the family violence you are alleging and the need for an immediate PO. You must sign this application under oath and include a statement that the facts you describe are true to the best of your knowledge and belief. TFC §82.009. 

Once you receive your ex parte PO, your abuser will be served notice, along with a copy of your application, including your affidavit outlining the abuse. A hearing will be set, allowing both you and your abuser to present and refute evidence. In many jurisdictions, district or county attorneys represent victims at the hearing. Where this is not an option, you must turn to legal aid or a private attorney to avoid facing your offender alone in court, without an attorney. That said, the 2013 report found that “economic abuse often leaves family violence victims without financial means to hire a private attorney to represent them in the protective order hearing. This is particularly problematic in cases in which joint assets make finances appear sufficient to hire a private attorney, but the victim lacks access to the funds….” If you find yourself in this situation, please do not hesitate to call us for guidance or visit our resources page to find a list of legal aid and domestic violence resources.

How long will my PO last?

The duration of a family violence PO is 2 years.  If a protective order expires while your offender is in jail, it will be automatically extended by one year.  TFC§85.025. Lastly, if your abuser violates the PO, he will be arrested and could be charged with a crime. If he violates it again, it could result in felony charges.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, please contact us or seek help with the National Domestic Violence Hotline or visit our resources page.

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