How protective orders work in Texas

Victims of family abuse can legally enforce that their abuser keeps his or her distance by filling out a protective order in court. Understanding how this works is crucial to getting it approved.

Things can change fast in Texas, and occasionally a family situation gets out of hand. Familial disagreements are a normal thing, but when they go too far they can sometimes lead to a divorce. In the worst scenarios, sometimes a family member becomes abusive of their spouse or children. When that happens, some people choose to file for what is known as a protective order: a document that can legally prohibit the abusive family member from contacting his or her victim or victims. Understanding how to file a protective order and what its powers and limitations are can help abuse victims to stay safe and comfortable.

What is the process of filing for a protective order?

To file for a protective order, a person needs to fill out a packet of information which includes the document for the protective order itself and an affidavit or application. These documents, as well as information on the respondent (the person whom the order is filed against), must be filed in court. The respondent will need to be served a copy of the affidavit or declaration. The applicant can ask to have law enforcement serve the documents. A hearing will be scheduled where a judge will hear both sides and decide what to do.

What are the duration and timing of a protective order?

While it is the court can extend the duration, most protective orders remain in effect for two years, in some instances for a lifetime. The protective order itself will not go into effect until it is approved by a judge at a hearing. It is possible to get the court to approve a "temporary ex parte protective order" that becomes effective immediately and will last until the hearing itself takes place. If the abuser is a family member who lives with the victim, the abuser could be asked to leave the home right away after the protective order is approved.

Who can file for a protective order?

Anyone who has been sexually assaulted, abused or stalked can apply for a protective order, even if it is against a family member. If someone has violated a protective order in the past, it is also possible to get a new protective order against him or her. Protective orders are typically reserved to be used against abusers with whom the victim or one of their family members has a close relationship. The victim must be afraid that he or she will be hurt again and have been hurt or threatened by the abuser in the past.

Anyone who is considering filing for a protective order against a family member may need some legal guidance to make sure things go smoothly. An attorney in the local area who practices family law may be able to help.