Domestic violence is all too common across the country, especially since COVID-19. In Texas, I work with victims of domestic violence to help them obtain protective orders against an abusive spouse. The key is evidence.
If you are in an abusive relationship, it’s important to know what evidence you need to gather to support your legal case. Additionally, you need to be aware of specific types of evidence to help you obtain the appropriate restraining order for your situation.
Let’s look at the evidence you need for each type of domestic violence restraining order available in Texas.
Evidence You Need for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order
The state of Texas offers three types of restraining orders to protect victims of family violence. Each type has a different procedure for filing the order, which often requires different types of evidence. Let’s take a look at the evidence you’ll need for each.
1. Temporary Ex Parte Protective Order
A temporary ex parte protective order, formally known as a temporary restraining order, is issued when the victim files a petition with the court. This type of order is typically granted when the abuser is not present in court, which is why it’s called an “ex parte” order.
To request this type of restraining order, you must file a petition with the court; and the petition should detail exactly why you are requesting protection. The judge’s decision will be made based on the information provided in the protective order petition.
– The evidence: You will want to be as detailed as possible with the supporting evidence. A judge will only grant the protective order if they believe there is a clear and present danger to you or a family member, such as your child. In other words, you will need to present compelling evidence that your spouse abused you and you are at risk of further abuse.
A temporary ex parte order is usually valid for 20 days, but it can be extended for additional periods of 20 days. During this time, you can request a final or permanent protective order.
2. Emergency Protective Order
An emergency protective order (EPO), formally known as a magistrate’s order for emergency protection, is typically granted when the abuser is arrested for family violence or a similar crime.
This is a type of criminal protective order as the criminal court issues these orders to protect the victim until the abuser has their first court appearance. These orders grant short-term protection to the victim and may also grant temporary custody of any minor children to the abused parent.
You are not required to file anything to request an EPO. And while you may request this order if you are present in court, you do not need to be present for the order to be issued. Instead, it can be requested by a police officer or the state prosecutor. The court may also make an independent decision to issue the order.
EPOs are not always issued in family violence cases. However, if you sustained a serious physical injury from the abuse or if the abuser used or threatened to use a deadly weapon, the magistrate is required to issue the order without any particular request.
– The evidence: No specific evidence is required to issue this type of order; generally, the arrest alone is enough to warrant protection because it contains an official police report that details the nature of the domestic violence incident.
Most EPOs are valid for a period of 31-61 days, but they may be valid for up to 91 days in cases involving deadly weapons.
3. Final Protective Order
A final protective order, formally known as a permanent domestic violence restraining order, offers long-term protection from an abuser. These orders are issued after a court hearing where both parties have a chance to present their case.
To request this type of order, you must file a petition with the court and then attend a hearing on the scheduled court date. Both you and the abuser will need to be present at the hearing, where you both will have a chance to present evidence and witnesses. The judge will then make a decision based on the evidence provided.
If the judge decides you are a victim of family violence, they will issue a permanent restraining order after the hearing. These orders are usually valid for two years but can be extended in some cases. These family violence cases may include those involving felony offenses, serious bodily injury, or two or more prior protective orders against the abuser. The order may also be extended if the abuser is incarcerated.
If you have children, you can also request that the final protective order includes provisions for child custody, child support, and visitation. This is important as it can help protect your children from the abuser.
– The evidence: When requesting this type of restraining order, it is important to have as much evidence of the abuse as possible. The more evidence you have, the easier it will be to win your argument. The goal of the evidence is to show that the abuser has a history of violence against you and that you are at risk of further abuse.
The type of evidence you need to gather will depend on the specific allegations you are making against your spouse. For example, if you are alleging that your spouse physically abused you, you will need to provide evidence of the physical abuse. This could include things like medical records, police reports, damaged personal property, and photographs. Emotional abuse may be proven through things like text messages, emails, and witness testimony.
Due to the long-term nature of final protective orders, the burden of proof is higher than a temporary protective order. However, if you have the necessary evidence and a skilled family law attorney on your side, you can obtain the strongest long-term protection for yourself and your family.
It is important to note that while a final protective order offers long-term protection and is often an effective domestic violence prevention tool, it is not a guarantee that the abuser will not violate the order. You should hold on to a copy of the order and refer to it as needed. If the abuser does violate the order, you should contact the police immediately.
Seek Professional Assistance to Obtain a Restraining Order
If you are in an abusive relationship and need help, you have options. First, if you are in need of immediate police protection, you should contact the local authorities for assistance, and they can help you file a report and make an arrest if necessary.
Once you are in a safe location, you should contact my law firm. I will discuss your situation, review your evidence, represent you in court, and work tirelessly to help you obtain a domestic violence restraining order against your abuser.
I currently help victims of domestic violence in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you live in one of these counties, call my offices today at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss your situation. I look forward to helping you.