As a family law attorney, I am often asked the question of how does a restraining order work in Texas? The answer to this question largely depends on the specifics of your situation.
If you are experiencing violence or abuse from a spouse, I know this can be difficult. Let me provide you with some guidance on restraining orders, protective orders, and your legal options so that you know what type of official protection you need.
Need immediate legal support against your offender in Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, or Harris County? Please contact my offices right away.
Information on Restraining Orders vs. Protective Orders
If you are a victim of domestic violence in Texas, you may be able to obtain a court order to protect yourself from your abuser. This order may prohibit an individual from engaging in certain activities, such as coming near you or contacting you. In Texas, there are two overarching categories of orders that can provide protection from abuse:
- Restraining orders
- Protective orders
Although these terms are often used interchangeably, each has a different purpose, and it is important to understand their differences so you can make an informed decision about your best course of action.
1. What Are Restraining Orders?
Restraining orders are generally used in an existing court case or lawsuit. The aim is to prohibit one or both parties from certain behaviors or activities related to the case. For example, a restraining order may be issued in a divorce case to prevent one spouse from selling joint property or prevent both parties from harassing or contacting each other while the divorce is pending.
2. What Are Protective Orders?
Protective orders, on the other hand, can be issued even if there is no pending court case. These orders protect domestic abuse, sexual assault, or trafficking victims from further abuse. Protective orders can also provide other forms of relief, particularly when other household members are involved. This may include awarding full custody of the children to the victim or ordering the abuser to move out of the family home.
3. Penalty Differences
If the terms of a restraining order are violated, the court is authorized to jail the offender who is violating the order, but this rarely occurs. That’s because the order is a civil contempt matter, not a criminal one, so law enforcement does not have the authority to enforce restraining orders.
The consequences for violating a protective order are much more strict. For example, violations such as harassment or stalking frequently result in criminal charges.
Unlike restraining orders, protective orders are criminal matters under Texas law, which means that a police officer can enforce the order by arresting the offender.
With all of these factors in mind, protective orders are much more effective than restraining orders in providing protection from abuse. That’s why it’s important to understand the various types of protective orders available in Texas and how they work.
Types of Protective Orders in Texas
There are three main types of protective orders in Texas:
The process of obtaining a protection order in Texas depends on the type of order you are seeking and your unique situation.
1. Temporary Ex Parte Protective Orders
If you need immediate protection from your abuser, you can apply for a temporary ex parte protective order (sometimes called a temporary restraining order). This type of order can be issued without the abuser being present in court and without them having the opportunity to object to the order.
To obtain a temporary ex parte protective order, you will need to file a petition with the court in your or the abuser’s county of residence. In the petition, you will be asked to explain your reason for filing. You should include detailed descriptions of the abuse and be sure to note whether factors like alcohol or drug abuse are involved.
After you submit your petition, a judge will look over it and make a decision. If they find that there is a risk of family violence, they can issue a temporary ex parte order that will last up to 20 days. However, you may be able to request a 20-day extension of the order if need be.
2. Final Protective Orders
A final protective order (also known as a permanent protective order) can provide long-term protection from an abuser and is issued after a hearing in which both parties have the opportunity to present their case.
The hearing for a final protective order is typically scheduled after a temporary protective order is in place, and the process of filing for one is the same as filing for a temporary order. If you cannot attend the hearing, you should request a later court date as soon as possible. Failing to appear may cause your case to be dismissed, which would result in a loss of protection.
This type of order is usually valid for a maximum of two years. Longer periods of protection may be issued in cases involving felony offenses, serious bodily injury, or multiple prior protective orders.
No matter how much time a final protective order initially covers, the abuser has the right to file for the order to be discontinued after one year. There will be a hearing to determine whether the order should continue, and they can end it if it is no longer necessary.
3. Emergency Protective Orders
Emergency protective orders are the most serious type of protective order in Texas. They provide immediate protection to the victim after the abuser is arrested for a family violence offense, so the process looks a bit different than the other types of orders.
The victim can request an emergency order by filing a petition, but the court may also issue one independently, even if the victim is not present in court. In fact, if the crime caused serious injury or involved a deadly weapon, the court is required to issue an emergency order without a specific request.
This type of order typically lasts 31-61 days in Texas. If the offense involved a deadly weapon, an EPO would be valid for up to 91 days.
Get Professional Help From a Family Law Attorney
The process of filing a restraining order in Texas can be complicated. Most types of restraining orders require the victim to show the court that their safety is at risk. This can be a difficult feat to accomplish on your own, especially if you are still in contact with your abuser.
That’s why hiring an experienced domestic violence attorney is crucial. I can help you gather evidence to support your claims and give you the best chance at obtaining the protection that you need.
When you turn to my law firm, I will listen to your story and help you identify which type of domestic violence restraining order is the ideal fit. From there, I will guide you through each step of the process and be by your side every step of the way.
I currently help victims obtain protective orders in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you live in one of these counties and are ready to take action, call me at (979) 267-7660 or (281) 944-5485 to schedule a consultation.
I’ll help you learn more about how a restraining order works in Texas and why you need a protective order. Let’s work together to keep you and your family safe.