If you are a victim of domestic violence in Texas, you may be eligible to obtain a restraining order against your abuser. The key is understanding how to get a restraining order so you can receive all of the protections allowed by law.
Known legally in Texas as a protective order, this type of legal protection will restrict your abuser’s behavior and ensure they stay away from you and your family members.
Obtaining a protective order is a multi-step process, but having a general understanding of the steps involved can make it easier. Find out more about how the process works in Texas.
Steps Involved in Requesting Legal Protection
There are several key steps involved in the process of requesting formal protection against your abuser. Be mindful of what’s required in each step.
Step 1: Document the Abuse
When you file your petition for a protective order, you will be asked to describe in detail the abuse you have experienced. You will have the best chance of getting the protection you need if you have a clear and detailed record of the most recent and severe abusive incidents.
If you are able to do so safely, you should document the abuse in writing by keeping a journal or diary. Include as many details as possible — such as dates, times, descriptions of the events, and any witnesses — and store this information in a safe location.
You may also want to collect any evidence of the abuse, such as photos, audio recordings, text messages, emails, etc.
On the other hand, if you are in imminent danger, it’s best to call the police right away and get to a safe place. A law enforcement officer can help document the abuse and provide additional resources while you wait to formally request protection.
Step 2: Determine Where to File
To initiate the process of obtaining formal protection, you will need to file a petition at the appropriate location. Before you file your petition, you should make sure that you are filing at the correct county court. Usually, this will be the courthouse in the county where either you or the abuser lives or where the abuse occurred.
There is one exception to this rule. If you have a pending divorce case or another family court case involving minor children, you may choose to file in the court handling the case. If you don’t file your petition with that court, you must inform the clerk that you have a family court case pending elsewhere.
Step 3: Prepare and File the Petition
Next, it’s time to prepare and submit your petition. You can get a petition form from the clerk’s office in the courthouse you file. In your petition, you must include the following details:
- Your name, address, and county of residence
- The abuser’s name, address, and county of residence
- An explanation of your relationship with the abuser
- A detailed description of the abuse you experienced
After completing the petition in full, you will need to sign it under oath, meaning that you promise that all of the information in your petition is true. Keep in mind that the petition must be signed in the presence of a notary public or a judge, so you should wait to sign it until you are in the courthouse.
Step 4: Wait for the Judge’s Next Steps
Once you have submitted your petition, the judge will review your filing and determine whether a Temporary Ex Parte Protective Order should be issued. During this process, they may ask you questions to ensure you are eligible for the protection order.
To issue a temporary restraining order, the judge must have reason to believe that you are in immediate danger of family violence, as defined by the Texas Family Code. At this initial stage, the determination is largely based on testimony rather than evidence.
If the judge feels that a Temporary Protective Order is necessary, they will issue it right away. The order will last up to 20 days, during which time the abuser must comply with its conditions. The court will formally notify the abuser of the Temporary Protective Order and schedule a hearing for both parties to attend.
Step 5: Attend the Final Hearing
A Temporary Protective Order is only one of two main types of protective orders in Texas. It’s generally a stepping stone to obtaining a Final Protective Order, which provides a significantly longer period of protection.
To obtain this final order, both parties must be present at a court hearing. During this hearing, you and the abuser will have an opportunity to present evidence and testify to support your case.
The standard of evidence required to obtain a Final Protective Order is higher than for a Temporary Protective Order. The judge will only grant a Final Protective Order if they believe that it is more likely than not that family violence has occurred and that the abuser is likely to further commit family violence in the future.
If a Final Protective Order is granted, it can last for up to two years. In some cases, such as those involving the infliction of serious bodily injury, the order may be extended for an additional two years.
How to Get a Restraining Order: A Family Law Attorney Can Help
Filing for a protective order can be complicated and intimidating, especially when you’re dealing with an abuser. If you need help understanding the process or preparing your case, the Texas family law attorneys at Parker & Aguilar can help.
Our attorneys can help you explore your options from the available protection in Texas. After determining the best course of action, we will walk you through the entire restraining order process step-by-step to help you know what to expect.
From there, we can help you file the appropriate paperwork, gather and present evidence, and present your case in court — everything required to obtain a final order. With our help, you can get the protection and peace of mind you need to move forward.
We currently support clients in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston and Matagorda County. If you live in one of these counties, contact us today to start with an initial consultation.
You can reach us at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to discuss how to get a restraining order in Texas. We are here to defend your rights and provide you with legal protection from your abuser.