Victims of domestic violence in Texas have the right to seek a restraining order against their abuser. The key is to gain an understanding of the grounds for a restraining order in Texas. Then you will know how to obtain the appropriate protective order you deserve.
How Do Restraining Orders Work in Texas?
Known as a protective order under the Texas Family Code, a restraining order is an official court document that orders the abuser to avoid contact with the victim or risk facing legal consequences, such as contempt of court. Its purpose is to protect victims from further abuse.
A restraining order can be requested by the victim (the petitioner) or someone acting on their behalf. A judge decides the duration of the restraining order, which can range from a few days to several years.
Depending on the type of restraining order the petitioner seeks, the judge will base their decision on the information the petitioner provides either in their application or court hearing.
The person seeking a restraining order must have a valid reason to obtain it, so you must gather ample evidence to prove your argument to request a restraining order.
What Are the Grounds for a Restraining Order?
The exact grounds for a restraining order in Texas are defined by the specific type of restraining order the petitioner seeks. In general, though, any of the following types of behavior can qualify a petitioner for a restraining order:
- Physical injury or harm, such as battery
- Sexual assault or abuse
- Stalking behavior, such as following or harassing the petitioner
- Mental abuse, including verbal threats and insults
- Financial abuse, such as preventing the petitioner from having access to their own finances
- Destroying or damaging the petitioner’s property
Threats or attempts of physical injury or harm to the petitioner or one of the petitioner’s family or household members are also possible restraining order grounds. That means the petitioner can seek a restraining order even if the abuser has not physically harmed them. The petitioner only needs to show a high likelihood of abuse occurring in the future.
A criminal arrest, conviction, or plea agreement may also be grounds for a restraining order. However, the abuser doesn’t need to be arrested or convicted of a crime for the petitioner to request restrainment.
Protective orders are civil orders, so if the petitioner can provide evidence of the abuser’s behavior, the judge may grant the restraining order.
Evidence Required to Support a Restraining Order Case
In most cases, the judge won’t simply take the petitioner’s word for it. The victim will need to provide evidence to support their case. While it can be difficult to show evidence of many types of abuse, the standard of proof (the responsibility of proving that abuse occurred) is not as high in civil court cases as it is in criminal cases.
Petitioners must only prove their case by “a preponderance of the evidence,” which means that they must show that it’s more likely than not that abuse occurred. Evidence could include:
- Testimony from witnesses who have seen the abuse
- Photos of injuries or damages
- Medical records related to the abuse
- Police reports
- Records of financial transactions, such as bills or bank statements
- Emails or texts sent by the abuser
- Video or audio recordings of abusive behavior
Even if this evidence doesn’t directly document the abuse, it can help the judge decide if a restraining order is the best course of action.
The lower standard of proof in civil cases means that anything that could help establish a connection or pattern of behavior is likely to be considered in court. However, compelling evidence is still necessary to prove the petitioner’s case, and the victim should ensure they have as much evidence as possible before filing a restraining order.
Types of Restraining Orders in Texas
In Texas, there are three main types of restraining orders that can be granted: emergency protective orders, temporary ex parte protective orders, and final protective orders. Each of these protective orders has different requirements as far as grounds and evidence are concerned.
1. Emergency Protective Order
Emergency Protective Orders are usually initiated when the abuser is arrested for a violent crime. The court may issue the order without the victim requesting it, and the victim isn’t required to appear in court.
The court must believe the victim is in immediate danger, and information from the responding law enforcement officer is often all that’s needed for the court to make this determination.
If these records show a severe physical injury or use of a deadly weapon, the court must issue an emergency order. Other forms of violence can also result in this type of protective order. Once issued, this order is active for 31-61 days.
2. Temporary Ex Parte Order
To initiate a case for a Temporary Ex Parte Order, the victim must file a petition detailing the grounds for the order and include evidence supporting the case.
If the court believes there is a “clear and present danger” of family violence, it may issue the order without the abuser’s presence. Most temporary restraining orders are active for approximately 20 days.
3. Final Protective Order
After a temporary order is issued, the victim must appear in court and present their case to a judge. The judge will then decide whether or not to issue a final protective order, also known as a permanent restraining order.
If a permanent order is granted, it will remain active for two years and can be renewed if the court believes there is still a danger. Due to the length of final protective orders, the court will require more evidence from the victim than is necessary for a temporary protective order.
Additionally, this type of restraining order is the only one where the abuser can refute any evidence presented by the victim. This means obtaining a final protective order may be more challenging, and the petitioner should be prepared to make a strong argument.
Get Help From Our Texas Family Law Attorneys
While emergency and temporary protective orders can provide necessary short-term protection against family violence, a final protective order is the best way to ensure long-term safety.
The attorneys at our family law firm have protected people just like you in countless restraining order cases. We can help you prepare and present a compelling case to the court.
If you or someone you love is seeking protection from family violence in Texas, contact us today to learn more about your legal options, including the grounds for a restraining order in the state.
We currently support victims of family abuse in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you live in one of these counties, contact our team of knowledgeable, caring, and local family law attorneys.
Our offices can be reached at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office). Please call right away for expert support.