The threat of violence from a household member or relative can leave you feeling truly helpless. Fortunately, in Texas, you have the option to file for a domestic violence restraining order, legally known as a protective order.
Victims of domestic violence in Texas have three types of restraining orders to choose from: an emergency protective order, temporary ex parte order, and final protective order. Because there are multiple options, I am often asked two questions:
- Which type of restraining order should I pursue?
- What are the restraining order requirements for each option?
To help answer your questions, I will provide information about each type of protective order and the essential requirements to obtain legal protection in your case.
Restraining Order Requirements for Each Protective Order
The purpose of a protective order is to protect you from further violence or abuse by ordering the abuser to stay away from you, your home, your workplace, and/or other vulnerable family members, such as your children. Let’s examine which type of protective order best suits your situation.
Emergency Protective Order
– What is it? A magistrate’s order for emergency protection, also known as an emergency protective order, is issued if the court finds an immediate danger of family violence. The case will be brought to the court’s attention when the abuser is arrested for family violence or another violent crime, such as sexual abuse, sexual assault, trafficking, or stalking.
– What are the requirements? The court can issue an emergency protective order independently, but the victim of family violence may also appear before the magistrate to ask for protection. If the abuse involved severe physical injury or a deadly weapon, the court is legally mandated to issue an emergency protective order without a request from the victim.
Once issued, this order provides protection for an average of 31-61 days. It’s the most hands-off type of restraining order available in Texas as the victim does not have to appear in court for the order to go into effect. The information offered to the magistrate by the police will typically be enough to provide protection.
Temporary Ex Parte Order
– What is it? A temporary ex parte order can be issued without the abuser being present in court and is often used as a stopgap measure until a final protective order can be issued. The victim must file a petition and include details about the reason for applying.
– What are the requirements? With their application, the victim should also present evidence that family violence has occurred or is likely to occur in the future. Sufficient evidence may include the following:
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Text messages (or other forms of communication)
- Testimony from witnesses.
The judge’s decision to issue a temporary ex parte order will be based mainly on the evidence, so providing as much supporting documentation as possible is vital.
The judge will then review the application. They will sign the order if there is enough evidence to suggest a clear and present danger of domestic violence. Then, it will go into effect immediately. Most temporary ex parte orders are active for 20 days. However, a judge will occasionally extend the order for an additional 20 days.
Temporary restraining orders may also include kick-out orders, which mandate that the abuser leave the shared home. To file a kick-out order with an ex parte order, the victim will be required to sign an affidavit detailing the abuser’s behavior.
You must also testify at a separate hearing in front of the judge about why you believe that the judge should issue the kick-out order without notice to the abuser. If you have kids with the abuser, this type of order can complicate the parent-child relationship, so you will want to consult with a family lawyer such as myself beforehand.
Final Protective Order
– What is it? When the judge issues an ex parte protective order, they will also schedule a court hearing. This hearing aims to provide the protected person with the opportunity to convert the original order into a final protective order, also known as a permanent protective order.
– What are the requirements? If you wish to pursue a final protective order separately from an ex parte order, you may do so by filing an application with the court. Your hearing will be scheduled a minimum of 14 days after the application is filed.
The abuser will be notified of the hearing ahead of time. The victim must appear at the hearing to present their case for why the order should become permanent, and the abuser will be given an opportunity to contest the claims. The judge will then review the evidence and testimony and decide whether or not to make the order permanent.
Most final protective orders in Texas are active for two years. Because of the long-term nature of this type of restraining order, the victim must provide strong evidence that the order is necessary, and the judge will be looking at the evidence with greater scrutiny.
Each case is unique, so there’s no specific list of evidence that the judge will be looking for. That’s why it’s a good idea to consult with a family law attorney before the hearing for your permanent order. I can help you collect and present the evidence in the most compelling way possible.
In some cases, a final protective order may be issued for more than two years. The court could extend the order if the abuser inflicted severe bodily harm on the victim or a member of their family.
Alternatively, a protective order may be extended if the abuser has had two or more protection orders issued against them. If the abuser committed a felony family violence offense, regardless of whether they were convicted, they might also be subject to a more extended permanent order.
Gathering Evidence for a Protective Court Order
If you’re in a situation where you’re considering filing for a protective order, it’s vital to start gathering evidence as soon as possible. Gather photos of your injuries, text messages or emails from the abuser, and medical records.
If your abuser has ever committed an act of workplace violence against you, you might also want to include any official documentation of that. The goal of any piece of evidence you provide is to show that your case meets the restraining order requirements in Texas
You should also keep a journal detailing every instance of abuse, no matter how small. Include the date, time, and location of each incident, as well as any witnesses who may have seen or heard what happened. A journal will be a valuable piece of evidence if you decide to pursue a protective order.
Finally, you should reach out to a family law attorney to discuss your case and find out what other evidence may be helpful in your situation. I can also provide guidance on how to fill out the necessary paperwork correctly and represent you in court hearings.
Find Help Obtaining a Protective Order in Texas
When you turn to my law firm for immediate legal help, you can be confident that your case is in good hands. I will serve as a fierce advocate for your rights and work diligently to help you obtain the protection you need.
I currently help victims of domestic abuse in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you live in one of these counties, call my offices immediately at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss your situation and the restraining order requirements in Texas. Let me help you take the first step toward a safer future.