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Disclaimer:  The legal information provided on this website is the product of Legal Aid NorthWest Texas (LANWT). None of the legal information on this website is associated with or the product of the Office of the Attorney General of Texas or any of its employees.


PROTECTIVE ORDERS

According to Chapter 5, Code of Criminal Procedure:  Family violence is a serious danger and threat to society and its members. Victims of family violence are entitled to the maximum protection from harm or abuse or the threat of harm or abuse as is permitted by law.

 

In any law enforcement, prosecutorial, or judicial response to allegations of family violence, the responding law enforcement or judicial officers shall protect the victim, without regard to the relationship between the alleged offender and victim.

 

A protective order is a civil court order issued to prevent continuing acts of family violence. Family violence is defined as any act by one member of a family or household intended to physically harm another member, a serious threat of physical harm, or the abuse of a child. Family includes blood relatives or relatives by marriage, former spouses, parents (married or not) of the same child, foster parents and foster children, or any member or former member of a household (people living in the same house, related or not).

 

Either the custodial parent or the non-custodial parent can be guilty of family violence. There are actions you can take to prevent further harm.  Create a personal safety plan for you and the children (see Personal Safety Plan).  Seek a court Protective Order. You may be eligible for financial assistance as a crime victim to help you relocate and pay for medical treatment. (See Crime Victims’ Compensation.)  A parent who is guilty of committing family violence within the past two years may not be allowed to be the primary custodian of a child. The judge has broad discretion in this matter and there are exceptions to the general rule.

The Texas Family Code contains specific laws to address and prevent family violence. This law allows a court to enter an order prohibiting specific acts of violence or threats of violence. Violation of this court order is either a class A misdemeanor or a third degree felony.
 
If you or one of your children is a victim of family violence, immediately seek appropriate medical attention and report the incident to the local police department. Request copies of medical records for the treatment and copies of the police report. Take this information to the District or County Attorney and request a Protective Order. Bring the name of each victim and where they live; the name and address of the person or persons committing the violence; the relationship between the victim and the person committing the violence; and, information about dates, times, and places of past violence by this same person.

If there is a divorce pending at the time of the family violence, you will need to provide this information to your attorney because the judge of the divorce court will have to decide whether a Protective Order is appropriate.

You cannot be charged a fee by the court clerk, sheriff, constable, or other public official. If you require the assistance of a private attorney, you are expected to pay for the attorney’s time and assistance. The court will require the person found guilty of family violence to pay for all court expenses.


If the person committing the family violence is arrested, the City Magistrate can issue a Magistrate’s Order for Emergency Protection that will last up to 60 days. Often the person will leave the scene if they know the police have been called. In that event, the police will only take a report without arresting the person unless the act committed rises to the level of a felony offense. If the person is not arrested, on your application, the District or County Attorney can obtain a Temporary Protective Order without a hearing that is good for up to 20 days with the possibility of a 20-day extension. The court will try to set a hearing on your application for a Protective Order within 14 days. If a final Protective Order is signed by the judge, it will be good for up to two years.

Law enforcement agencies are notified of all protective orders issued in their area and they are required to maintain a list of those orders. If an offender violates the order and law enforcement is notified, officials will act to arrest the offender and seek to have charges filed. If a person violates the protective order in the presence of law enforcement, the offender must be arrested immediately. In cases involving the violation of a protective order, including an ex parte order, the offender may be punished for contempt of court by a fine of as much as $500 or up to six months in jail or both. In cases of violation, excluding ex parte orders, the offender may be punished by a fine of as much as $4,000 or jail for up to one year or both.

 

A protective order may prevent the person who committed family violence from coming near the family home or the victim’s place of employment or school. It may order the person to attend counseling designed to stop future acts of violence. It may prohibit all threatening or harassing communications as well as further acts of violence. A person who has had a Protective Order placed against them is not allowed to possess a gun or ammunition.

A final protective order is valid for up to two years.