Texas Family Code provides protection against family violence committed by a family member as well as by an outsider who has/had a relationship with the petitioner. Protective order, also known as restraining order in some states, is a court order issued to protect the victims (or likely victims) of family violence. There are two terms that are used in this regard namely family violence and dating violence that cover various forms of assaults. If you are a victim of family violence, then you should immediately sought legal counsel from a Family Law attorney or any other competent authorities such as the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services.
Any action or threat of action by a family member against another family member can be interpreted as an act of family violence if it causes or intends to cause physical harm, injury to body, physical and/or sexual assault, or reasonable fear of such actions in the future. Dating violence, on the other hand, constitutes any action or threat of action by a person against another person with whom s/he has or had a dating relationship that causes or intends to cause physical harm, injury to body, physical and/or sexual assault, or reasonable fear of such actions in the future. The judge will take into account certain parameters to decide whether the relationship is/was a dating relationship or not.
There are three different types of protective orders issued in the State of Texas: temporary ex parte, permanent, and emergency protective order. Temporary ex parte is a court order reserved for those situations that require immediate protection of the abused and/or his/her family from the abuser. Ex parte here refers to the fact that there is no need to send a notice to the abuser (respondent) to attend the hearing as it could jeopardize the security of the abused. It generally lasts up to 20 days but it can be extended to additional 20-day periods if the judge decides so. A permanent protective order is usually for less than 2 years but could be extended in certain circumstances. Emergency protective order is not issued by a Family Court but by a criminal court after the abuser is arrested for family violence, sexual assault, or stalking. It is generally for more than 30 days but less than 60 days; however, the use of a deadly weapon in assault could increase this duration.
A protective order for family violence could be filed by anyone in the household and if the abused is a child, then any adult could file for the protective order. Apart from this, the Attorney General, the District Attorney, Family Law attorneys or the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services also have the power to file for a protective order on the behalf of the abused. It must be proved in the court that an act of family violence has occurred or is likely to occur. In most cases, the testimony of the abused is enough for the issuance of the order even if a police report hasn’t been filed. It must be noted that there is no fee charged (from the abused) to apply for the protective order but if found guilty of family violence, the abuser may have to pay certain court fees.
If it’s proven that the family violence has occurred or is likely to occur, then the abuser is restrained from committing further violence, to have direct/indirect communication with the abused, approaching abused near his/her home or workplace, going near the home/day care/school of the court-order protected child, to have possession of a firearm and/or following, annoying, abusing, embarrassing, or harassing the abused. In some cases exclusive possession of the house could also be given to the petitioner.
Violation of the permanent protective order may lead to a fine up to $4,000 and/or jail time up to 1 year. If the violation constitutes family violence, then the abuser could be prosecuted for felony/misdemeanor which has minimum jail time of 2 years. For the violation of temporary ex parte protective order, the fine is up to $500 and/or jail time of up to 6 months. It is important to note that the valid protective orders from the other states are also enforceable in Texas.