When responding to domestic violence cases, officers may suggest victims obtain a protective order. Here are some frequently asked questions about these orders.
What is a Protective Order?
A protective order is a civil court order issued to prevent continuing acts of family violence, sexual assault, human trafficking or stalking.
Family violence (sometimes called Domestic Violence) is basically defined as (1) any act by one member of a family or household intended to physically harm another member, (2) a serious threat of physical harm, or (3) 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).
How Can a Protective Order Help?
A protective order may prohibit the offender from:
- committing further acts of family violence, sexual assault, human trafficking or stalking
- harassing or threatening the victim, either directly or indirectly by communicating the threat through another person
- going to or near a school or day-care center of a child protected under the order attends
In some situations, a protective order may also include orders to: prohibit transfer or disposal of property, establish possession and visitation of a child, pay child or spousal support for a period not to exceed one year, attend mandatory counseling, vacate the residence or other specified property, if certain conditions are met. These additional provisions are not criminally enforceable. A person who violates them is not immediately arrested, but may be taken to civil court, found in contempt, fined and jailed.
Who is Eligible for a Protective Order?
If the court finds that family violence, sexual assault, human trafficking or stalking has occurred and is likely to occur again, a court may render a protective order.
Ultimately, a court must determine on a case-by-case basis whether a protective order is warranted.
How Can I Get a Protective Order?
You can apply for a protective order through the district or county attorney, a private attorney, or through a legal aid service program. The application must be filed in the county in which you or the offender lives. There are no minimum time limits to establish residency, and protective orders are available in every county in Texas.
Protective Order Kit
You can find extensive information about protective orders, including steps to filing for a protective order in this protective order kit.