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Know the Laws: Tennessee

UPDATED June 16, 2017

Protection Orders for Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking

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A protection order is a civil order issued by a state court which requires one person to stop harming another. In Tennessee, protection orders protect against domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Who can get a protection order

back to topAm I eligible to file for a protection order?

Protection orders in Tennessee are designed to protect victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.

If anyone has stalked you or sexually assaulted you, you can ask the court for a protection order against that person, regardless of your relationship to him/her.  If someone has abused you (committed domestic abuse), you need to have a specific relationship with him/her to get a protection order. You can only seek a protection order because of domestic abuse if the abuser is:

  • your spouse or ex-spouse;
  • someone you live with or used to live with;
  • anyone you are dating or used to date;
  • anyone you are having a sexual relationship with or used to have a sexual relationship with;
  • a same-sex partner you've lived with, dated, or had a sexual relationship with;
  • anyone you are related to by blood or adoption; or
  • anyone you are related to by marriage or used to be related to by marriage.*

Note: You can also qualify as a victim of domestic abuse if you are the child of someone in any of the above relationships (regardless of if you are a minor or an adult) and you are being abused.**

In addition, a law enforcement officer who responds to an incident of domestic abuse can file for an ex parte order on your behalf if s/he believes that you are in immediate and present danger of abuse -- even if no arrest is made. You must consent in writing to allow the officer to file for you.  The officer can file for the order even when the courts are closed.***

* TN ST § 36-3-601(5)
** TN ST § 36-3-601(5)(F)
*** TN ST § 36-3-619(h)

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back to topCan I get a protection order against a same-sex partner?

In Tennessee, you may apply for a protection order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Am I eligible to file for a protection order?  You must also be the victim of an act of domestic abuse, which is explained here What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Tennessee?

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back to topAm I eligible if I'm a minor?

Tennessee law says that minors (most people under 18)* can get a protection order, but there are some special rules.

First, minors have to meet the same eligibility requirements as adults.  In other words, a minor must be the victim of domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault to qualify for a protection order - see Am I eligible to file for a protection order? for more information.

Second, one of your parents or your legal guardian needs to sign your paperwork for you before you turn it into the court.  Your parents (or the parent who you live with the majority of the time, if they don't live together) will also get a copy of most of the paperwork you get. A caseworker at a non-profit organization for child abuse and family violence can also sign your paperwork.  However, if the caseworker signs it, the petition cannot be filed against your parent or guardian and s/he will receive any paperwork you filed with the court, unless a judge determines that doing would be seriously harmful to you.**

In cases before the juvenile court where the Department of Children's Services is a party or where a guardian ad litem has been appointed for the child by the juvenile court, the petition may be filed on behalf of the minor by the Department or the guardian ad litem.**

For more information, you may want to speak with a local domestic abuse program for help.  To find an advocate at a local program, please visit the TN State and Local Programs page.

* TN ST § 36-3-601(2)
** TN ST § 36-3-602(b)

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back to topHow much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?

There are no fees for filing for a protection order.  Domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault victims do not need have to pay to file, issue, register, serve, dismiss, appeal, or enforce an ex parte order of protection, or an extended order of protection.

If after a hearing, the judge gives you an order or extends an order of protection, the abuser may have to cover the costs related to the order.  However, if the judge does not give you an order or does not extend an order of protection, the judge may make you pay the costs if the judge decides there is clear and convincing evidence of these two things: 1) you are not a victim of domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault (the judge cannot make this decision based on the fact that you requested that your petition be dismissed, you did not go to a hearing, or you did not fill out the forms right); and 2) you knew that the domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault did not happen when you filed the petition for the order of protection.*

You do not need a lawyer to file for a protection order.  However, you may wish to have a lawyer, especially if the abuser has a lawyer.  If you can, contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected.

If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find information on legal assistance on the TN Finding a Lawyer page.  Domestic abuse organizations in your area also may be able to help you through the legal process and may have lawyer referrals.  To find an organization, please visit the TN State and Local Programs page.

* TN ST § 36-3-617(a)
** TN ST § 36-3-617(a)(2)

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