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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.

After the hearing

back to topWhat should I do when I leave the courthouse?

These are some things you may want to consider after you have been granted a protection order.  Depending on what you think is safest in your situation, you may do any or all of the following:

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse.  If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk how to correct the order before you leave;
  • Make several copies of the protection order as soon as possible;
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times;
  • Leave copies of the order at your workplace, at your home, at the children's school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on;
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser;
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order; and/or
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.
Don’t forget to follow up with law enforcement (if they are serving the order) to make sure that it was served.  You can find contact information for sheriff departments on our TN Sheriff Departments page.

You may also wish to make a safety plan.  People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school.  Many abusers obey protection orders, but some do not and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  Click on the following link for suggestions on Staying Safe.

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back to topI was not granted a protection order. What are my options?

If you are not granted a protection order, there are still some things you can do to stay safe.  It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic abuse organizations in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe.  They can help you develop a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need.  For safety planning help, ideas, and information, go to our Staying Safe page.  You will find a list of Tennessee resources on our TN Where to Find Help page.

Physical abuse, stalking, and sexual assault are all against the law.  Whether or not a judge gives you a protection order, you have the right to report a crime to the police and request that they press charges against the abuser.

You may also be able to reapply for protection order if a new incident occurs after you are denied the order.

If you believe the judge made an error of law, you can talk to a lawyer about the possibility of an appeal - go to our TN Finding a Lawyer page.  Generally, appeals are complicated and you will most likely need the help of a lawyer.  For basic information on appeals, go to our Filing Appeals page.

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back to topWhat can I do if the abuser violates the order?

Violating a protection order can be against the law.  There are two ways to get help if the abuser violates the protection order.

Through the police or sheriff (criminal system)
If the abuser violates the protection order, you can call 911 immediately.  Tell the officers you have a protection order and the respondent is violating it.  If the respondent is arrested, then the district attorney can prosecute the abuser because it is a crime to violate a protection order.  If found guilty of a violation of a protection order, the respondent can be punished (with jail time, a fine, or other penalty).*

Through the civil court system

You may file a motion/petition for civil contempt for a violation of the order in the same court that issued the order.  The abuser can be held in "civil contempt" if s/he does anything that your protection order orders him/her not to do.  To file for civil contempt, go to the clerk's office and ask for the forms to file for civil contempt.**

Note: If the respondent is found to be in violation of the order, the court may extend the order of protection for up to five (5) years.  After a second, third, fourth, etc. violation of the order, the court may extend the order of protection for up to ten (10) years.***

* TN ST § 36-3-610(a), (b)(2)
** TN ST § 36-3-610(a)
*** TN ST § 36-3-605(d)

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back to topHow do I change or extend the protection order?

You (or the abuser) can file a motion in court at any time to modify the order as long as you can show that there has been a change in circumstances that makes the modification necessary.*  To modify your order, you can go back to the court where you got it and file a petition with the clerk.

You can file in court to extend/continue your protection order for one year by filing a motion to extend before your order expires.  After filing the motion, you will be given a new court date, usually within 14 days.  The abuser will be served with your motion by mail. If you file your motion to extend before your order expires but your hearing is not scheduled until after your order’s expiration date, then your order will be extended until your hearing.  After filing for the order to be extended, the process is very similar to getting your first protection order. You will need to explain to the judge why you need continued protection and if you show that there is “cause” to do so, the judge can continue the order for another one-year period.  This process can be repeated to ask for additional one-year extensions of the order.**

Note: If the abuser has violated the order, you can request that the extension last longer than one year.  The court may extend the order of protection for up to 5 years for one violation.  If the respondent is found to have violated the order more than once, the court may extend the order of protection for up to 10 years.***

* TN ST § 36-3-608(b)
** TN ST § 36-3-605(b)
*** TN ST § 36-3-605(d)

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back to topWhat happens if I move?

If you move within Tennessee, your order will still be valid.   It may be a good idea to call the clerk of court where you received the order originally to tell give your new address so that the court can contact you if necessary, but be sure to ask that the address be kept confidential from the abuser if necessary.

Additionally, the federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. territories and tribal lands.  Different states may have different regulations for enforcing out-of-state protection orders.  You can find out about your state’s policies by contacting a domestic abuse program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor in your area.

You may also call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111, ext. 2) for information on enforcing your order in another state.

For more information, you can go to our Moving to Another State with a Tennessee Protection Order page.


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back to topCan I get more specific information about protection orders in my county?

The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee publishes pamphlets with specific information on protection orders in the following counties, which you can read here:

  • Cannon
  • Cheatham
  • Davidson
  • Dickson
  • Houston
  • Humphreys
  • Macon
  • Montgomery
  • Robertson
  • Rutherford
  • Smith
  • Stewart
  • Sumner
  • Trousdale
  • Williamson
  • Wilson.
Please note that WomensLaw is not affiliated with this organization and offers these pamphlets for your information only.

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