Know the Laws: Texas
UPDATED February 15, 2015
A protective order is a civil order that provides protection from harm by someone you have a specific relationship with. The order can also place other restrictions on the abuser, such as ordering him/her to stay away from you or stop contacting you.
back to topWhat is the legal definition of "family violence" in Texas?
This section defines family violence for the purposes of getting a protective order.
Family violence is any act committed by one family or household member against another family/household member (including children) that is:
- intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury (physical pain, illness, or damage to your physical condition),* assault or sexual assault; or
- a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of immediate physical harm, bodily injury (physical pain, illness, or damage to your physical condition),* assault or sexual assault.**
If these acts are committed by someone who is not a member of the family or household, it can still come under the definition of "family violence" if either:
Note: If you commit violence to protect yourself or your children and the court believes you acted in self defense, then this is not family violence.**
* Tex. Penal Code § 1.07(a)(8)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 71.004
*** Tex. Fam. Code § 71.0021
back to topWhat is the legal definition of "dating violence" in Texas?
Dating violence is when an abuser commits an act that is:
- intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury (physical pain, illness, or damage to your physical condition)*, assault or sexual assault; or
- a threat that reasonably places you in fear of immediate physical harm, bodily injury (physical pain, illness, or damage to your physical condition)*, assault or sexual assault.**
The act must be committed against:
- someone with whom s/he has or had a “dating relationship;” or
- the new spouse or intimate partner of someone the abuser is/was married to or in a "dating relationship" with.**
A dating relationship is defined as a relationship between people who have or had a continuing romantic or intimate relationship. To determine if a dating relationship exists, the judge will consider:
- the length of the relationship;
- the nature of the relationship; and
- the frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.**
If you meet the definition of dating violence, as explained above, continue reading this section for more information about applying for a family violence protective order.***
Note: If you commit violence to protect yourself or your children and the court believes you acted in self defense, then this is not dating violence.**
* Tex. Penal Code § 1.07(a)(8)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 71.0021
*** Tex. Fam. Code § 71.004(3)
back to topHow can a protective order help me?
A protective order can order the abuser to:
- stop committing acts of family or dating violence or any acts that are reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass you or a family/household member;
- stop all communication with you or a family member (directly or through a third party) or stop communication made in a threatening or harassing manner;
- stay away from your home or place of employment or those of your family or household member;
- stay away from a school or daycare center that a child protected under the order attends;
- complete a battering intervention and prevention program or attend counseling with someone who specializes in family violence;
- allow you visitation with your child (or give the abuser visitation);
- not remove your child from your possession or from the jurisdiction of the court;
- stop any transfer or disposal of property that you own or lease with the abuser;
- not remove a pet, companion animal, or assistance animal from your possession;
- pay child support or spousal support for the time you have the protective order;
- leave your home or other specified property (if certain conditions are met) and allow you to remain there - see Can the abuser be removed from the home? for more information;
- turn over any firearms in his/her possession to law enforcement (unless the person is a peace officer actively engaged in employment as a sworn, full-time paid employee of a state agency) and the court must suspend his/her license to carry a concealed handgun if s/he has been found to have committed family violence;
- not harm, threaten, or interfere with the care, custody, or control of your pet, companion animal, or assistance animal, or that of your family or household member; and
- perform any other acts that are necessary to prevent or reduce the likelihood of family or dating violence.*
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.
Note: Even if the order doesn’t specifically say that the abuser has to turn over his/her firearms, possession of a firearm by a non-police officer who is a respondent in a protective order case is illegal under Texas state law and federal law. Please see TX State Gun Laws and Federal Gun Laws for more information
* Tex. Fam. Code §§ 85.021, 85.022
back to topCan the abuser be removed from the home?
Possibly, yes. A judge can consider excluding the abuser from the home and allow you to stay in the home (grant you "exclusive possession") if the home is:
- jointly owned or leased by you and the abuser;
- owned or leased by you; or
- owned or leased by the abuser and s/he has an obligation to support you or to support your child.*
If you are asking that the abuser be excluded as part of a temporary ex parte protection order, you must prove all of the following through your affidavit and testimony:
- you currently live in the residence or you have lived there within the 30 days before you filed the application;
- the abuser has committed family violence against you or a member of the household within the 30 days before you filed the application; and
- there is a clear and present danger that the abuser is likely to commit family violence against you or a member of the household again.**
Note: If you are asking for exclusion as part of a temporary ex parte order, the judge can postpone the hearing until the end of the same day in order to call the respondent and give him/her the opportunity to be present in court when the court resumes the hearing.**
* Tex. Fam. Code § 85.021(2)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 83.006
back to topIn which county can I file for a protective order?
You can file a petition in the county where you live, the county where the abuser lives, or any county where the family violence took place.* However, if you have a divorce case pending or a pending case affecting the parent-child relationship, you must file for the protective order in the court in which that case is pending or in the court in the county in which you reside (and you must notify the clerk of the pending case).**
* Tex. Fam. Code § 82.003
** Tex. Fam. Code § 85.062(a),(b)
back to topCan I keep my personal information confidential?
Yes. If you request it, the court can remove from the protective order the address and phone number of:
- your home (the order will only state the county in which you live);
- your workplace; and
- your child's daycare center or school.*
Therefore, if you do not want the abuser to know the locations of these places, make sure to tell that to the clerk when filing your petition and/or check the box to keep addresses and telephone numbers for residences, workplaces, schools, and childcare facilities confidential.
* Tex. Fam. Code § 85.007(a)
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