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Know the Laws: Texas

UPDATED July 20, 2016

Family Violence Protective Orders

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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.

After the hearing

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

Here are some things you may want to consider doing.  However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation.

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to correct the order before you leave.
  • Ask the clerk for several free, certified copies.*  You can make additional copies as well, if needed.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • You might want to 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.  (Note: If the order prohibits the abuser from going near your child’s school or daycare, the clerk is supposed to send the order directly to the daycare or school.  If child support is ordered, the clerk should send it to the child support division of the Office of the Attorney General.  If the abuser is in the military, the clerk is supposed to send it directly to the military base/installation.  The clerk is also supposed to send a copy to law enforcement in the municipality/county in which you live.)**
  • You might want to give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • Give a photo and/or description of your partner and his vehicle to anyone you gave a copy of the order to.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.

* Tex. Fam. Code § 81.002(2)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 85.042(a),(a-1),(b)

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

An abuser can violate a protective order by disobeying any of the restrictions in the order.  For example, s/he can violate the restriction:

  • not to come near you or a place specified in the order;
  • not to abuse you;
  • to contact you directly or through a third party (however, contacting you through your attorney can be permissible); 
  • against possessing a firearm;
  • not to harm, threaten, or interfere with the care, custody, or control of a pet or companion animal a person protected by the order; or
  • not to remove, attempt to remove, or otherwise tamper with the normal functioning of a global positioning monitoring system (GPS).*

If you believe that the abuser has violated the protective order, you can immediately call 911 and the abuser can be arrested.  Under Texas law, a law enforcement officer must arrest the abuser if the officer witnesses a protective order violation, and may arrest the abuser if the order is violated outside of the officer’s presence.**

Protective orders will have certain warnings written right on the order.  Both temporary ex parte orders and permanent protective orders state that a violation of the order can be considered "contempt of court" with a punishment of up to $500, a jail sentence of up to 6 months, or both.  The orders also state that if a person commits an "act" that is forbidden in the order, s/he can be punished by a fine of up to $4,000, a jail sentence up to 1 year, or both.  If the "act" committed results in family violence, the abuser can be prosecuted separately for that crime.  If s/he commits a felony, s/he can be sentenced to prison for at least two years.*** 

When the police arrive, it is usually a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge number in case you want to follow up on your case.  Make sure a police report is filled out, even if no arrest is made.  If you have legal documentation of all violations of the order, it could help you have the order extended or modified in the future.

* Tex. Penal Code § 25.07(a)
** Tex. C.C.P. Art. 14.03(a)(3),(b)
*** Tex. Fam. Code § 85.026

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back to topWhat happens if I move?

Federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have an protective order, it is enforceable, or it can protect you, wherever you go in the United States, including U.S. territories and tribal lands.

Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state orders.  You can find out about your new state's policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor in your new area.

You might also want to call the court where you originally received the order to tell them your new address so that they can contact you if necessary.  However, before giving out an address that you don't want the abuser to have, be sure to ask the clerk if there is a way to keep it confidential and confirm that it will not be accessible to the abuser.

To read more information please see our Moving to Another State with a Texas Protective Order section.

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back to topHow can I modify (change) my protective order?

If you want to change the order to add a specific protection to it or to take something out of the order, you can file to modify the order.  The abuser can also file to modify the order.  The judge would hold a hearing to decide what changes to make.*  You will have to go back to the court where you originally filed your application and tell the clerk you want to change your order.  You will find links to online forms that you may need at our TX Download Court Forms page.  Also, you can update any information listed on the order such as your address, telephone number, place of employment, or the child-care facility or school of a child protected by the order if any of this changes after you get the order.**

* Tex. Fam. Code § 87.001
** Tex. Fam. Code § 87.004(a)

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back to topCan I extend or renew my protective order? What if the order already expired?

Automatic extension
If the abuser is in jail or prison when the order is set to expire or if s/he was released from jail/prison within the one year before the order’s expiration date, the order will automatically be extended.  If the abuser was sentenced to more than 5 years of incarceration, the order will expire on the first anniversary of the date s/he is released from imprisonment.  If the abuser was sentenced to 5 years or less of incarceration, the order will expire on the second anniversary of the date s/he is released from imprisonment.*  You can request a new order from the court showing the extended expiration date to make it easier to enforce in case of a violation. 

Filing to renew a current order or an expired order
If the abuser violates the order while the order is still valid, this violation could be a reason to renew the order.  You can file for the renewed protective order within the last 30 days of the order (within 30 days before the order's expiration date).  You will have to include with your application:

  • a copy of the current protective order (or if a copy is not available, you will have to file a copy before the hearing date) and
  • a description of what the abuser did to make you reasonably fear immediate physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault.** 

If your current order has already expired, you can file for a new protective order if:

  • s/he violated the order before it expired and you didn't already get a new family violence protective order based on that violation; or
  • the abuser has done something new to reasonably place you in fear of immediate physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault.***

You will need to attach a copy of the expired protective order to your new application (or if you don't have a copy available, you will have to file it before the hearing date) and you will have to go through all of the steps of originally filing for an order.

* Tex. Fam. Code § 85.025(c)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 82.0085
*** Tex. Fam. Code § 82.008

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