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Información Legal: Tennessee

Tennessee: Restraining Orders

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Restraining Orders

Protection Orders for Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking

Basic information

What is a protection order?

What is the legal definition of domestic abuse?

This section defines domestic abuse for the purposes of getting a protection order.

For purposes of getting a protection order, you must allege that the abuser has done one or more of these things to you:

  • physically hurts you, tries to physically hurt you, or puts you in fear of physical harm;
  • threatens you with serious physical harm;
  • physical restraint (i.e., confines your movements or imprisons you in any way, such as locking you in a room);
  • destroys or damages your property on purpose (maliciously); or
  • injures, attempts to injure, or puts you or your minor child in fear that s/he will injure any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by you or your minor child.1

Note: The abuser must also have a specific type of relationship to you to qualify for a protection order.

1 TN ST § 36-3-601(1)

What is the legal definition of sexual assault?

What is the legal definition of stalking?

Stalking is when someone repeatedly and willfully (intentionally) harasses you and it reasonably make you feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested (bothered). The harassment must be part of a “course of conduct,” which is a pattern of conduct made up of two or more separate acts that are committed by the stalker directly, indirectly, or through third parties.1

For the purposes of getting a protection order, you’re considered a victim of stalking if anyone (regardless of your relationship with that person) has:

  • stalked you;
  • threatened to stalk you; or
  • put you in fear that s/he is going to stalk you.2

Harassment is when someone contacts you without your consent (“unconsented conduct”), in a way that reasonably causes you emotional distress. It includes actions such as:

  • following you or appearing within your sight;
  • approaching you or confronting you in a public place or on private property;
  • contacting you by phone, mail, or email, text messages, or any other type of electronic message sent using the Internet, web sites, or a social media platform;
  • showing up at your house or job (whether or not s/he comes inside);
  • entering or remaining on property that you own or lease or occupy;
  • sending to that person mail or any electronic communications; and
  • sending or placing an object on your property.1

1 TN ST § 39-17-315(a)(3)-(a)(5)
2 TN ST § 36-3-601(11)

What protections can I get in a protection order?

A temporary protection order can do any or all of the following:

  • order the abuser to stop committing or threatening to commit domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault against you or your minor children;
  • order the abuser not to call you, contact or otherwise communicate with you, directly or indirectly;
  • order the abuser not to come near you;
  • direct the abuser to immediately and temporarily leave the home shared with you, until your hearing for the protection order;
  • direct the care, custody, or control of any animal of either party or of a child living in the home either to you or to an appropriate animal foster situation (it cannot be given to the abuser);
  • direct the abuser to reimburse you for all costs, expenses, and fees if you breach a lease or rental agreement if the judge decides that continuing to live in the place you rent may put your life, health, or safety at risk (or that of your children). However, this cannot be interpreted as a change in the terms, liability, or parties of the lease or rental agreement; and
  • order your cell phone company (wireless service provider) to transfer to you any wireless telephone number where you or your children are the primary users if the account is not in your name. Note: You would be responsible for paying the bill for those numbers.1

An extended protection order can:

  • give you​ all of the protections listed above; and
  • in addition:
    • give you possession of the home and order the abuser to leave the home (and allow you back in the home if you had left);
    • direct the abuser to provide suitable alternative housing for you when the abuser is the sole owner or lessee of the home;
    • award temporary custody or temporary visitation rights of any minor children born to, or adopted by, you and the abuser;
    • award financial support to you (if you and the abuser are married) and other persons the abuser has an obligation to support such as any children you have together;
    • direct the abuser to attend available counseling programs that address violence and control issues or substance abuse problems;2
    • direct the abuser to get rid of all firearms in his/her possession within 48 hours by giving them to a third party who is not prohibited from possessing firearms, selling them, or disposing of them in any other legal way. In addition, the order of protection will include language warning the abuser that s/he is prohibited from possessing firearms while the order of protection is in effect.3

1 TN ST §§ 36-3-606(a); 36-3-621(a)
2 TN ST § 36-3-606(b)
3 TN ST § 36-3-625(a)(2), (b)(1)

What types of protection orders are there? How long do they last?

In Tennessee, there are two types of protection orders for victims of domestic abuse, stalking and sexual assault:

Temporary Protection Orders (TPOs)
Temporary protection orders can be issued for “good cause,” which usually means that the judge believes that there is an immediate and present danger of abuse.  Temporary protection orders are short-term orders that are designed to protect you until you are issued an extended protection order.  The order can be granted ex parte, which means that the order is issued without prior notice to the abuser and without him/her being there in court.  You can ask for a temporary protection order at the same time as you ask for an extended protection order.  A temporary protection order lasts 15 days, or until the full hearing for your extended protection order.1

Extended Protection Orders (EPOs)

Extended protection orders are issued after a full court hearing where both sides have the opportunity to appear in court.  Extended protection orders last up to one year.  Orders can be extended for one-year periods – see How do I change or extend the protection order? for more information.2

1 TN ST 36-3-605(a), (b)
2 TN ST 36-3-605(b)

In which county can I file for a protection order?

If the abuser lives in Tennessee, you have to file the petition in the county where the abuser lives, or in the county in which the domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault took place. If the abuser does not live in Tennessee, you can file the petition in the county where you live.1

1 TN ST § 36-3-602(d)

Si el agresor vive en otro estado, ¿puedo conseguir una orden en su contra?

Si el/la agresor/a vive en un estado diferente al suyo, el/la juez/a podría no tener “jurisdicción personal” (poder) sobre ese/a agresor/a. Esto significa que es posible que el tribunal no pueda otorgar una orden en contra de él/ella.

Hay algunas formas en las que una corte puede tener jurisdicción personal sobre un/a agresor/a que es de otro estado:

  1. El/la agresor/a tiene una conexión sustancial a su estado. Quizás el/la agresor/a viaja regularmente a su estado para visitarlo/a, por negocios, para ver la familia extendida, o el/la agresor/a vivía en su estado y huyó recientemente.
  2. Uno de los actos de maltrato “ocurrió” en su estado. Quizás el/la agresor/a le envía mensajes amenazantes o le hace llamadas acosadoras desde otro estado pero usted lee los mensajes o contesta las llamadas mientras usted está en su estado. El/la juez/a puede decidir que el maltrato “ocurrió” mientras estaba en su estado. También puede ser posible que el/la agresor/a estaba en su estado cuando le maltrató pero desde entonces se fue del estado.
  3. Otra forma para que la corte adquiera jurisdicción es si usted presenta su petición en el estado donde usted está, y el/la agresor/a recibe notificación de la petición de la corte mientras él/ella está en ese estado.

Sin embargo, aunque nada de esto aplique a su situación, eso no necesariamente significa que usted no pueda conseguir una orden. A usted le pueden dar una orden por consentimiento o el/la juez/a puede encontrar otras circunstancias que permitan que la orden sea dada. Puede leer más sobre jurisdicción personal en nuestra sección de Asuntos Básicos del Sistema Judicial - Jurisdicción Personal.

Nota: Si el/la juez/a de su estado se niega a dar una orden, usted puede pedir una orden en la corte del estado donde vive el/la agresor/a. Sin embargo, recuerde que es probable que usted necesite presentar la petición en persona y asistir a varias citas en la corte, lo cual podría ser difícil si el estado de el/la agresor/a es lejos.

Who can get a protection order

Am 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.1

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.2

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.3

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

Can 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?

You can find information about LGBTQIA victims of abuse and what types of barriers they may face on our LGBTQIA Victims page.

Am I eligible if I'm a minor?

Tennessee law says that minors (most people under 18)1 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. 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 your parents will receive copies of any paperwork you filed with the court, unless a judge determines that doing would be seriously harmful to you.2

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.2

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 Advocates and Shelters page.

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

How 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.1

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 Advocates and Shelters page.

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

If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.

The steps for getting a protection order

Step 1: Get the necessary forms.

To start your case, you will need to fill out the necessary forms for a protection order.  To find contact information for the courthouse in your area, click on TN Courthouse Locations.

You can get the forms from the civil clerk at the courthouse but you may want to find them before you go and fill them out at home or with an advocate from a domestic abuse organization.  You will find links to forms online on the TN Download Court Forms page.

Many shelters and other domestic abuse prevention organizations can provide support for you while you fill out these papers and go to court.  Go to TN Advocates and Shelters to find an organization in your area.

Step 2: Carefully fill out the forms.

On the petition, you will be the “petitioner” and the abuser will be the “respondent.”

On the petition, write about the incidents of violence, sexual abuse or stalking, using specific language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Clerks and magistrates can show you which blanks to fill in, but they cannot help you decide what to write.

If you need immediate protection, tell the clerk that you want to file for a temporary (ex parte) protection order. There is no fee to file for a protection order.1 A judge can grant you a temporary protection order if you or your child is in immediate danger or for other “good cause.”2 The abuser does not have to be in court or be told beforehand that you are asking the judge for a temporary order for the judge to issue it.

Note: Don’t sign the petition without first checking with the clerk. You may need to sign it in front of a notary public or court official.
If you are staying at a shelter, give the P.O. Box, not the street address. If the abuser does not know your address, before you fill out your address, ask the clerk first how you can keep your address confidential.

1 TN ST § 36-3-617(a)(1)
2 TN ST § 36-3-605(a)

Step 3: The ex parte hearing

When you return your petition to the court clerk, s/he will send it to a judge. The judge may wish to ask you questions about your petition. If you request a temporary order to protect yourself until your hearing for the extended protection order, the judge will decide whether or not to grant you the temporary order. This is called the ex parte hearing.

If the judge believes you or your child are in serious and immediate danger or if there is other “good cause” to do so, s/he may give you a temporary order which is good for 15 days, until your full court hearing.1

Whether the judge or magistrate grants you temporary order or not, you may be given a court date for a full court hearing within 15 days (assuming your petition does not get dismissed). This hearing will be in front of a judge at the time shown on the “notice of hearing.” At this hearing, the abuser and you will both have a chance to present testimony and evidence to the judge.1

1 TN ST 36-3-605(a), (b)

Step 4: Service of process

After you file the petition and a hearing date has been set, the judge will order the appropriate authorities to serve the abuser with a “notice of hearing,” your petition, and the temporary ex parte order if one was issued.1  There is no fee for service of an order of protection.2

You may want to contact the police or sheriff to make sure they received your paperwork that needs to be served and to make sure that s/he was served.  To find your local sheriff department, see our TN Sheriff Departments page.

Do not serve the abuser yourself.

1 TN ST § 36-3-605(c)
2 TN ST § 36-3-617(a)(1)

You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

Step 5: The full court hearing

On the day of the hearing, you must be present if you want to ask for an extended protection order, which will last for up to one year.  At the hearing, a judge will decide whether or not to give you your extended protection order.  It is very important for you to go to the hearing or else your temporary protection order will expire.  If you absolutely cannot go to the hearing at the scheduled time, you may call the courthouse to ask if it’s possible for your case to be “continued,” but the judge may deny your request.  If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you an extended protection order or may reschedule the hearing.

You may wish to have a lawyer to help with your case, especially if the abuser has a lawyer.  If the abuser shows up with a lawyer, you can ask the judge for a “continuance” (a later court date) so that you have time to find a lawyer.  Go to TN Finding a Lawyer to find help in your area.

After the hearing

Can the abuser have a gun?

Once you get a protection order, there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession. If the order was issued after notice and a hearing (not an ex parte order), then the order should have language that instructs the abuser (respondent) to:

  • get rid of his/her firearms by “any lawful means,” such as transferring them to a third party who is not prohibited from possessing firearms or selling them, within 48 hours; and
  • not have firearms for so long as the order of protection or any follow-up orders of protection are in effect.1

A violation of either of the above orders can be a Class A misdemeanor crime.2

For more information about gun laws, you can go to our State Gun Laws and Federal Gun Laws sections to understand the state and federal laws that may apply.

You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website.

1 TN ST § 36-3-625(a)
2 TN ST §§ 36-3-625(a)(h); 39-13-113(h)

What 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 Safety Tips.

I 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 Safety Tips page.  You will find a list of Tennessee resources on our TN Places that 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.

What 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 can be a Class A misdemeanor 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).1

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.2

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.3

1 TN ST §§ 36-3-610(a), (b)(2); 39-13-113(f), (g)
2 TN ST § 36-3-610(a)
3 TN ST § 36-3-605(d)

How 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.1 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.2

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.3

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

What 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.

 

Can 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:

  • Bedford County
  • Cannon County
  • Cheatham County
  • Coffee County
  • Davidson County
  • Davidson County
  • Dickson County
  • Franklin County
  • Grundy County
  • Houston County
  • Humphreys County
  • Lincoln County
  • Macon County
  • Montgomery County
  • Moore County
  • Robertson County
  • Rutherford County
  • Smith County
  • Stewart County
  • Sumner County
  • Trousdale County
  • Warren County
  • Williamson County
  • Wilson County.

Please note that WomensLaw is not affiliated with this organization and cannot vouch for the information contained in them. We offer them for your information only.

What can I do if the abuser keeps filing petitions or motions against me?

A judge may be able to order the abuser to stop filing cases against you or to stop filing motions in a case. A judge can hold a hearing to determine whether the abuser has filed “abusive civil actions” designed to “harass or maliciously injure” you by doing things like:

  • forcing you to use all of your financial resources;
  • trying to force you to make financial child-custody concessions; or
  • other acts that are not in your best interests.1

The judge can order the abuser to stop filing additional abusive lawsuits against you for between four and six years. The judge can also order that the abuser stop a lawsuit that was filed before the judge decided that the abuser was filing abusive civil lawsuits.2

You can read more about abusive civil actions at Suing an Abuser for Money.

You can contact a lawyer in your state or the clerk at the courthouse to find out what forms to file to request that the judge hold a hearing if the abuser is filing abusive petitions or motions in a case. You can find lawyers on our TN Finding a Lawyer page and courthouses on our TN Courthouse Locations page.

1 TN ST § 29-41-101
2 TN ST § 29-41-107

Orders of Protection for Elderly or Vulnerable Adults

Basic info and definitions

What are the legal definitions of an elderly adult and a vulnerable adult?

An elderly adult is a person who is 70 or older. A vulnerable adult is a person who is 18 or older who is unable to do any of the following on his/her own due to an intellectual or physical disability:

  • manage his/her money;
  • carry out daily tasks; or
  • protect him/herself against neglect, exploitation, or abuse.1

1 Tenn. Code §§ 71-6-124(f)(2); 39-15-501(6), (14)

For the purpose of getting an order of protection, what is the legal definition of "abuse against an elderly adult or vulnerable adult"?

What is the legal definition of neglect and aggravated neglect?

Neglect includes when a caregiver:

  • fails to provide care needed for your physical health, including:
    • food;
    • water;
    • clothing;
    • medicine;
    • shelter;
    • medical services/medical treatment plan;
    • basic hygiene;
    • reasonable supervision for your well-being;
    • or other care you may need;1
  • does not make a reasonable effort to protect you from neglect or financial exploitation by others;2
  • leaves you alone when there is a reasonable likelihood that physical harm will occur (abandonment);3 or
  • knowingly and unreasonably restricts your movement (confinement). Confinement can include:
    • keeping you in a locked room;
    • separating you from your living space;
    • using restraining devices on you; or
    • giving you unnecessary medication or too much medication.4

When a caregiver neglects you in a way that causes serious physical harm or bodily injury, it is known as aggravated neglect.5

1 Tenn. Code § 39-15-501(8)(A)(i)
2 Tenn. Code § 39-15-501(8)(A)(ii)
3 Tenn. Code § 39-15-501(1), (8)(A)(iii)
4 Tenn. Code § 39-15-501(5), (8)(A)(iv)
5 Tenn. Code § 39-15-508

What is the legal definition of abuse and aggravated abuse?

Someone abuses you when s/he causes physical harm to you.1 When someone causes serious physical, bodily, or psychological injury to you, including with a deadly weapon or strangulation, it is known as aggravated abuse.2

1 Tenn. Code §§ 39-15-501(2); 39-15-510
2 Tenn. Code § 39-15-511

What is the legal definition of financial exploitation?

Financial exploitation is when someone:

  • controls your property without your permission through:
    • lying (deception);
    • intimidation;
    • using his/her influence to take advantage of you (undue influence); or
    • force or threat of force;
  • violates his/her financial obligation to you (breaches his/her fiduciary duty) as your guardian, conservator, or person with power of attorney, which results in your property being:
    • used for a reason you did not consent to (appropriated);
    • sold without your consent;
    • or transferred to someone else without your consent; or
  • gets or uses control over your property as your caregiver, but without your consent and in order to benefit him/herself or another person.1

1 Tenn. Code §§ 39-15-501(7); 39-15-502

What is the legal definition of sexual exploitation?

Sexual exploitation is when someone does any of the following things without your consent, for the purpose of sexual pleasure and without a valid medical or caregiving purpose:

  • fondling;
  • showing you his/her genitals;
  • exposing you to sexual acts;
  • exposing your sexual organs; or
  • any other act that the abuser knew or should have known would cause shame, humiliation, or other harm to your personal dignity.1

1 Tenn. Code § 39-15-501(13)

Getting an order

Who can file for an elderly or vulnerable adult protection order?

If you are an elderly adult or vulnerable adult who has experienced abuse, you may file for yourself.1

The following people may also file on your behalf if they have personal knowledge of the abuse and it would be too burdensome for you to come to court or you are not mentally capable of filing (you lack “capacity to consent”):

  • your relative;
  • a conservator, meaning someone appointed by a judge to manage your finances and daily decisions;
  • an agent of the Tennessee commission on aging and disability;
  • any agency or “assignee” of the above people; or
  • an attorney ad litem, who is someone appointed by a judge to investigate the abuse and make a recommendation to the court in your best interests.2

Note: A law enforcement officer may request an ex parte order on your behalf if all of the following are true:

  • s/he responds to an incident involving you;
  • s/he believes you are in immediate danger of abuse; and
  • you agree to the officer filing on your behalf or do not have the legal ability to agree (capacity to consent) to legal proceedings.3

The officer does not have to arrest the abuser to request an order on your behalf, and may file at any time of day.4

1 Tenn. Code § 71-6-124(a)(1)(C)
2 Tenn. Code § 71-6-124(a)(1)(A), (a)(1)(B)
3 Tenn. Code § 71-6-124(a)(1)(D)(i)
4 Tenn. Code § 71-6-124(a)(1)(D)(ii)

In which county do I file the petition?

The petition must be filed in the county where the abuser lives or the county where the abuse took place. If the abuser lives outside of Tennessee, then the petition can be filed where you live.1

1 Tenn. Code § 71-6-124(a)(1)(E)

What types of elderly or vulnerable adult protection orders are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of elderly or vulnerable adult protection orders: ex parte and final.

Ex parte orders are issued by a judge without notice to the abuser before you file. Ex parte orders last for up to 15 days or until a hearing on a final order, whichever comes first.1 A judge will issue an ex parte order if s/he finds that you are in immediate danger of abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, or sexual exploitation.2

Final orders are issued by a judge with notice to the abuser and after a hearing. Final orders last up to one year.3

1 Tenn. Code § 71-6-124(a)(5)
2 Tenn. Code § 71-6-124(a)(2)
3 Tenn. Code § 71-6-124(c)

What protections can I get in a protection order?

Through an ex parte or final elderly or vulnerable adult protection order, a judge can order the abuser to:

  • stop abusing you;
  • stop neglecting you;
  • stop misusing or threatening to misuse your money, property, or state or federal benefits (committing financial exploitation);
  • stop sexually abusing or exploiting you;
  • return to you or reimburse you for any money, property, or state or federal benefits taken from you through exploitation or other misuse;
  • stop providing care or stop working anywhere that provides care for adults;
  • not contact you in any way; and
  • do or stop doing anything else that is necessary for your protection.1

1 Tenn. Code § 71-6-124(b)

What can I do if the abuser violates the order?

If you think the abuser has violated the order, you can call law enforcement, who will verify the existence of the order and may arrest the abuser. Violation of an elderly or vulnerable adult protection order is a Class A misdemeanor. You also have the option of filing for contempt in court to ask the judge who issued the order to punish the abuser.1

1 See Tenn. Code §§ 71-6-124(d)(5), (e)(1), (e)(5); 36-3-610

Moving to Another State with a Tennessee Protection Order

If you are moving to another state or are going to be out of the state for any reason, your Tennessee protection order can still be enforceable.

General Rules

Can I get my protection order from Tennessee enforced in another state?

Yes. If you have a valid Tennessee protection order (protection order) that meets federal standards, it can be enforced in another state.  The Violence Against Women Act, which is a federal law, states that all valid protection order’s granted in the United States receive “full faith and credit” in all state and tribal courts within the US, including US territories.  See How do I know if my protection order is good under federal law? to read more.

Each state must enforce out-of-state protection orders in the same way it enforces its own orders.  Meaning, if the abuser violates your out-of-state protection order, s/he will be punished according to the laws of whatever state you are in when the order is violated.  This is what is meant by “full faith and credit.” 

 

How do I know if my protection order is good under federal law?

A protection order is good anywhere in the United States as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.2

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a), (b)

Can I get someone to help me?  Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer to get your protection order enforced in another state.

However, you may want to get help from a local domestic violence advocate or attorney in the state that you move to.  A domestic violence advocate can let you know what the advantages and disadvantages are for registering your protection order, and help you through the process if you decide to do so.

To find a domestic violence advocate or an attorney in the state you are moving to, go to our Advocates and Shelters page or our Finding a Lawyer page and select your state from the drop-down menu.

 

I have an temporary ex parte order.  Can it be enforced in another state?

 Yes. An ex parte temporary order can be enforced in other states as long as it meets the requirements listed in How do I know if my protection order is good under federal law?1

Note: The state where you are going generally cannot extend your ex parte temporary order or issue you a permanent order when the temporary one expires.  If you need to extend your temporary order, you will have to contact the state that issued the order and arrange to be at the hearing in person or by telephone (if that is an option offered by the court).  However, you may be able to reapply for one in the new state that you are moving to if you meet the requirements for getting a protective order in that state – but, if you apply for one in a new state, the abuser would know what state you are living in, which may put you in danger.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(b)(2)

 

Do I need to tell the court in Tennessee if I move?

Although it is not required by law, it may be a good idea for you provide the court that issued your protection order with your new address so you can be notified in case the abuser asks the court to dismiss the protection order. To notify the issuing court, contact the court clerk and provide them with your new address. This address can be kept confidential, and you may be able to use a friend’s address or a P.O. Box.

Getting Your Order of Protection Enforced in Another State

How do I get my protection order enforced in another state?

Federal law does not require you to take any special steps to get your protection order enforced in another state. Many states do have laws or regulations (rules) about registering or filing of out-of-state orders, which can make enforcement easier, but a valid protection order is enforceable regardless of whether it has been registered or filed in the new state.

To speak to someone at a local domestic violence organization, go to our Advocates and Shelters page and enter your new state in the drop-down menu.

Do I need a special copy of my protection order to have it enforced?

In some states, you will need a certified copy of your protection order. A certified copy says that it is a “true and correct” copy; it is signed and initialed by the clerk of court that gave you the order, and usually has some kind of court stamp on it.

Tennessee is a part of “Project Passport,” a program that makes the first page of protection orders look alike. This means it easier for officers to recognize the protection order and may make it easier to get your protection order enforced in one of these states, which include: Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, Washington, D.C. and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (located in Alabama).

To obtain a certified copy of your protection order, you must go to the courthouse where it was issued and request a certified copy. Some county courts in Tennessee may charge a fee for the certified copy.

Note: It is a good idea to keep a copy of the order with you at all times. You may also want to bring several copies of the order with you when you move and leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on. You may want to give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work and to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.

Is there anything I can do to make it easier for another state to enforce my Tennessee protection order?

It is helpful to have the following information with you when registering your order in another state:

  • A certified copy of your protection order.  See Do I need a special copy of my protection order to have it enforced? for how to get a certified copy of your Tennessee order.
  • The phone number of the court clerk’s office (office in charge of records) at the courthouse that issued your order.  You can find contact information for Tennessee courthouses on our TN Courthouses and Locations page.
  • The phone number of a domestic violence program in the county where you are registering your order.  You can find contact information for local programs in any state by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 for TDD/TTY).  You can also find information by selecting the state from the drop-down menu here.
  • Your National Crime Information Center (NCIC) number.  This is the number assigned to your order when it is registered with the NCIC.  You can ask your local Sheriff Department for the number.  For more information about NCIC, see What is the National Crime Information Center Registry?
  • The phone number of the local police or sheriff’s department in Tennessee that has your protection order on file.  You can find listings of Sheriff’s Departments in Tennessee on our TN Sheriff Dept. Locations page.

Enforcing Custody Provision in another state

I was granted temporary custody with my protection order. Can I take my kids out of the state?

Maybe.  It may depend on the exact wording of the custody provision in your protection order.  You may have to first seek the permission of the court before leaving.  If the abuser was granted visitation rights with your children, then you may have to have the order changed, or show the court that there is a fair and realistic alternative to the current visitation schedule.

If you are unsure about whether or not you can take your kids out of the state, it is important to talk to a domestic violence advocate or lawyer who understands domestic violence and custody laws, and can help you make the safest decision for you and your children.  You can find contact information for local domestic violence organizations and legal assistance in the Tennessee area on our TN Places that Help page.

I was granted temporary custody with my protection order.  Will another state enforce this custody order?

Yes. Custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in a protection order can be enforced across state lines. Law enforcement and courts in another state are required by federal law to enforce these provisions.1

1 18 USC § 2266

Enforcing Your Out-Of-State Order in Tennessee

If you are planning to move to Tennessee or are going to be in Tennessee for any reason, your protection or restraining order can be enforced.

General Rules for Out-of-State Orders in Tennessee

Can I get my out-of-state protection order enforced in Tennessee? What are the requirements?

Yes.  Your out of state protection order can be enforced in Tennessee as long as each of the following are true:1

  •  It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.2
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.3

Note: Tennessee will not enforce a protection order if the court gave both you and your abuser a protection order based on your petition.  However, if the abuser filed a separate petition (cross-petitioned) for a protection order against you, and the court made a finding of domestic violence against you, then both your order and the abuser’s order can be enforced in Tennessee.3

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 TN ST § 36-3-622(b)(1), (i)

2 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
3 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a), (b)
3 TN ST § 36-3-622(d)

Can I have my out-of-state protection order changed, extended, or canceled in Tennessee?

No.  Only the state that issued your protection order can change, extend, or cancel the order.  You cannot have this done by a court in Tennessee.

To have your order changed, extended, or canceled, you will have to file a motion or petition in the court where the order was issued.  You may be able to request that you attend the court hearing by telephone rather than in person, so that you do not need to return to the state where the abuser is living.  To find out more information about how to modify a protection order, see the Restraining Orders page for the state where your order was issued.

If your order does expire while you are living in Tennessee, you may be able to get a new one issued in Tennessee but this may be difficult to do if no new incidents of abuse have occurred in Tennessee.  To find out more information on how to get an protection order in Tennessee, visit our TN Restraining Orders page.

I was granted temporary custody with my protection order.  Will I still have temporary custody of my children in Tennessee?

Yes.  As long as the child custody provision complies with certain federal laws,1 Tennessee can enforce a temporary custody order that is a part of a protection order.

To have someone read over your order and tell you if it meets these standards, contact a lawyer in your area.  To find a lawyer in your area click here TN Finding a Lawyer.

1 The federal laws are the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980.

 

Registering your Out-of-State order in Tennessee

What is the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Registry? Who has access to it?

The National Crime Information Center Registry (NCIC) is a nationwide, electronic database used by law enforcement agencies in the U.S, Canada, and Puerto Rico. It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.

Before moving to Tennessee, the state that issued your protection order may already have entered your order into the NCIC. If not, your order may be entered into the NCIC once your order is registered inTennessee.

All law enforcement officials have access to the NCIC database, but the information is encrypted so outsiders cannot access it.

How do I register my protection order in Tennessee?

To register in Tennessee, you must:

  • Go to the Clerk at the local County Courthouse. See the TN Courthouse Locations page for courthouse address and phone numbers.
  • Bring a certified copy of your protection order.  If you do not have a certified copy, call the court that issued you the protection order and request one.
    • If you cannot get a certified copy, the Tennessee court where you are registering the order will call the court that issued your order and request that one be faxed over. 
  • For more information about filing for a protection order in Tennessee, see the TN Protection Orders for Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking page.
  • Bring any other documents that were given to you with your protection order, especially if those documents are necessary for your protection order to be valid.
  • Make sure your protection order is valid: the expiration date is not passed, it was properly issued by a court with jurisdiction, it is signed, and the abuser knew of the hearing.1

Note: There is no charge for registering the protection order, and the clerk will file the order as though it is a case.

If you need help registering your protection order, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in Tennessee for assistance. You can find contact information for organizations in your area on our TN Places that Help page

1 TN ST § 36-3-622(c)

Do I have to register my protection order in Tennessee in order to get it enforced?

No. As long as the protection order is still in effect, the courts of Tennessee will enforce the protection order as though it was issued in Tennessee.1

In addition, Tennessee law enforcement officers are supposed to enforce an out of state order (whether or not it is registered) as long as the order looks real to the officer. This is known as a “presumption of validity.”2

1 TN ST § 36-3-622(b)(2)
2 TN ST § 36-3-622(b)(1)

Will the abuser be notified if I register my protection order?

Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which applies to all U.S. states and territories, the court is not permitted to notify the abuser when a protective order has been registered or filed in a new state unless you specifically request that the abuser be notified.1  However, you may wish to confirm that the clerk is aware of this law before registering the order if your address is confidential.

However, remember that there may be a possibility that the abuser could somehow find out what state you have moved to.  It is important to continue to safety plan, even if you are no longer in the state where the abuser is living.  We have some safety planning tips to get you started on our Safety Tips page.  You can also contact a local domestic violence organization to get help in developing a personalized safety plan.  You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our TN Advocates and Shelters page.

1 18 USC § 2265(d)

What if I don't register my protection order?  Will it be more difficult to have it enforced?

Maybe.  Federal law and Tennessee state law clearly say that an out of state protection order does not need to be registered in order to be enforced.  As long as the protection order appears real to the law enforcement officer, it should be enforced.1

However, when the protection order is registered, Tennessee courts, dispatchers and law enforcement officers can easily check that the order is valid (real), which may make the process of enforcement quicker and easier.2

Note: If the protection order is from one of the Project Passport states, it should be easier for the sheriff or officer to recognize it as a valid (real) order, and it may be less important for your order to be registered.    For more information on the Project Passport states, see Do I need anything special to get my protection order enforced in another state?

If you are unsure about whether registering your order is the right decision for you, you may want to contact a local domestic violence organization in your area.  An advocate there can help you decide what the safest plan of action is for you in Tennessee.  To see a list of local domestic violence organizations in Tennessee, go to our TN Advocates and Shelters page.

1  TN ST § 36-3-622(b)(1)
2 TN ST § 36-3-622(e)

Does it cost anything to register my protection order?

No. There are no fees for registering your protection order in Tennessee.1

1 TN ST § 36-3-622(c)