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 can file the petition yourself.1 In addition, the following people can 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 any of the above people; or
- an attorney ad litem, which 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 can 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 you 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 the officer can file at any time of the day or night.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
For more information about contempt, including the difference between criminal contempt and civil contempt, go to our general Domestic Violence Restraining Orders page.
1 See Tenn. Code §§ 71-6-124(d)(5), (e)(1), (e)(5); 36-3-610