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, 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 TN 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.
You may also want to follow up with law enforcement to make sure that they served the order. 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 an Appeal 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 years. After a second, third, fourth, or other violation of the order, the court may extend the order of protection for up to ten years.3
For more information about contempt, including the difference between criminal contempt and civil contempt, go to our general Domestic Violence Restraining Orders page.
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?
Either party can file a motion in court at any time to change (modify) the order as long as s/he 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 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 five 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 ten years.3
1 TN ST § 36-3-608(b)
2 TN ST § 36-3-605(b)
3 TN ST § 36-3-605(d)
Is my order still valid 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, if you move out of Tennessee, 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.
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 an existing case if the judge determines, after a hearing, that the abuser has filed “abusive civil actions.” An abusive civil action is 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 a period of four to six years. The judge can also order that the abuser stop a lawsuit that was filed before the judge determined that the abuser was filing abusive civil actions.2
You can read more about abusive civil actions on our TN Suing an Abuser for Money page.
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
If I get a protection order, will it show up in an internet search?
According to federal law, which applies to all states, territories, and tribal lands, the courts are not supposed to make available publicly on the internet any information that would be likely to reveal your identity or location. This applies to all of these documents:
- the petition you file;
- the protection order, restraining order, or injunction that was issued by the court; or
- the registration of an order in a different state.1
1 18 USC § 2265(d)(3)