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 someone has committed domestic abuse against you, 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 one of the following:
- 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 can apply for a protection order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as you meet the requirements explained in Am I eligible to file for a protection order?
You can find information about LGBTQIA victims of abuse and what types of barriers they may face on our LGBTQIA Victims page.
Can a minor get a protection order?
Tennessee law says that minors, which is someone 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, the minor’s parent or legal guardian needs to sign the paperwork that gets filed in court. A caseworker at a non-profit organization for child abuse and family violence can also sign the paperwork for a minor. However, if the caseworker signs it, the petition cannot be filed against the minor’s parent or guardian and the minor’s parents will receive copies of any paperwork filed with the court, unless a judge determines that doing would be seriously harmful to the minor. Note: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, either ot them can file the petition on behalf of the minor.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)
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.