What is the Difference Between a Protective Order and A Restraining Order?

Picture this: You’re enjoying a quiet evening at home, and suddenly, you receive an alarming text message from a friend or family member. They’re seeking your advice on how to protect themselves from an abusive partner or an obsessive stalker. Panic sets in, as you wonder what to do next. In moments like these, knowing the difference between a restraining order vs protective order can be a figurative and literal lifesaver.

In this engaging and informative blog post, we’re going to explore the fascinating world of restraining order vs protective order with a touch of humor and relatability. We’ll delve into the key distinctions between these two legal tools, discuss the various types of orders, and offer guidance on navigating the complex legal system. So, buckle up and prepare for an eye-opening journey combining a playful tone with essential knowledge that might just come in handy one day.

Here’s a sneak peek at what you’ll discover: A restraining order generally protects people and property in a broader sense, while a protective order focuses on preventing abuse and violence in specific circumstances. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Keep reading to uncover the nuances, legal processes, and valuable resources that will empower you to support and protect the ones you love in times of need.

How do I Get a Protective Order?

Usually, individuals file a protective order as a standalone lawsuit, but it can also accompany a family law petition. You must submit the application in the county where the victim or offender resides. However, it is good to know that the applicant does not need to meet any minimum time limits to establish residency in that county when applying for a protective order. All confidential information pertaining to the applicant will be withheld for the applicant’s protection.

The people who may file for a protective order can be family members, house members, or even a boyfriend or girlfriend. The filing party will be termed the “applicant” or “petitioner,” and the party whom the order is requested against is the “respondent.” On behalf of the parties, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services can step in and file too, as well as a representing attorney.

It is also good to know that the application fee for a protective order is free. Most people believe their protective order will cost them much, but this is a common myth. There are also no costs for certifying copies, court reporter fees, or any other services about it.

If the offender is convicted, the responsibility for covering these costs will shift to the offender. While applicants who have applied through a private attorney will still need to pay their legal fees, they can find some relief in knowing that these fees may be ordered to be paid by the respondent.


A protective order becomes necessary when someone is abusing a child or another family member, with the purpose of providing protection to those individuals. A protective order is a signed order that orders an abused to refrain from harassment, stalking, threatening, or physically assaulting their victims.

Ultimately, a protective order serves to prevent future violence, distinguish acceptable behaviors, and further reinforces the public policy values that advocate an end to family violence.

How Long Does It Last?

The duration of a protective order can vary. A temporary protective order lasts for 20 days with the general protective order, once signed by a judge, can last for a period of two years. A lifetime protective order for the victim’s life can also be granted. We will discuss the various types of protective orders that can be filed in a subsequent blog.

Consequences if Violated

If a protective order is violated, understanding the legal action you can take against a violator is important because it differs greatly from a restraining order. A protective order can end with criminal and civil liability if violated.

With criminal liability law enforcement does have the right to enforce a protective order, and a violation may result in serious criminal charges. Local law enforcement knows of all protective orders in their area and will immediately seek the offender’s arrest. A violation is also a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by jail or fine. If you have more than 2 past convictions, a violation turns into a 3rd degree felony. If the offense is done the presence of law enforcement, they can be arrested on the spot, but may need to obtain a warrant for other violations before an arrest.

Lastly, in civil terms, the judge who ordered the protective order may also punish the offender by fining them, jailing them, or both.

How do I Get a Restraining Order?

If you are afraid your spouse will commit acts of harm against you or your property, you can file for a temporary restraining order. A temporary restraining order is typically filed with the initial petition that is filed in a civil case. This TRO is an emergency order that must be signed by a judge.

You can also file various motions like a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Temporary Injunction, or Temporary Orders. You will also need an affidavit explaining what conduct has led to the need for a TRO and why it must be granted now.The people who are eligible for a temporary restraining order must be a party to any family proceeding. They can also be filed by a representing attorney, or any pro se party.

Aside from a protective order, filing fees are not free and will need to be paid by the requesting party. If you are represented by an attorney, those fees will be paid directly to your counsel.


Unlike a protective order, a temporary restraining order protects people and property. This order instructs a person to either do or do not do certain things for the time stated in the order. For example, it can pertain to property like telling a spouse they are not allowed to drive a certain car, withdraw funds from a specific bank account, etc. For people, it can protect people from harassing behaviors like threatening messages, stalking, etc.

A TRO cannot include provisions pertaining to child custody, support, and cannot exclude a spouse from their home.

How Long Does It Last?

The max duration of temporary restraining order is 14 days, which after it will expire. However, the court can extend the time for a valid reason. The party whom the order is sought against can also agree to an extension. There can also be additional extensions, but the opposing party must agree to the extensions.

Consequences if Violated

Violations of a temporary restraining order are not criminal but civil penalties. The court can address a violation and hold the party in contempt. It may also order them to pay fines or even send them to jail, but this rarely occurs unless the violation is so severe.

If you believe that someone you know is experiencing familial abuse, it is important to know that you can also do something to help. Often, the victims will be scared to speak out against the ones they love. It is important to speak out for these victims to prevent further violence. Numerous hotlines are available, and reporting can be done directly through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website at https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Contact_Us/report_abuse.asp.

When it comes to restraining order vs protective order, understanding the differences between these two legal tools is crucial for those seeking protection from harm, threats, or harassment. This comprehensive article will break down the key distinctions, explore the various types of orders, and offer guidance on navigating the legal system. Get ready for an engaging, easy-to-understand, informative, and relatable analysis.


Restraining Order

Protective Order


Protects people and property in a broader sense

Prevents abuse and violence in specific situations

How to Get One

Filed with the initial petition in a civil case

Filed as a separate lawsuit or with a family law petition

Who Can File

A party to any family proceeding, attorneys, or pro se parties

Family members, house members, boyfriends or girlfriends, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, or representing attorney

Filing Fees

Not free, fees paid by requesting party or to counsel

Free, costs may shift to offender if found guilty


Up to 14 days, with possibility for extensions

Temporary order for 20 days, general order for up to 2 years, or lifetime order

Consequences if Violated

Civil penalties, such as contempt of court

Criminal and civil penalties, including fines and possible jail time

Protective Orders: A Closer Look at the Different Types

Let’s start by diving into the world of protective orders. While the term is commonly used generically, there are, in fact, several distinct types, each crafted to address a specific situation.

  • Domestic violence protective orders: Aimed at preventing further abuse within an intimate or familial relationship
  • Stalking protective orders: Designed to protect individuals from a pattern of unwanted and intrusive behavior, regardless of the relationship with the stalker
  • Sexual assault protective orders: Intended to offer protection for survivors of sexual assault, prohibiting contact from the perpetrator

Restraining Orders: Understanding the Varieties

Just like protective orders, restraining orders come in different forms, tailored to address different circumstances:

  • Civil harassment restraining orders: Issued to protect individuals from harassment by someone with whom they do not have a close relationship, such as a neighbor or acquaintance
  • Workplace violence restraining orders: Implemented to protect employees from violence or threats within the workplace, often initiated by an employer on behalf of the affected employee
  • Elder abuse restraining orders: Enacted to safeguard seniors from various forms of abuse, including physical, emotional, financial, and neglect or abandonment

When seeking either a protective or restraining order, it’s essential to follow the correct legal process, which may involve:

  1. Filing the appropriate paperwork with the court, detailing the reasons for the order and providing supporting evidence
  2. Ensuring the respondent (the person against whom the order is sought) is served with the necessary court documents
  3. Attending a court hearing, where both parties can present their case and a judge will determine whether to grant the order

The Role of Law Enforcement: Ensuring Compliance and Safety

The effectiveness of protective and restraining orders depends on the active involvement of law enforcement officers, who may be responsible for:

  • Serving the respondent with the order
  • Monitoring compliance and investigating any alleged violations
  • Arresting the respondent if they breach the terms of the order

Navigating the complexities of the legal system can be challenging, which is why seeking the assistance of a lawyer or legal aid organization can be invaluable. Legal professionals can help by:

  • Advising clients on their rights and options
  • Assisting with the preparation and filing of court documents
  • Representing clients in court hearings

The Long-Term Impact: Consequences for All Parties Involved

Both protective and restraining orders can have lasting effects on the lives of those involved, including:

  • Emotional and psychological impacts, such as feelings of safety or fear
  • Implications for future legal proceedings, such as divorce or child custody disputes
  • Professional repercussions, such as restrictions on employment opportunities or the ability to obtain certain licenses

State-Specific Laws: Navigating Regional Differences

As with most legal matters, protective and restraining order laws, procedures, and enforcement can vary significantly from state to state. Some of the key differences may include:

  • The types of orders available and the specific criteria for obtaining them
  • The duration of orders and the process for extending or modifying them
  • The role of law enforcement in enforcing and monitoring compliance with orders

Resources and Support: Empowering and Assisting Victims

In times of need, individuals seeking protection from abuse or harassment can access various resources and support services to help them navigate the legal process and find emotional support. Some of these include:

  • Local domestic violence or sexual assault organizations: Offering counseling, legal assistance, and emergency shelter to those in need
  • National hotlines: Such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline or the National Sexual Assault Hotline, providing crisis counseling and referrals to local services
  • Legal aid organizations: Delivering free or low-cost legal representation for individuals seeking protective or restraining orders

Assessing the Effectiveness: Do Protective and Restraining Orders Work?

A common question when discussing protective and restraining orders is whether they effectively prevent harm and harassment. While the answer may vary depending on individual circumstances, research generally suggests that these orders can provide a significant degree of protection and deterrence when properly enforced. Some factors that can influence the effectiveness of an order include:

  • The respondent’s willingness to comply with the order
  • The involvement and responsiveness of law enforcement in enforcing the order
  • The protected party’s commitment to reporting any violations to the authorities

Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Planning and Risk Reduction

For individuals seeking a protective or restraining order, it’s crucial to develop a comprehensive safety plan that includes strategies for reducing risk and ensuring personal security. Some key components of a safety plan may include:

  • Identifying safe spaces and escape routes within the home
  • Establishing a network of supportive friends, family members, or neighbors who can be called upon for help
  • Keeping important documents, such as identification and court orders, in a secure and easily accessible location
  • Developing a plan for maintaining communication with law enforcement and staying informed about any changes in the respondent’s legal status

So there you have it, folks! In the grand showdown between restraining order vs protective order, we’ve demystified these two legal gems and provided you with the knowledge to make a world of difference when it truly matters. Remember, a restraining order usually tackles broader protection of people and property, whereas a protective order limits abuse and violence in specific situations.

As we wrap up this enlightening adventure, we hope you’ve enjoyed the playful and relatable approach to a topic that may have initially seemed daunting. You’re now well-equipped with valuable information about the types of orders, the legal processes, and the available resources that can significantly help someone in need.

You never know when this legal lifeline might save a life, offering safety, peace of mind, and a brighter future for those who need it most. In the end, understanding the distinction between these two legal tools can be as crucial as knowing how to swim when you find yourself in deep water. So, go forth and share this knowledge with your friends, family, or even that chatty neighbor who always seems to have a story to tell.

  1. What are temporary restraining orders and temporary orders in the context of a Texas divorce?
  2. Temporary Orders and Temporary Restraining Orders in Texas
  3. How long does a protective order last?
  4. How to prepare for a Temporary Protective Order Hearing
  5. How long does a protective order last in Texas?
  6. How to fight a protective order in Texas
  7. Protective Orders in Texas
  8. How Do I Apply for a Protective Order in Texas?
  9. Preparing for a hearing in which a protective order has been requested in Texas
  10. Protective Orders in Texas Family Law Cases

Protective Orders and Restraining Orders in Texas Frequently Asked Questions

How does a protective order work in Texas?

A protective order in Texas is a court order issued to protect a person from domestic violence, harassment, stalking, or threats.

The order typically prohibits the alleged offender from committing specific acts, such as contacting, harassing, or being within a certain distance of the protected person. Violating a protective order can result in criminal charges and penalties, including fines and jail time. Protective orders may last for up to two years, with the option for renewal or extension in certain circumstances.

What violates a restraining order in Texas?

Violating a restraining order in Texas occurs when the restrained person engages in any prohibited conduct outlined in the order. This may include:

  • Contacting the protected person directly or indirectly
  • Approaching or being within a specified distance of the protected person or their residence, workplace, or school
  • Harassing, threatening, or stalking the protected person
  • Committing any acts of violence or abuse against the protected person

Violating a restraining order may result in criminal charges and penalties, such as fines, jail time, or an extension of the restraining order.

What proof do you need for a restraining order in Texas?

To obtain a restraining order in Texas, the petitioner must provide evidence to the court that the respondent has engaged in conduct that warrants the issuance of the order. Evidence may include:

  • Police reports or arrest records documenting incidents of violence or harassment
  • Medical records showing injuries sustained as a result of the respondent’s actions
  • Photographs of injuries, property damage, or threatening messages
  • Witness statements from individuals who can attest to the respondent’s behavior
  • Any other relevant evidence that demonstrates a pattern of abuse, harassment, or threats
How does a restraining order work in Texas?

A restraining order in Texas is a court order that prohibits an individual from engaging in specific conduct, such as contacting, harassing, or being within a certain distance of the petitioner.

Restraining orders can be temporary or permanent, depending on the circumstances. Temporary restraining orders are typically issued without a full hearing, lasting until a hearing can be held to determine if a longer-term order is necessary. Permanent restraining orders require a hearing where both parties can present evidence and testimony. Violating a restraining order can result in criminal charges and penalties, including fines and jail time.