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What are family violence orders? A Concise Explanation

When you are in danger, or the lives of your children are in danger then you need to be able to act quickly to protect yourself. One of the steps that you can take immediately sensation when it comes to protecting yourself and your children is to apply for a protective order through your local county or district court. In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we will walk through what a protective order is as well as the application process associated with obtaining a protective order successfully. 

A protective order, if one is granted by a district court judge, orders the person you filed the protective order against to not commit any violence against you. Sometimes simply having something in writing with that person’s name and the specific actions that he is barred from committing against you can be enough to keep him on his best behavior. Certainly, if you have had concerns about your well-being and safety then any legal mechanisms that you can put into place between the two of you will be for the best. A protective order is the most practical of those protections that the law can afford you. 

The most basic protection afforded you in a protective order is to keep the other person from coming within a certain distance of where you live, work, and where your children go to school. These are the places where you and your children are most likely to be present during the day and as a result, are places where the person that you are trying to be protected from may show up, as well. With that said, if you can restrict where he can appear out of the blue then you can have more peace of mind throughout the period that the protective order is valid. 

Disturbing and harassing messages and phone calls are an especially difficult part of dealing with an abusive or violent person. Even if the person is not in the same area as you, he can still harm your mental well-being by reacting with violent messages, images, and other types of communication. A protective order can prevent him from behaving in this way. This would include messages and communication by phone, email, text message, or in person. If there is a particular type of communication that you would like the order to include that would be something, you need to specify it in your application for a protective order. 

The behavior of the person listed in the protective order will also be kept in check because of the protective order being issued. Any sort of embarrassing, annoying, alarming, or threatening behavior that he may have exhibited toward you will be prohibited per the terms of the protective order. This is the standard language to include in a protective order and will make clear to the person that he is not going to be able to act the same way towards you that he has recently. This should help you to have more peace of mind in your daily life as far as his potential actions towards you are concerned.

Importantly, the person listed in the protective order will not be able to act in certain ways towards members of your household. Any of the above actions that we have discussed which the person will be prohibited from doing to you, he will also be prohibited from acting in those same ways towards another member of your household. This includes your children. 

A protective order can be filed against the following people

A family member like a parent, sibling, or even a child can be the subject of a protective order application. In day-to-day life, it sometimes happens that a family member will not have developed proper boundaries and will need to be reined into a certain extent. The protective order will keep a person in your family from acting inappropriately towards you or another member of your household. If that person lives in your home the protective order gives you the ability to prevent their entry into the home. 

If you have lived with a person in the past but no longer do so then your protective order could be focused on this person. For example, if you had an ex-boyfriend who had been living with you but no longer does then he could be the subject of your protective order. That protective order could list him even if you are no longer in a relationship with him or are living with him. Sometimes people do not get the hint that you are no longer going to allow them to live in your home. If your ex-boyfriend is still coming around the house and causing problems for you and your family, then a protective order may be the direction that you need to take your case.

A current or former spouse could be the subject of a protective order, as well. We in the world of Texas family law see this happen with some frequency as people who are going through a divorce first need to apply for a protective order simply to live their lives without fear of harm befalling them. If you file for divorce, then your spouse could take that very hard and act aggressively toward you. Or you may find that your spouse is not willing to leave the house even when things become uncomfortable for him at home. Sometimes when you are unable to have an honest discussion with your spouse then you will have to resort to asking a court for a protective order. When you are meeting with an experienced family law attorney about your case then you should consider also asking about the possibility of having a protective order requested. In Harris County, this would be an independent case from your divorce. If granted, the protective order would be applied against your spouse while the divorce is ongoing. 

It may even be the case that your ex-spouse has a sibling, friend, or another person in their life who has become a nuisance for you or your family. Does your former brother-in-law make it point to drive by your house and shout nasty things at you? Does a former neighbor of yours seem to always find you at the grocery store or other location to say off-putting things to you on behalf of your ex-spouse? Does your ex-spouse have a family member who is always contacting you via email or through other electronic means to share their opinion about you in some way? If so, then a protective order may be exactly what you need to maintain your sanity. 

One of the most serious crimes that I can think of about intimate relationships is human trafficking. If you have been the victim of human trafficking in the past, then you have even more of a reason to be watchful of the person or persons who have engaged in trafficking you in the past. Although there can be situations where you have little in the way of recourse as far as protecting yourself or preventing future incidents of trafficking, you can be vigilant against people who do not have your best intentions at heart. If you are trying to remove yourself from a dangerous situation, then a protective order may be the first step you need to take to begin that process. Being able to physically separate yourself from another person may be more difficult than you would have thought considering the lack of boundaries and the desire for control that a trafficker may have. A protective order should be sought as soon as you can make an application for one. 

What needs to be true before you apply for a protective order?

To have an application for a protective order approved certain elements need to be in place first. These are a series of conditions that you need to be mindful of as you apply for a protective order and otherwise submit yourself to the process of looking for some protection against the bad behavior of another person. While many of you reading this may not be able to say that your situation matches up perfectly with all of these criteria, those of you who can check all these boxes should consider filing for a protective order sooner rather than later. 

A protective order application should be based on an act of family violence that has already occurred to you or a member of your household. This cannot be an anticipatory filing of a protective order. Rather, the act of violence must have occurred already. Additionally, there must be the ongoing threat of family violence in the household, as well. This means that if a person was traveling through town and is now in another country then your chances of having a protective order granted may not be too great. 

Being stalked means showing a court that you have been the victim of someone tracking your movements, tailing you, and otherwise keeping tabs on your whereabouts to a point that is not safe for you. If you can show a court that you have been the victim of stalking, then you stand a much better chance at being able to show a court that you are deserving of a protective order. Consider the circumstances that you have been facing and then make sure that you are organized to the point where you will be prepared to show a court that you have been a victim of behavior like this.

What should you bring to court for a hearing?

As I just mentioned it is not enough to just say that you want a protective order and then expect everything to fall into place just like you want it to. Some people who apply for a protective order expect that a court will bend over backward to award them the order just because they have been the victim of bad behavior or have gone through something undesirable. While you may have gone through some bad experiences of late the truth of the matter is that you need to also have your ducks in a row as far as being prepared to go to court. The more prepared you can be the better off you and your family will be during the application process. 

If you have contacted the police and a police report was filled out, you should bring it to court. Sometimes this means contacting the police department or law enforcement body to check up on the status of the report. You may even have to go to the police station to pick up a physical copy or ask that a copy be made available to you via email. Whatever you need to do, you must have a copy of the police report ready for the judge in your case to review. This will be an important piece of evidence given that a law enforcement officer can speak to what happened and what was observed on the date or dates of the abuse, harm, or other bad behavior. 

Photographs taken immediately after an incident of abuse or another harmful incident can be extremely important to bring to court as well. Describing your injuries can be impactful but showing a judge photograph of what the other person did to you can be even more effective when it comes to establishing that the person has a history of bad behavior and the risks to you and your children if you are not granted the protective order that you are seeking. Many people would like to be able to document exactly what happens in the aftermath of being abused. That does not need to be you, however. If you can remember or are physically able to photograph or have someone else photograph your injuries that would be for the best. 

Keep track of emails, text messages, and social media messages that you and the person in question have exchanged with one another. I realize that it can be painful to have to keep track of all of these messages, but this is the firsthand evidence that you will need to show that the person has a history of being threatening, abusive, or inappropriate in their correspondence with you. That does not mean that these messages will be all that you have to show but it is a good start for you to establish that the person has attempted to contact you in this way before and will continue to do so virtually if a protective order is not granted. 

If you had the ability or wherewithal to videotape their behavior leading up to your filing for a protective order, then that is something that you should have ready for a judge. Again, having an attorney by your side during this step in the process can be important given that offering a video as evidence can be difficult at times. This is especially true if your opposing party has a lawyer who is objecting on several grounds as to why the video should not be allowed admittance into the record. An attorney will be prepared to help you overcome those objections and lay a proper foundation as to why the video should be admitted.

Any contact information that can be provided to the court will be helpful as well. Their most recent address is a good place to start. Law enforcement in the area where the person lives can be contacted after the protective order is granted so that they can be made aware of his whereabouts and the nature of the protective order. 

It is not automatic to have a protective order granted

The last thing that I will mention in today’s blog post is that you will not be automatically granted the protective order that you seek just because you have been through something difficult or have a sad story to tell. You still need to have your evidence ready, your paperwork filled out properly, and a request for a hearing submitted to the court. When all of this is complete you can notify the other person of the hearing date and allow him to attend the hearing. The application process is not easy, but it is doable if you have experienced counsel by your side. Working with an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is a good place to start. Our experienced attorneys are in the family courts of Harris County every day fighting for our clients and their families. Contact us today to learn more about the services we offer our clients. 

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

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