Texas law sets out procedures for the victims of family violence to obtain protective court orders against their assailants.
Texas laws allow family-violence victims to seek court orders protecting them from their abusers, and the numbers support the need for protective orders to keep people safer.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety or DPS, in 2012 there were almost 200,000 instances of family violence in the Lone Star State, an 11.5 percent increase over 2011. When gender was known, about three-quarters of the victims were women or girls, and about one-quarter male. The gender numbers for perpetrators were flipped: about three-quarters were male.
The highest number of victims – as well as offenders – was 20 to 24 years old. Almost all of the incidents fell into the category of assaults, mostly simple assault. “Major injuries” were reported in almost 10 percent of the incidents responded to by law enforcement, with the highest numbers being internal injuries or lacerations.
More than 80 percent involved perpetrators using their hands and feet as weapons to inflict injury, as opposed to using guns or objects as weapons. Incidents with no weapons accounted for 7.5 percent, which involved threats (still considered family violence if they create fear of imminent harm).
The Texas Family Code contains many complicated procedures for protective orders against family violence and dating violence. Because of this complexity, a family lawyer can be especially helpful to an applicant seeking one.
Alternatively, an attorney with protective-order experience can vigorously defend a person against whom such an order is wrongly or unnecessarily sought, including a possible rescission or appeal if an order is issued.
A protective-order application can be filed independently in state court or in conjunction with a divorce or a suit affecting the parent-child relationship.
The law says simply that the Texas state court shall render a protective order if the judge finds a history of family violence and the likelihood that it will continue.
“Family violence” is defined as an act by the “member of a family or household” (even if not related) against another member meant to cause injury or sexual assault, or a threat of such an act that makes the intended victim fear for “imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault …”
Family violence also includes abuse of a child in a family or household by a member of that family or household, as well as dating violence.
Dating violence means the same acts or threats as described in family violence, but against another person with whom the perpetrator has or has in the past had a dating relationship, defined as a “continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.” Dating violence also extends to victims who are married to or dating a third party with whom the abuser also has or has had a marriage or dating relationship.
A victim can seek a short-term temporary protective order “ex parte” (without notice to the alleged perpetrator) for up to 20 days with the possibility of another 20-day extension. A regular protective order requires notice to and service on the alleged perpetrator and the court has specific time limits within which to schedule a hearing.
A regular protective order can last up to two years or longer in the worst cases. A judge can order many things such as prohibiting the respondent from taking a child or pet, or from disposing of mutually owned property; giving the victim use of the residence or other property even if jointly owned with the respondent; providing custody, visitation and child support arrangements; ordering a battering prevention program; forbidding communication or contact; and more.
Keywords: Texas, family violence, domestic violence, protective order, court, domestic abuse, dating violence, threat, judge