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How Can Orders of Protection Provide Safety for Victims of Domestic Violence?

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What Are the Advantages of Obtaining an Order of Protection If You’ve Experienced Domestic Abuse?

Anyone who has been subjected to domestic violence knows how frightening and challenging it can be to seek protection from your abuser. Getting an Order of Protection against your abuser can help shield you from further domestic violence incidents while you take steps to safeguard yourself and your children from harm. A Clarksville family law attorney can explain how this civil order can provide a deterrent against any contact from the abuser and the steps you can take to secure this important legal document.

How Can Victims of Domestic Violence Get an Order of Protection in Tennessee?

When applying for an Order of Protection, the person requesting the order is known as the “petitioner,” and the person they are seeking protection from is the “respondent.” The petitioner and respondent can be of any gender. For protective orders based on domestic violence allegations, Tennessee law requires that the petitioner show that they have or had one of the following relationships with the respondent:

  • Spouse or ex-spouse
  • Current or former dating or sexual relationship
  • Same-sex partner
  • Blood or adopted relative
  • Current or former relation by marriage
  • Present or past roommate or anyone who lived in the same household

To file your petition, you must fill out an official Petition for Order of Protection and Order for Hearing form with the court clerk’s office in the county where the abuser lives or where the abuse took place. If there is an immediate risk of abuse, you may request a temporary protective order. You will have a hearing scheduled as soon as the day you file, where you will explain to the court why the Order for Protection is needed. Temporary Orders of Protection may be granted ex parte, which means the court will make its decision without notifying the respondent of the hearing. If the court approves your temporary order, it will go into effect as soon as the respondent is served with the petition. 

Temporary orders usually only last 15 days. A hearing will be scheduled during this period to allow both sides to present their evidence. At the end of this hearing, the court may choose to end the order or issue a Final Order of Protection that lasts up to a year.

What Safety Is Provided By an Order of Protection?

Seeking an order can give domestic violence victims a sense of safety if they are concerned their abuser will make continued attempts to harm or contact them. When a court grants an Order of Protection, the respondent is not charged with a crime, and the order does not go on their criminal record as long as they abide by its requirements.

However, if the respondent violates any of the terms of the order while it is in place, they can be arrested and face legal consequences for their actions. In many cases, the threat of jail time and fines is enough to deter an abuser from continued harassment, stalking, threats, or contact. The following are some of the benefits you should consider when deciding with your legal advisor whether an order of protection may be helpful in your situation.

Legally Enforceable Restrictions on Contact

Under Tennessee law, an Order of Protection can prohibit the perpetrator of domestic violence from taking specific actions against the alleged victim and their children.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, the protective order may also contain other requirements specified by the court. Standard terms of an Order of Protection include:

  • Prohibiting all direct or indirect contact with the petitioner.
  • Requiring the respondent to stay away from the petitioner, their residence, workplace, and other frequently visited locations.
  • Giving the petitioner temporary custody rights to any shared minor children.
  • Requiring the respondent to pay spousal or child support.
  • Ordering the respondent not to cancel any utilities, such as phone service or electricity, and to transfer billing responsibilities to the petitioner.
  • Mandating attendance at counseling sessions for violent behaviors or substance abuse issues.
  • Giving the petitioner full temporary possession of the shared residence and ordering the respondent to move out or requiring the respondent to provide adequate alternate housing for the petitioner and their minor children.
  • Ordering the respondent to pay for court fees.
  • Removing the respondent’s right to have or buy firearms.
  • Giving the petitioner custody of a shared pet or a child’s pet.

Penalties for Violating the Order

Violating an Order of Protection in Tennessee is a serious act that can result in immediate arrest by the police. Officers do not require a warrant or proof of any further criminal acts to make an arrest for violating a valid order. They only need probable cause to believe the order has been violated to incarcerate the respondent. If your abuser is at your residence, place of work, or other location prohibited by the order, it is sufficient cause for arrest.

To further protect your safety, the offender will typically be subject to a mandatory 12-hour hold before being released. A violation of an extended Order of Protection is a Class A Misdemeanor and can be punished by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and/or a fine of $100 to $2,500. Additional charges and extensions of the protection order may apply if the offender was in possession of a firearm, attempted to assault you, or was in contempt of court.

Protections if You Move Out of State

Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), all states must honor and uphold a valid protective order from another state. However, if you are considering moving out of the state for your safety, you should contact a lawyer to ensure you complete all necessary legal steps before relocating. The court will likely need your updated address to contact you about any further legal matters, although you may request they keep it confidential.

How Can Our Law Firm Assist You?

If you or a loved one are a survivor of domestic violence, it’s critical to seek legal help and utilize all the protections afforded to you by law. If you are in an emergency situation, don’t hesitate to contact local law enforcement or call 911. Getting an Order of Protection can be a key part of keeping yourself safe in the aftermath of an incident of domestic abuse.

Our experienced family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Hibbeler & Associates can guide you through the petitioning process, gather crucial supporting evidence, represent you at your hearings, and help you find long-term legal solutions so you can move forward with your life. To learn more about or services, contact our Clarksville law office today at 931-236-2711 for a free, confidential case evaluation.

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