In the state of Texas, obtaining a restraining order (referred to as a "protective order") is free of charge and available to anyone who has a relationship with a person who has threatened or caused bodily or mental harm. If you find yourself in a dangerous relationship with a spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend or family member, filing a protective order against him or her is a good way to protect yourself and your family from injury and threat.
If you feel you are at risk of harm from someone in your life, the first step is to contact your local police department. They can help you file initial charges if you have been the victim of assault and provide you with the necessary paperwork to obtain a protective order. Four basic forms are needed to file for a restraining order: Application for Protective Order, Temporary Ex Parte Restraining Order, Protective Order and Respondent Information.
Once you have obtained the proper paperwork, make multiple copies and visit the courthouse in your community to file for your protective order. Most courts take approximately two to four weeks to set up a hearing. If you need immediate protection, be prepared to show the court clerk your Temporary Ex Parte form so that necessary action may be taken. Let the clerk know that you have duplicate copies so the person from whom you are seeking protection can be served papers and be notified of an upcoming hearing.
Go to the Hearing
After your paperwork is filed and the other party has been notified, make sure you attend your hearing. Bring with you any pictures, medical bills, witnesses and other physical evidence to help prove your case.
When to File
Battered women and mothers are the most common applicants for protective orders. Sometimes, waiting too long to alert the authorities to abuse in your home can lead to tragic consequences. While a restraining order is basically just a piece of paper, studies cited in Police One Magazine, a publication dedicated to promoting effective law enforcement, have shown that permanent protective orders provide a "statistically significant 80% reduction in police reported physical violence over a 12 month period."
What Happens Next?
Once your abuser has been issued a restraining order, it is typically valid for a year from the issue date. The abuser has the right to contest the order. If this happens, attend the hearing to prevent the order from being overturned. Be sure you understand all limitations listed on your order and the actions you need to take in case a violation occurs.