Orders of protection, often referred to as "restraining orders," are issued by the court to protect victims of violence from further abuse and harassment. In Memphis, Tennessee, the law regarding orders of protection is governed by the Shelby County Circuit Court. Protective orders can prohibit all contact, award temporary custody of children or animals, require child or spousal support, mandate counseling and any other measures the court deems necessary to protect the victim.
File a Petition for Orders of Protection with the Shelby County clerk's office. This form is available online or from the clerk's office. You are eligible for an Order of Protection if you have been the victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking. Domestic abuse occurs when a household or family member threatens, tries to or actually physically harms you, your minor child or your animal; restricts your movement or imprisons you; or intentionally destroys your property. Sexual assault occurs when someone threatens to or actually rapes you, or has or threatens to have non-consensual sexual relations with you. Rape constitutes forced sex, sex when the victim is between 13 and 18 years of age, and the perpetrator is four or more years older; or sex with a child under age 13. Stalking is repeated harassment. Harassment constitutes following, approaching or appearing at your home without your permission; threatening emails; and leaving distressing things on your property. To constitute stalking, the harassment must make you feel "terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested." The clerk will file your papers with a judge, who will grant you a brief hearing to set a date for your full hearing and determine if you need an Emergency Protective Order to keep you safe until the hearing.
Serve the perpetrator with the notice of hearing and, if applicable, the Emergency Protective Order. Paperwork can be served by law enforcement, a professional server or another adult. For your safety, do not serve any paperwork yourself. If you do not have the documents served by law enforcement, you should still contact your local police or sheriff's office to make sure your paperwork was received.
Prepare to present your case at the hearing. You will need to demonstrate that the defendant committed acts of domestic abuse, stalking or sexual assault (as defined by the law), and convince the judge you are in need of the protection. You can present evidence, such as police or medical records, witness testimony, written communication or photos of damaged property. Practice telling your story to someone else, if possible, as you will need to be able to communicate it carefully and clearly. Legal aid can be helpful but is not required.
Appear at the hearing and present your case to the judge. You must demonstrate your need for protection at the hearing. It is important that you appear; if you don't, your Emergency Protection Order will expire, and it may be difficult for you to obtain a new order as your credibility may be damaged.