In Texas, restraining orders are called protective orders. A person can search protective orders through Texas Online Public Information for courts. They will need the first name, last name, birth year and county of issuance relating to the person restrained by the protective order.
Generally, a person can look up Texas court records online. The exception is that they cannot retrieve information in court records that is protected due to exceptions from public disclosure. Whether a restraining order or a protective order is public record in the U.S. depends on the state.
Information Not Available to the Public
The Texas Office of Court Administration has established a statewide registry of protective orders. A protected person has authorized access, but the public has limited access. The access is subject to strict confidentiality standards to protect victims of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault and human trafficking.
Due to limited public access, a member of the general public may not be able to obtain information about the person protected by the order. This protection can be extended to members of the applicant’s household, including adults and minor children.
Confidentiality and Protective Orders
In counties with a population of 3.4 million or more, an application for a protective order is confidential. It is excepted from required public disclosure under Texas Government Code Chapter 552, the Texas Public Information Act, aka PIA or the Open Records Act.
An application for a protective order may not be released to a person who is not a respondent to the application (the person who the order seeks to restrain) until after the date of service of notice of the application or the date of hearing on the application, whichever is sooner.
Confidentiality of Temporary Ex Parte Orders
An application requesting a temporary ex parte order (a temporary protective order in place until the hearing on a longer-lasting order) is excepted from required public disclosure as well. It may not be released to a person who is not a respondent to the application until after the date that the court or law enforcement informs the respondent of the court’s order.
On request by an applicant for a protective order, the court may protect the applicant’s mailing address by rendering an order requiring the applicant to designate a person to receive notice or documents filed with the court related to the application, on the applicant’s behalf.
Court Restriction on Release of Applicant's Information
This order also requires the county clerk of court to strike the applicant’s mailing address from the public records of the court. Further, it may prohibit the release of information to the respondent.
Whether the applicant’s information is available to a person who seeks official court records of a proceeding related to the order is determined by the rules for the local area, given its population and the extent to which the applicant has sought to make their information private.
The clerk’s office of the court that heard the court case may not provide certain information to the respondent and members of the general public.
Protective Orders and Background Checks
Whether a protective order shows up on a background check in Texas depends on the type of background check that an entity, such as an employer, performs. In Texas, a protective order is issued by civil courts, such as district courts.
If the background check concerns only a person’s criminal record, the protective order may not show up. If the background check concerns a person’s record in civil court, the protective order may be discoverable.
Expungement of Court Records
If a respondent has successfully applied to get the records sealed, the protective order may not be discoverable. Conditions that must be met for records to be sealed under state law can be found in Rule 76a, Sealing Court Records, of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
Since protective orders are not issued by criminal courts, a person who is a respondent in a case will be unable to seek an expunction, or expungement.
File for a Protective Order
An applicant can engage in e-filing for a protective order through the self-help website for Texas courts. A district clerk cannot offer legal help with filing a protective order, but can accept an application for the protective order.
An applicant should file with the court in the district or county where they live. It is not necessary to file with the Texas Supreme Court or contact their office regarding a protective order.
- Texas Family Code: Chapter 85 Issuance of Protective Order
- Texas Online Public Information - Courts: Protective Orders
- Texas Judicial Branch: Protective Order Registry
- Texas Family Code: Chapter 82 Applying for Protective Order
- Texas Courts: Texas Rules of Civil Procedure
- EFile Texas Self Help: Application for Protective Order
- In Texas, The Public Information Act does not apply to the courts or the Office of Court Administration.
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.