The Differences Between Protective and Restraining Orders
Each state has some form of a law that protects family members from domestic violence. Often these laws are called restraining orders, orders of protection, protective orders and civil harassment orders.
In Texas, the terms “protective order” and “restraining order” are frequently confused, but in actuality, their definitions are logical.
The purpose of a protective order is to protect families from physical and emotional harm. Protective orders are very serious, and violators are subject to “contempt of court” as well as criminal prosecution. Since protective orders are meant to protect families from continuing domestic violence, to obtain one, the victim must prove that the offender hascommitted acts of family violence and is likely to continue to do so.
The Texas Attorney General’s office defines family violence as “any act by one member of a family or household intended to physically harm another member, a serious threat of physical harm, or the abuse of a child.”
Protective orders vary at the discretion of a judge. They may require the offender to vacate the victim’s home, restrict the offender from communicating with the victim, restrict the offender from workplaces, schools or daycare facilities and may require the offender to remain at least 500 feet away from family members.
If an offender violates a protective order, then the threatened party should immediately contact law enforcement officials.
Temporary Ex-Parte Protective Order
If the court believes that a victim is in imminent danger when he or she files for a protective order, then the court can issue a temporary ex-parte protective order (TXPO). TXPOs are punishable by contempt of court, not arrest.
Emergency Protective Order
If an abuser is arrested for domestic violence, a court may issue an emergency protective order (EPO). EPOs are valid for 90 days, and the abuser may be arrested for violating the order.
Restraining orders have almost become routine in Texas divorce cases. Restraining orders usually have several stipulations, such as restricting both spouses from opening lines of credit or emptying bank accounts. Sometimes these orders also govern behavior; for example, spouses may be prohibited from using harsh or derogatory language about each other in the presence of children.
A violation of a restraining order should be reported to the court that issued it, not to law enforcement.
Violations of Protective and Restraining Orders
Naturally, the consequences for violating protective and retraining orders vary based on the order’s severity. For example, violating a protective order could result in arrest, while violating a restraining order may result in a fine.