Order of Protection

What Is It?

An Order of Protection is an order of the court, signed by the judge, ordering the abuser to stop abusing or threatening to abuse you.

Whom Does It Protect?

An Order of Protection is available to anyone who has been subjected to or threatened with abuse by current or former spouses, parent of a child in common, child of respondent, child of respondent's partner, live together or have lived together. Petitioner/Respondent are adults or minors who are current or former spouses, adults or minors who live together or who have lived together, adults or minors who are dating or who have dated or have had a sexual relationship, adults or minors related by marriage, or adults or minor children of a person in a relationship that is described above.

You do not have to be married to the abuser to obtain an Order of Protection.

How Do I Obtain An Order Of Protection?

An Order of Protection is obtained through a two-step process. The first step gives an order to the abuser to stop abuse and threats. The second step involves a court hearing, usually within 15 days.

Step 1: You may ask the court for an Order of Protection with or without the service of an attorney. The clerks in the Chancery, Circuit and General Sessions Courts are required by law to have the Petition for an Order of Protection forms available for you. The clerk's staff will assist in completing the forms if assistance is required. You must go to the clerk's office in the county where the incident occurred or where the respondent lives. If the respondent lives in another state, the petitioner may go to the clerk's office in the county where the petitioner resides.

No filing fees will be charged to you upon filing the petition.

You should not ask for an Order of Protection unless you intend to follow through.

In the Petition for the Order of Protection, you must write down what happened, when it happened, and where it happened. If your abuser is legally obligated to support you and your children, you may also request this support. You may also ask that the abuser be ordered out of your home or ordered to provide you with another home; however, the court will not set support or order the abuser out of your home until there is a court hearing.

The order the judge or clerk signs in Step 1 is called an "Ex Parte Order of Protection". This order is given without the abuser being present to tell his/her side of what happened. The order is not effective until the sheriff's department has served the abuser with a copy of the order. If you need to stay away from the home until the abuser is served and cannot stay with a friend or relative, you may stay at a local shelter. You can call the sheriff's department and find out if the abuser has been served with a copy of the order.

Step 2: The Hearing - At the same time you fill out the petition, the clerk will set a date and time for a hearing in court. When the abuser is served with a copy of the Ex Parte Order of Protection, he/she will also receive a notice of the date and time for the hearing. The hearing is usually within 15 days after the abuser receives notice. He/she must receive notice so as to have an opportunity to tell his/her side.

It is important for the accused abuser to appear in court on the hearing date. Bring witnesses to the hearing who saw you being abused or saw you immediately after you were abused. Also bring pictures taken after you were beaten, doctors or hospital reports and any other evidence of the abuse that you have suffered.

At the hearing, the judge may order the following types of relief:

  1. Order the abuser to stop abusing or threatening to abuse you
  2. Order the abuser to leave your home or provide you with another home
  3. Award temporary custody of and/or visitation right with your children
  4. Award support for you and your children

If you have special problems, such as a need for the family car or for a law enforcement officer to go with you to get your belongings, the judge can also include this in the order.

How Is It Enforced?

The clerk is required to give a copy of the Order of Protection to the sheriff and police departments. If you call the law enforcement authorities in your area and tell them that the order is being violated, the abuser can be arrested without a warrant.

The Order of Protection you received at the hearing is effective for a period of up to (1) one year. If you need protection for longer than (1) one year, you have to go back to court and ask that the Order of Protection be extended.

The Order of Protection is good anywhere in the State of Tennessee regardless of the county issuance.