An order of protection in Tennessee is similar to a restraining order or temporary injunction in that it affords some measure of relief before a trial is held. All three are used when a person is reasonably in danger or personal injury or loss of something for which he or she cannot be compensated through a verdict in his or her favor. Orders of protection are specialized in that they are available only to victims subjected to, threatened with, or reasonably fearful of domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault by a current or former spouse, live-in acquaintance, dating or sexual partner, or relative (blood, marriage, or adoption). An order of protection is also available against the adult child of one of the aforementioned parties.
In order to obtain an order of protection against an eligible party, the person seeking the order must not be the primary aggressor in the conflict. The person seeking the order must file a sworn petition alleging the abuse or threat or fear of abuse in the county where the alleged aggressor resides, or the county in which the abuse occurred. If the aggressor does not reside in the state of Tennessee, the petition may be filed in the county where the person seeking the order resides. An order of protection may last as long as one year, but if the order is issued immediately for good cause, the person against whom it is issued must be personally served, and is entitled to a hearing within fifteen days of the service. At that hearing, the court may dissolve or set a time limit on the order.
An order of protection may order that the person against whom it is ordered:
- Refrain from committing or threatening abuse, stalking, or sexual assault against the person seeking the order or that person’s minor children;
- Refrain from contacting or communicating with the person seeking the order directly or indirectly;
- Refrain from entering the residence of the person seeking the order (essentially evicting the person against whom the order is directed);
- Provide suitable housing for the person seeking the order if the person against whom it is ordered is the sole owner or lessee of the shared residence;
- Attend counseling programs; and/or
- Pay attorney fees and court costs.
In addition, the order of protection may:
- Award temporary custody or visitation of minor children of the parties to the party seeking the order;
- Award financial support to the person seeking the order;
- Direct the care of any pets or animals to the person seeking the order or to an appropriate animal care facility other than the person against whom the order is issued.
If the person against whom the order was issued violates the order, the defendant may be held in contempt of court and face all applicable punishments, plus fined fifty dollars for violation of the order.
If you are threatened with or have been the victim of abuse, stalking, or sexual abuse and you think that an order of protection is appropriate, you should contact an attorney. For more information on orders of protection and other family law issues, click here.