Assistant Professor, Director of Legal Writing — UNT Dallas College of Law
SUMMER 2019 ISSUE:
FAMILY LAW MATTERS
Twenty-three. This is the number of women from Dallas County and its contiguous counties who were killed by their intimate partners in 2017.1 More poignantly, one out of every three Texas women2 and one out of every seven men in the United States experience family violence during their lifetimes.3 Family violence includes a wide spectrum of conduct—from physical abuse to emotional abuse to stalking, and it does not discriminate based on age, gender, or sexual orientation.
Given the breadth of the effect that family violence has on all Texans, it is critical for the public to be familiar with the resources available to those affected. One such resource is called a protective order (what you may hear referred to on television as a TRO). The purpose of this brief article is to explain what a protective order is and set forth the process for a domestic violence survivor to obtain one in Dallas County and its contiguous counties.
What is a civil protective order?
In Texas, a protective order is a civil order issued by a state court to prevent continuing acts of family violence, dating violence, stalking, or sexual assault.4 A protective order limits an abuser’s access to a domestic violence survivor and grants the survivor immediate help from police enforcement if the abuser violates any of the terms set forth in the protective order. An abuser who violates a civil protective order can be charged with a crime. Although protective orders are often a central part of the survivor’s safety net, it is also important to understand they do not create a protective shield around the survivor. Protective orders are limited in terms of duration and the conduct prohibited (for example, they may limit an abuser from coming within a certain distance of a survivor’s home or place of work, but they cannot overly limit an abuser’s freedom or predict everywhere the survivor may encounter the abuser). An initial temporary protective order lasts 20 days,5 but these temporary orders are often followed by final protective orders that can last up to two years.6
Who can apply for a civil protective order?
You can apply for a protective order if you have been the victim of certain types of physical abuse—pushing, shoving, slapping, hitting—or you have been threatened with imminent danger7 and your relationship with the abuser is either (1) current or ex-husband or wife; (2) relative by blood or marriage; (3) biological parents of a child together; (4) current or ex-live-in boyfriend or girlfriend; (5) in a dating relationship; or (6) you are the victim of sexual assault.8
Any adult member of a family or household may apply to get a protective order to protect any other member of the applicant’s family or household.9 In addition, any adult may seek a protective order to protect a child, and a prosecuting attorney or the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) may seek a protective order on a survivor’s behalf.10
There are a few limitations on a survivor’s ability to get a protective order. First, although the survivor may still be eligible to obtain a protective order, a county prosecuting attorney cannot represent them in getting the protective order if the survivor has a criminal charge pending against her in that county, is on parole, is on probation, or is currently being prosecuted for a family violence offense.11 Second, if the survivor and the alleged abuser have an active divorce pending in a Texas county, the protective order application will have to be filed in the court where the divorce is pending or filed by the attorney representing a party in the divorce.12
What information does a domestic violence survivor need to bring with them when they apply for a protective order?
A person applying for a protective order needs to bring the following information when attempting to submit their application for a protective order:
- A government issued picture I.D. (such as a Texas Driver’s License or a Texas Identification Card);
- An address where the abuser can be served (preferably an address where they can be located during daytime hours);
- The addresses for any locations the survivor needs protected (for example, work, home, school, etc.); and
- Identifying information that the survivor has for the abuser, including social security number, physical description, or date of birth.
Where does a survivor actually go to get a protective order?
An applicant for a protective order may file for a protective order in the county where the survivor lives, the county where the abuser lives, or the county where an act of violence occurred.13 Each county has its own processes and locations for processing family violence protective orders.
Dallas County:14 The Family Violence Division of the District Attorney’s Office handles protective orders for Dallas County. The office is located on the tenth floor of the Frank Crowley Courthouse, which is located at 133 North Industrial Boulevard in Dallas. To submit an application for a protective order, an applicant should visit the Family Violence Division’s office between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information regarding protective orders in Dallas County, call the office at (214) 653-3528.
Tarrant County:15 To get a protective order in Tarrant County, the applicant should contact Tarrant County Protective Order Attorneys through the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office. These attorneys are tasked with representing applicants seeking protective orders. Anyone who wants to file a protective order in Tarrant County should call (817) 884-1623 between 7:45 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Kaufman County:16 A person seeking a protective order in Kaufman County should contact the Criminal District Attorney’s office for Kaufman County. They can be reached from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, at (972) 932-0260.
Rockwall County:17 To request a protective order in Rockwall County through the Rockwall County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, an applicant should visit Women In Need, Inc. at 1350 E. Washington Street in Rockwall or call (972) 772-3000.
Collin County:18 The Collin County District Attorney’s Office has a special unit dedicated to helping citizens obtain protective orders. This unit is called the Domestic Violence Unit. If you need a protective order in Collin County, you should contact the District Attorney’s Victim Assistance Division during business hours, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., at (972) 548-4323 (ask for the Domestic Violence Unit). The Collin County’s District Attorney’s Office is located at 2100 Bloomdale Road in McKinney Texas.
Denton County:19 Protective orders in Denton County are available through the Denton County District Attorney’s Office. An applicant should call the office at (940) 565-8556 to make an appointment to get a protective order. The office is located on the Third Floor of the Denton County Courts Building at 1450 East McKinney Street in Denton, Texas.
What is the cost of filing a protective order in Texas?
In Texas, an applicant may not be assessed a fee or any expenses associated with getting a protective order.20 However, a court may later order the person against whom a protective order is rendered to pay the standard fee of $16.00 and other costs associated with obtaining a protective order.21
1 Texas Council on Family Violence, Honoring Texas Victims: Family Violence Fatalities in 2017 at 3, https://tcfv.org/resources/honoring-texas-victims/ (last visited April 20, 2019).
2 Texas Council on Family Violence, Go Purple: Know. Predict. Prevent. http://tmwf.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Infographic_Know_Facts_web.png (last visited April 22, 2019).
3 Domestic Shelters, Men Experiencing Domestic Violence, https://www.domesticshelters.org/articles/statistics/men-experiencing-domestic-violence (last visited April 22, 2019).
4 Tex. Fam. Code § 71.004.
5Id. § 83.002.
6 Id. § 85.025.
7 Id. § 71.004.
8 Id. §§ 82.002, 71.006, and 71.005.
9 Id. § 82.002.
11 Tarrant County, Texas, Protective Orders, https://access.tarrantcounty.com/en/criminal-district-attorney/civil-division/protective-orders.html (last visited April 22, 2019).
12 Tex. Fam. Code § 82.005.
13 Id. § 82.003.
14 Dallas County and Surrounding Local Areas Domestic Violence Resources, Protective Orders, http://dallasdvresources.org/protective.php (last visited April 22, 2019).
15 Tarrant County, Texas, Protective Orders, https://access.tarrantcounty.com/en/criminal-district-attorney/civil-division/protective-orders.html (last visited April 22, 2019).
16 Kaufman County, Texas, https://www.kaufmancounty.net/county-government/district-attorney/victims-resources/protective-orders/ last visited April 22, 2019).
17 Rockwall County, Texas, https://rockwallcountytexas.com/901/Protective-Orders (last visited April 22, 2019).
18 Collin County District Attorney, https://collincountyda.com/family-justice/protective-orders/ (last visited April 22, 2019).
19 Denton, County, Texas, https://www.thecolonytx.gov/311/Protective-Orders (last visited April 22, 2019).
20 Tex. Fam. Code § 81.002.
21 Id. § 81.003.