What is an Order of Protection and Do I Need One?

Clients ask me all too often if they need to get an Order of Protection.  Unfortunately, domestic violence is distressingly prevalent in our society, and many times my clients need an Order of Protection to stop the abuse and secure a safe living situation.  Typically, victims of domestic violence feel helpless about their circumstances. All options seem like nothing but bad choices. If they call the police, their significant other may go to jail, which could mean breaking apart the family or losing an important source of financial support.  If they don’t seek help, they worry that the abuse will never stop.

Sometimes clients are in a situation where the police are called and the alleged abuser is immediately arrested, taken to jail and charged with a crime.  In this case, the district attorney’s office will prosecute the case.  In other cases, the abuse happens, and then the abuser leaves the scene, or the victim decides to seek help afterward.  In those cases, the victim needs a Temporary Order of Protection.  A Temporary Order of Protection can be obtained through a non-profit support agency that specializes in helping abuse victims get their case in front of a judge quickly.  The victim fills out the necessary paperwork, including the specific allegations of physical, mental or verbal abuse, harassment through texts, emails or social media, or stalking, and the agency makes sure a judge issues a Temporary Order of Protection.  This is a piece of paper the victim must carry with them to show to police if their alleged abuser continues the abusive behavior.

In Tennessee, a Temporary Order of Protection expires after two weeks.  The judge will set a hearing date within that time frame so that the alleged abuser can offer his or her testimony to the court about what happened.  Both parties need to be present to present evidence at that hearing. If the court finds that the abuse occurred, it will issue a permanent Order of Protection for a certain amount of time, typically between six months and a year.  If the parties are in the process of divorce, or file for divorce while the Order of Protection is in place, then the divorce court has the ability to dismiss, modify or extend the Order of Protection.

It is also common to see restraining orders wrongfully filed against someone who has not committed domestic violence. Nearly 1.5 million restraining orders issued in the United States are based on false domestic violence accusations.  Having a restraining order on your record can have a severe impact on your job, your ability to see your children and your overall record.

 If you have been wrongfully accused of domestic violence, you, too, are a victim. An Order of Protection can have a severe impact on your life, and you should contact and attorney to help you defend against it.

For more information about Domestic Violence programs in your locality, please visit:

Family Safety Center, Memphis

Metro Office of Family Safety, Nashville

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