WomensLaw is not just for women. We serve and support all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

Legal Information: Texas

Texas Restraining Orders

View by section

Restraining Orders

A protective order is a legal order issued by a state court which requires one person to stop harming another.  The order can also place other restrictions on the abuser, such as ordering him/her to stay away from you or stop contacting you.  In Texas, there are protective orders based on family violence and based on sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking.

Overview of Civil vs. Criminal Law

A quick overview of the legal system

The legal system is divided into two areas: civil law and criminal law. Separate courts govern (control) these two areas of the law.

One of the most confusing things about the legal system is the difference between civil cases and criminal cases. In domestic violence situations, there may be both civil and criminal cases occurring at the same time as a result of the same violent act. You may want to pursue both civil and criminal actions for maximum protection. The major differences have to do with who takes the case to court and the reason for the case.

Civil Law
In a civil domestic violence action, you are asking the court to protect you from the person abusing you. You are not asking the court to send that person to jail for committing a crime. However, if the abuser violates the civil court order, he may be sent to jail for the violation. In a civil case, you are the person bringing the case against the abuser and (in most circumstances), you have the right to withdraw (drop) the case if you want to.

Criminal Law
The criminal law system handles all cases that involve violations of criminal law such as harassment, assault, murder, theft, etc. A criminal complaint involves your abuser being charged with a crime.  In a criminal case, the prosecutor (also called the district attorney) is the one who has control over whether the case against the abuser continues or not.  It is the county/state who has brought the case against the abuser, not the victim. It is possible that if you do not want the case to continue (if you do not want to “press charges”), the prosecutor might decide to drop the criminal charges but this is not necessarily true.  The prosecutor can also continue to prosecute the abuser against your wishes and could even issue a subpoena (a court order) to force you to testify at the trial.

In Texas there are also several different types of courts (state district, county, municipal, Justice of the Peace, and commissioners’ courts).  Some of these courts handle both civil and criminal law cases.  For example, state district and county courts handle both civil and criminal cases.  These differences are important because the process may be different depending on where you live and what court has jurisdiction (authority) over your case. 

For more help and information on the Texas legal system, please contact a local program in your area, which you can find at the TX Places that Help page.

Family Violence Protective Orders

A protective order is a civil order that provides protection from harm by someone you have a specific relationship with. The order can also place other restrictions on the abuser, such as ordering him/her to stay away from you or stop contacting you.

Basic info

What is the legal definition of "family violence" in Texas?

This section defines family violence for the purposes of getting a protective order.  Family violence is defined as:

  1. any act committed by one family or household member against another family/household member that is:
    • intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury (physical pain, illness, or damage to your physical condition),* assault or sexual assault; or
    • a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of immediate physical harm, bodily injury (physical pain, illness, or damage to your physical condition),* assault or sexual assault.**
  2. any of the following acts committed by a family or household member against a child of the family or household member:
    • physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child (or that has a real risk of resulting in substantial harm)
    • sexual conduct harmful to a child's mental, emotional, or physical welfare (including acts that come under the offense of continuous sexual abuse of young childindecency with a child, sexual assault, or aggravated sexual assault)
    • forcing or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct, trafficking (under sections (a)(7) or (8) of the law), prostitution (under section (b) of the law), or compelling prostitution (under section (a)(2) of the law);
    • causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing pornographic or obscene photographing, filming, or depicting of the child;
    • use of a controlled substance (drug) that the use results in physical, mental, or emotional injury to a child;
    • causing, encouraging, or expressly (specifically) permitting a child to use a controlled substance (drug);
    • causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing sexual performance by a child;
    • forcing or coercing a child to enter into a marriage;*** or
  3. dating violence.**** Please read What is the legal definition of “dating violence” in Texas? for more information.

Note: If you commit violence to protect yourself or your children and the court believes you acted in self defense, then this is not family violence.**

* Tex. Penal Code § 1.07(a)(8)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 71.004(1)
*** Tex. Fam. Code §§ 71.004(2); 261.001(1)(C), (E), (G)-(K)
**** Tex. Fam. Code § 71.004(3)

What is the legal definition of "dating violence" in Texas?

Dating violence is when an abuser commits an act that is:

  • intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury (physical pain, illness, or damage to your physical condition)*, assault or sexual assault; or
  • a threat that reasonably places you in fear of immediate physical harm, bodily injury (physical pain, illness, or damage to your physical condition),* assault or sexual assault.**

The act must be committed against:

  • someone with whom s/he has or had a “dating relationship;” or
  • the new spouse or intimate partner of someone the abuser is/was married to or in a "dating relationship" with.**

A dating relationship is defined as a relationship between people who have or had a continuing romantic or intimate relationship. To determine if a dating relationship exists, the judge will consider:

  1. the length of the relationship;
  2. the nature of the relationship; and
  3. the frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.**

If you meet the definition of dating violence, as explained above, continue reading this section for more information about applying for a family violence protective order.***

Note: If you commit violence to protect yourself or your children and the court believes you acted in self-defense, then this is not dating violence.**

* Tex. Penal Code § 1.07(a)(8)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 71.0021
*** Tex. Fam. Code § 71.004(3)

Can the abuser be removed from the home?

Possibly, yes. A judge can consider excluding the abuser from the home and allow you to stay in the home (grant you "exclusive possession") if the home is:

  • jointly owned or leased by you and the abuser;
  • owned or leased by you; or
  • owned or leased by the abuser and s/he has an obligation to support you or to support your child.*

If you are asking that the abuser be excluded as part of a temporary ex parte protection order, you must prove all of the following through your affidavit and testimony:

  • you currently live in the residence or you have lived there within the 30 days before you filed the application;
  • the abuser has committed family violence against you or a member of the household within the 30 days before you filed the application; and
  • there is a clear and present danger that the abuser is likely to commit family violence against you or a member of the household again.**

Note: If you are asking for exclusion as part of a temporary ex parte order, the judge can postpone the hearing until the end of the same day in order to call the respondent and give him/her the opportunity to be present in court when the court resumes the hearing.**

* Tex. Fam. Code § 85.021(2)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 83.006

How can a protective order help me?

A protective order can order the abuser to:

  • stop committing acts of family or dating violence or any acts that are reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass you or a family/household member;
  • stop all communication with you or a family member (directly or through a third party) or stop communication made in a threatening or harassing manner;
  • stay away from your home or place of employment or those of your family or household member;
  • stay away from a school or daycare center that a child protected under the order attends;
  • complete a battering intervention and prevention program or attend counseling with someone who specializes in family violence;
  • follow any custody/visitation terms in the order (Note: The judge can establish temporary custody and visitation for any children you share with the abuser);
  • not remove your child from your possession or from the jurisdiction of the court;
  • stop any transfer or disposal of property that you own or lease with the abuser;
  • not remove a pet, companion animal, or assistance animal from your possession;
  • pay child support or spousal support for the time you have the protective order;
  • leave your home or other specified property (if certain conditions are met) and allow you to remain there - see Can the abuser be removed from the home? for more information;
  • not possess any firearms (unless the person is a peace officer actively engaged in employment as a sworn, full-time paid employee of a state agency) and the judge is supposed to suspend the abuser’s license to carry a handgun if s/he has been found to have committed family violence;
  • not harm, threaten, or interfere with the care, custody, or control of your pet, companion animal, or assistance animal, or that of your family or household member; and
  • perform any other acts that are necessary to prevent or reduce the likelihood of family or dating violence.*

Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.  The court may not grant all of your requests, so be sure to read your order carefully to see what specific protections the judge ordered.

Note: Even if the order doesn’t specifically say that the abuser has to turn over his/her firearms, possession of a firearm by a non-police officer who is a respondent in a protective order case is illegal under Texas state law and federal law.  Please see TX State Gun Laws and Federal Gun Laws for more information

* Tex. Fam. Code §§ 85.021, 85.022

In which county can I file for a protective order?

You can file a petition in the county where you live, the county where the abuser lives, or any county where the family violence took place.* However, if you have a divorce case pending or a pending case affecting the parent-child relationship, you must file for the protective order in the court in which that case is pending or in the court in the county in which you reside (and you must notify the clerk of the pending case).**

* Tex. Fam. Code § 82.003
** Tex. Fam. Code § 85.062(a),(b)

Can I keep my personal information confidential?

Yes. If you request it (or your family or household member can request it), the judge can order the address and phone number of the following places to be removed from the protective order:

  1. your home (or the home of anyone protected by the order) - the order will only state the county in which you live;
  2. your workplace (or the workplace of anyone protected by the order); and
  3. the daycare center or school of any child protected by the order.*

The judge can also require the court clerk to:

  • remove the address and phone number of the three places mentioned above from the public court records and keep a confidential record of them for court use only;
  • remove your mailing address from the public records of the court (if different than your home address), keep a confidential record of it for court use only, and not show it to the respondent. (Note: If you choose to keep your mailing address confidential, you will have to include the mailing address of someone else, such as a family member or friend, that can be shown to the respondent for the purpose of receiving mail associated with the case.)** 

Therefore, if you do not want the abuser to know this type of personal information, make sure to tell that to the clerk when filing your petition and/or check the box to keep addresses and telephone numbers for residences, workplaces, schools, and childcare facilities confidential.

* Tex. Fam. Code § 85.007(a)
** Tex. Fam. Code §§ 82.011; 85.007(b)

Who can get a protective order

Who is eligible for a protective order?

You can apply for a protective order on behalf of yourself and/or your child if you meet one of the following:

  • The abuser is “a family or household member,” which is defined as:
    • A current or former spouse;
    • A blood relative such as a parent, sibling, child;
    • A relative by marriage (an in-law);
    • A person with whom you have a child in common;
    • A household member;
    • A foster parent; or
    • A foster child; 
  • The abuser is someone with whom you have/had a “dating relationship;" or
  • The abuser is/was married to or is/was dating someone you are/were married to or are/were in a dating relationship with (for example, the abuser is your girlfriend's ex-husband).*  

In addition, a prosecutor/district attorney or the Department of Family and Protective Services can file an application on behalf of any person alleged to be a victim of family violence.**

You may also be able to get a protective order against someone who has sexually assaulted you even if s/he is not a family or household member (like a co-worker or neighbor).  See Protective Orders for Victims of Sexual Assault or Abuse, Stalking, or Trafficking for more information.

* Tex. Fam. Code § 71.0021, 71.003, 71.005, 71.006
** Tex. Fam. Code § 82.002(d)

Can a minor file for a protective order?

An adult household member or any adult can file for a protective order to protect a minor from family violence.* However, if the minor is in a dating relationship and is applying for the order based on "dating violence," s/he can file for the protective order on his/her own.** Note: A minor is a person under the age of 18.***

* Tex. Fam. Code § 82.002(a)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 82.002(b)(1)
*** Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 129.001

Can I get a protective order against a same-sex partner?

How much does it cost to get a protective order?

Nothing, a protective order is free.  You cannot be charged a fee for filing, serving, entering a protective order, or for getting additional certified copies of the order.*

The court may order that the abuser pay any attorney fees (if applicable), and all other fees, charges, or expenses incurred in connection with the protective order.**

A domestic violence organization may be able to refer you to free legal services.  Please go to the TX Finding a Lawyer page for information about free or low cost legal services.

* Tex. Fam. Code § 81.002
** Tex. Fam. Code §§ 81.003, 81.005

Types of protective orders available in Texas

What types of protective orders are available?

In Texas, there are three types of orders of protection based on family violence:

  1. Temporary ex parte protective order;
  2. Final (permanent) protective order; and
  3. Magistrate's order of emergency protection (what most people call an emergency protective order).

The first two orders are issued by the civil court upon your application. The abuser does not have to be arrested for you to get one of these orders. The third order is issued by the criminal court after the abuser is arrested. Each order is explained in more detail in the following questions.

What is a temporary ex parte order? How long does it last?

A temporary ex parte order is a court order designed to provide you and your family members with immediate protection from the abuser. You can get a temporary ex parte order without the abuser present in court. To get a temporary ex parte order, the judge has to believe that the abuser presents a clear and present danger of family violence to you or a family member. The judge will make this decision based upon the information you include in your application for a protective order.*

A temporary ex parte order lasts for the period of time stated in the order, usually up to 20 days. The temporary ex parte order can be extended for additional 20-day periods if you request it or if the judge decides to extend it, usually due to the fact that the respondent was not yet served.**

* Tex. Fam. Code § 83.001
** Tex. Fam. Code § 83.002

How long does a permanent (final) protective order last?

A permanent protective order is effective for the time period stated in the order, which generally may be up to a maximum of 2 years.  If there is no time period written on the order, then it expires on the second anniversary of the date the order was issued.*  However, the may judge to issue an order for longer than two years if:

  • the abuser committed an act that would be considered a felony offense involving family violence against you or a member of your family or household even if the abuser was never charged with or convicted of the offense;
  • the abuser caused serious bodily injury to you or a member of your family or household; or
  • the same petitioner (you or your child) had two or more protective orders issued against the abuser in the past and in each of those prior cases, the judge found that the abuser committed family violence and was likely to commit family violence in the future.**

Regardless of how long your order lasts, after the order has been in effect for one year, the abuser can file a motion to ask that the order be discontinued. (If the order lasts more than two years, the abuser can file a second motion, one year after s/he files the first motion.)  The judge will then hold a hearing to determine whether there is a "continuing need for the order."  If the judge believes there is no need to continue the order, the judge can end the order earlier than the original date set.  However, the fact that the abuser did not violate the order does not by itself support a decision that the order is not needed anymore.***

Note: The order can actually expire after the original expiration date if the abuser is in jail or prison when the order is set to expire or if s/he was released from jail/prison within the one year before the order’s expiration date.  In either case, the order will automatically be extended as follows:

  • If the abuser was sentenced to more than 5 years of incarceration, the order will expire on the first anniversary of the date s/he is released from imprisonment
  • If the abuser was sentenced to 5 years or less of incarceration, the order will expire on the second anniversary of the date s/he is released from imprisonment.**** 

In either case, you can request a new order from the court showing the extended expiration date to make it easier to for the police to enforce the order in case the order is violated after the expiration date written on the original order. 

* Tex. Fam. Code § 85.025(a)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 85.025(a-1)
*** Tex. Fam. Code § 85.025(b),(b-1),(b-2)
**** Tex. Fam. Code § 85.025(c)

What is a magistrate's order for emergency protection? How long does it last?

A magistrate's order for emergency protection (what most people call an "emergency protective order") is issued by the criminal court after the abuser is arrested for committing family violence, sexual assault, sexual abuse, stalking, or trafficking.*

You do not need to be present in the courtroom for this type of order to be issued.** The magistrate can decide to issue this order upon your request (if you are present in court), or upon the request of your guardian, a police officer, the state attorney/prosecutor, or based on the magistrate’s own decision. However, if the crime involved family violence that resulted in serious physical injury or if the abuser used (or displayed) a deadly weapon while committing a family violence assault, the magistrate must issue this order even if no one specifically requests it.***

A magistrate's order for emergency protection is usually good for between 31-61 days. However, if the abuser was arrested for a crime that involves family violence where the abuser used (or displayed) a deadly weapon when committing the assault, the order would be good for between 61 - 91 days.**** 

Note: The rest of the information in this Family Violence Protective Orders section refers to temporary and permanent protective orders that are issued when a victim goes to civil court to request one - not this magistrate's order.

* Texas C.C.P Art. 17.292(a)
** Texas C.C.P Art. 17.292(d)
*** Texas C.C.P Art. 17.292(a),(b)
**** Texas C.C.P Art. 17.292(j)

Steps for obtaining a protective order

Step 1: Go to the district attorney's office or the courthouse to file.

You will generally file your application in the county where you or the abuser lives or in any county where the abuse took place.*   However, if you have a divorce case pending or a pending case affecting the parent-child relationship, you must file for the protective order in the court in which that case is pending or in the court in the county in which you reside (and must notify the clerk of the pending case).**  

In many counties, the county or district attorney will help you file for a protective order and represent you in court.  If the prosecutor will not file on our behalf, you can file on your own, using the online pro se protective order kit.  While these forms are legally valid in all courts, some counties prefer their own forms.  However, if at all possible, you may want to first contact the legal advocate at your local family violence program to get information about where and how to file in your county since the process varies by county.  A legal advocate can explain your county’s process and may be able to assist you in completing the tool kit’s forms.   To find the courthouse in your area or the district attorney's office, go to TX Courthouse Locations.   

Please note that the steps listed below vary from county to county.  These instructions are meant as a general guide and do not reflect county-specific procedures. As mentioned earlier, if possible, you might consider first going to your local domestic violence organization or prosecutor's office, to find out how to get a protective order in your county.  

* Tex. Fam. Code § 82.003
** Tex. Fam. Code § 85.062(a),(b)

Step 2: Fill out the forms.

Carefully fill out the application.  When you apply for a protective order, you must supply the following information:

  1. The name of each petitioner (victim) and the county where each petitioner (victim) resides; (Note: You can request that your children be included as petitioners, but it may not be ordered if there was no violence against the children);
  2. The name, address, and county of residence of each individual who has committed family violence;
  3. The relationship between the victim(s) and the abuser;
  4. A request for one or more protective orders;
  5. If you are receiving services from the state child support division, you must indicate this and give the case number (if you know it) for each open case.*

Read the application carefully and ask questions if you don’t understand something.  Describe in detail how the abuser (respondent) injured or threatened you.  If you are using the pro se protective order kit online, TexasLawHelp.org has an available chat function at certain hours during the week so you can ask an attorney questions about the forms.  Explain when and where the abuse or threats occurred.  Write about the most recent and severe incidents of violence, using descriptive language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, choking, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation.  Be specific.  Include details and dates that relate to the abuser’s violence and threats, if possible.  If you are in immediate danger and want to apply for a temporary ex parte order, you must include a detailed description of the facts and circumstances concerning the family violence and the need for the immediate protective order.

You must sign the application under oath that the facts and circumstances contained in the application are true to the best of your knowledge.  However, do not sign the application until you have shown it to a clerk.  The form must be signed in front of a notary public or a judge at the courthouse.  Be aware that once you file the documents, they become public record, and are accessible by the respondent and his/her attorney.

* Tex. Fam. Code § 82.004

Step 3: A judge will review your petition.

The judge may wish to ask you questions as s/he reviews your petition. If you are applying for a temporary ex parte order, a judge will decide whether there is an immediate danger that the abuser will commit family violence based on the facts included in your application. If so, you may get a temporary order that usually lasts up to 20 days. Before getting a permanent order, you need to have a full court hearing where the abuser has the opportunity to be present and both you and the abuser have an opportunity to present evidence and testimony.

Step 4: Service of process

The clerk of the court will issue a Notice of an Application for a Protective Order. The clerk will generally arrange for service of this notice to the abuser along with the petition that you filed as well as any temporary ex parte orders that were issued. This notice states that the abuser has been accused of committing family violence. The abuser may get an attorney to defend himself/herself against this allegation. The notice also informs the abuser of the hearing date.

Step 5: The hearing for a permanent protective order

It is very important that you attend the court hearing.  If you find out you absolutely cannot attend, you can contact the court clerk immediately and ask how you can get a "continuance" for a later court date.*  If you do not show up, the judge may dismiss your case and you will lose your protective order.  You do not need an attorney at the hearing; however, having an attorney can be to your advantage.  Also, if you think the respondent will have one or if it would make you feel safer, you can consider getting one.  If the prosecutor files the protective order on your behalf, s/he will usually represent you in court.   If the prosecutor is not filing on your behalf, you may be able to get free legal representation through a legal services program.  Go to our TX Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.  Also, your local family violence program can give you more information about what to expect at the hearing, and may be able to send an advocate with you for support, and provide an attorney referral.  Go to our TX Advocates and Shelters page for organizations in your area.

For the judge to grant a permanent protective order, the judge has to believe that it is more likely than not (more than 50% chance) that the abuser:

If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge can still grant you a protective order or the judge may order a new hearing date.***

See the Preparing Your Case page for ways you can show the judge that you were abused.

* See Tex. Fam. Code § 84.001
** Tex. Fam. Code § 85.001(a)
*** See Tex. Fam. Code § 82.041(b)

After the hearing

Can the abuser have a gun?

Once you get a protection order, there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession.  There are a few places where you can find this information:

  • first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in Texas have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
  • second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
  • third you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal laws that apply to all states.

You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website

What should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some things you may want to consider doing. However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation.

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to correct the order before you leave.
  • Ask the clerk for several free, certified copies.* You can make additional copies as well, if needed.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • You might want to leave copies of the order at your workplace, at your home, at the children's school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on. (Note: If the order prohibits the abuser from going near your child’s school or daycare, the clerk is supposed to send the order directly to the daycare or school. If child support is ordered, the clerk should send it to the child support division of the Office of the Attorney General. If the abuser is in the military, the clerk is supposed to send it directly to the military base/installation. The clerk is also supposed to send a copy to law enforcement in the municipality/county in which you live.)**
  • You might want to give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • Give a photo and/or description of your partner and his vehicle to anyone you gave a copy of the order to.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.

* Tex. Fam. Code § 81.002(2)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 85.042(a),(a-1),(b)

What can I do if the abuser violates the order?

An abuser can violate a protective order by disobeying any of the restrictions in the order. For example, s/he can violate the restriction:

  • not to come near you or a place specified in the order;
  • not to abuse you;
  • to contact you directly or through a third party (however, contacting you through your attorney can be permissible);
  • against possessing a firearm;
  • not to harm, threaten, or interfere with the care, custody, or control of a pet or companion animal a person protected by the order; or
  • not to remove, attempt to remove, or otherwise tamper with the normal functioning of a global positioning monitoring system (GPS).*

If you believe that the abuser has violated the protective order, you can immediately call 911 and the abuser can be arrested. Under Texas law, a law enforcement officer must arrest the abuser if the officer witnesses a protective order violation, and may arrest the abuser if the order is violated outside of the officer’s presence.**

Protective orders will have certain warnings written right on the order. Both temporary ex parte orders and permanent protective orders state that a violation of the order can be considered "contempt of court" with a punishment of up to $500, a jail sentence of up to 6 months, or both. The orders also state that if a person commits an "act" that is forbidden in the order, s/he can be punished by a fine of up to $4,000, a jail sentence up to 1 year, or both. If the "act" committed results in family violence, the abuser can be prosecuted separately for that crime. If s/he commits a felony, s/he can be sentenced to prison for at least two years.***

When the police arrive, it is usually a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge number in case you want to follow up on your case. Make sure a police report is filled out, even if no arrest is made. If you have legal documentation of all violations of the order, it could help you have the order extended or modified in the future.

* Tex. Penal Code § 25.07(a)
** Tex. C.C.P. Art. 14.03(a)(3),(b)
*** Tex. Fam. Code § 85.026

What happens if I move?

Federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have an protective order, it is enforceable, or it can protect you, wherever you go in the United States, including U.S. territories and tribal lands.

Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state orders.  You can find out about your new state's policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor in your new area.

You might also want to call the court where you originally received the order to tell them your new address so that they can contact you if necessary.  However, before giving out an address that you don't want the abuser to have, be sure to ask the clerk if there is a way to keep it confidential and confirm that it will not be accessible to the abuser.

To read more information please see our Moving to Another State with a Texas Protective Order section.

How can I modify (change) my protective order?

If you want to change the order to add a specific protection to it or to take something out of the order, you can file to modify the order.  The abuser can also file to modify the order.  The judge would hold a hearing to decide what changes to make.*  You will have to go back to the court where you originally filed your application and tell the clerk you want to change your order.  You will find links to online forms that you may need at our TX Download Court Forms page.  Also, you can update any information listed on the order such as your address, telephone number, place of employment, or the child-care facility or school of a child protected by the order if any of this changes after you get the order.**

* Tex. Fam. Code § 87.001
** Tex. Fam. Code § 87.004(a)

Can I extend or renew my protective order? What if the order already expired?

Automatic extension
If the abuser is in jail or prison when the order is set to expire or if s/he was released from jail/prison within the one year before the order’s expiration date, the order will automatically be extended. If the abuser was sentenced to more than 5 years of incarceration, the order will expire on the first anniversary of the date s/he is released from imprisonment. If the abuser was sentenced to 5 years or less of incarceration, the order will expire on the second anniversary of the date s/he is released from imprisonment.* You can request a new order from the court showing the extended expiration date to make it easier to enforce in case of a violation.

Filing to renew a current order or an expired order
If the abuser violates the order while the order is still valid, this violation could be a reason to renew the order. You can file for the renewed protective order within the last 30 days of the order (within 30 days before the order's expiration date). You will have to include with your application:

  • a copy of the current protective order (or if a copy is not available, you will have to file a copy before the hearing date) and
  • a description of what the abuser did to make you reasonably fear immediate physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault.**

If your current order has already expired, you can file for a new protective order if:

  • s/he violated the order before it expired and you didn't already get a new family violence protective order based on that violation; or
  • the abuser has done something new to reasonably place you in fear of immediate physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault.***

You will need to attach a copy of the expired protective order to your new application (or if you don't have a copy available, you will have to file it before the hearing date) and you will have to go through all of the steps of originally filing for an order.

* Tex. Fam. Code § 85.025(c)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 82.0085
*** Tex. Fam. Code § 82.008

Protective Orders for Victims of Sexual Assault or Abuse, Stalking, or Trafficking

This order is a civil court order that is designed to protect you from anyone who sexually assaulted you, committed other sexual offenses against you, stalked you, trafficked you or forced you into prostitution.

Basic info

What is a sexual assault or abuse, stalking or trafficking protective order?

A sexual assault or abuse, stalking or trafficking protective order is a civil court order that is similar to a protective order for domestic violence, but it is designed specifically to protect you from someone who sexually assaulted you, committed other sexual offenses against you, stalked you, trafficked you or forced you into prostitution. You do not have to have a specific relationship to the perpetrator.*

* See Texas C.C.P. Art. 7A.01(a)

What is the definition of stalking?

Stalking is defined as when on more than one occasion, and as part of a course of conduct that is directed specifically at you, all of the following are met:

  1. the stalker commits harassment or s/he acts in a way that the stalker reasonably should know that you will regard as threatening you, your boyfriend/girlfriend, or a member of your family or household with bodily injury, death or that an offense will be committed against your property or pet;
  2. the stalker's behavior actually causes you, your boyfriend/girlfriend, or a member of your family or household to be placed in fear of bodily injury or death or in fear that an offense will be committed against your property or pet; or that makes you feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended; and
  3. the actions would cause a "reasonable person" to fear these things described in # 2 or to feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended.* 

* Tex. Penal Code § 42.072(a),(d)

What are the definitions of sexual abuse, trafficking, and other crimes that could qualify me for this protective order?

What is the definition of sexual assault?

Sexual assault is basically defined in two different ways:

1. It can be the penetration of the anus or genitals with any object or with one’s sexual organ, or penetration of the mouth with one’s sexual organ, without the consent of the victim.* 

“Without consent” of the victim means:

  • The victim is compelled (forced) to participate by actual or threatened physical force or violence (the threat of violence can be to the victim or another person);
  • The victim is unconscious or physically unable to resist;
  • The victim is mentally incapable (due to a mental disability) to consent or resist the act;
  • The victim has not consented and the abuser knows that the victim is unaware that the sexual assault is occurring;
  • The victim was given a substance by the abuser without the victim’s consent that makes the victim unable to understand the situation;
  • The perpetrator is a public servant, or a mental health provider (and the victim is his/her patient) or a clergyman (and the victim is a parishioner) who coerced the victim to participate; or
  • The perpetrator is an employee of a facility where the other person is a resident.**

2.  Sexual assault could involve any of these acts between a child and an adult when the perpetrator knowingly or intentionally:

  • caused the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of a child by any means;
  • caused the penetration of the mouth of a child by the sexual organ of the actor;
  • caused the sexual organ of a child to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;
  • caused the anus of a child to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor; or
  • caused the mouth of a child to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the actor.***

However, there could be a valid defense to the crime of sexual assault, as described in #2, above, if the perpetrator can prove that:

  • s/he was the spouse of the child at the time of the offense; or
  • at the time of the offense, the perpetrator was not more than three years older than the victim and all of the following are true:
    • the perpetrator was not a convicted sex offender;
    • the perpetrator did not have a reportable conviction or adjudication for a sexual offense;
    • the victim was at least 14 years old at the time of the offense;
    • the perpetrator was not committing bigamy, as defined by law; and
    • the victim consented to the act (there was no force or threats).****

You can go to our TX Statutes page to read the actual definitions of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault.  For additional crimes that could qualify a person for this type of protective order, go to Who qualifies for a sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking protective order?

* Tex. Penal Code § 22.011(a)(1)
** Tex. Penal Code § 22.011(b)
*** Tex. Penal Code § 22.011(a)(2)
**** Tex. Penal Code § 22.011(e)

What types of protective orders are available? How long do they last?

Temporary ex parte order
At the time you file your application, the court can give you a temporary ex parte (emergency) protective order for sexual assault or abuse, stalking or trafficking that would last until your full court hearing. An ex parte order may be granted if there is a clear and present danger to you of sexual assault or abuse, stalking, trafficking or other harm. The order can protect you or any other member your family or household.* Be sure to ask for an ex parte order if you want this immediate protection.

Protective order (after a hearing)
The judge will hold a hearing where both you and the abuser have the right to attend, offer evidence, testimony, witnesses, etc. You may choose to be represented by a lawyer, especially if the abuser will have one. At this hearing, the judge will decide whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that you are the victim of sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking.**

If the judge grants a protective order after a hearing, the order can last for as long as the lifetime of the perpetrator or the victim or for any shorter period specifically stated in the order. If the order does not state the termination date, the order ends two years after the date it was issued.***

Note: If the perpetrator is confined or in prison on the date the order is set to expire, it's possible that the order could automatically be extended until one year after the date s/he is released. However, this only applies if the order was issued before September 1, 2017. This law was repealed (is no longer in effect) and so it does not apply to any orders that were issued on or after September 1, 2017.****

* Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.02
** Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.03(a)
*** Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.07(a)
**** Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.07(c)

How can a sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking protective order help me?

A sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking protective order can order the offender to:

  • stop doing anything that is reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass you, your family, or any member of your household;
  • stop communicating directly or indirectly (through another person) with you, your family or your household member in a harassing manner;
  • stay away from your home, school, or child care facility, workplace or business. The same restrictions can be applied to your family or household members;
  • turn over any firearms in his/her possession to law enforcement (unless the person is a peace officer actively engaged in employment as a sworn, full-time paid employee of a state agency) and the judge can suspend his/her license to carry a concealed handgun; and/or
  • take other actions that the judge decides are necessary to reduce the likelihood of future harm to you or your family/household.*

Note: Even if the order doesn’t specifically say that the abuser has to turn over his/her firearms, possession of a firearm by a non-police officer respondent is illegal under Texas state law and federal law.  Please see TX State Gun Laws and Federal Gun Laws for more information.

* Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.05(a)

Who is eligible

Who qualifies for a sexual assault or abuse, stalking or trafficking protective order?

Who can file the petition? Can a minor file?

If you are an adult or minor victim of sexual assault (including aggravated sexual assault); stalkingindecency with a childcontinuous sexual abuse of young child or childrentrafficking (including continuous trafficking); or forced prostitution, you may:

  • apply on your own;
  • have a prosecutor apply for you; or
  • retain your own lawyer to help you file the petition.* 

Also, the parent/guardian of a minor child victim can apply on his/her behalf if the child is below a certain age.  For victims of sexual assault (including aggravated sexual assault), stalkingindecency with a childcontinuous sexual abuse of young child or children, a parent/guardian can file on behalf of a child who is under age 17.  For victims of trafficking (including continuous trafficking) or forced prostitution, a parent/guardian can file on behalf of a child who is under age 18.**  

Note: Even though a prosecutor can file on your behalf, the law does not require a criminal case or police report to apply for the order and it is up to you to decide if you want to file, not the prosecutor.

* Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.01(a)(1),(2),(5)
** Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.01(a)(3),(4)

How to get an order

Where do I file for a sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking protective order?

You can file an application for a protective order in district court, juvenile court, statutory county court, or constitutional county court. It can be filed in the county where you live, where the perpetrator lives, or any county where an element (part) of the crime occurred.  Also, if there is a current family violence protective order between the same parties that would be involved in this protective order, you have the option of filing it in that court as well.*  

The steps for filing for a sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking protective order are generally the same as the steps for a domestic violence protective order.  

* Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.01(b)

How much does the protective order cost?

Nothing. You (or an attorney representing you) cannot be charged any fees or costs by a district or county clerk, a sheriff, constable or other public official or employee for filing, serving, dismissing, modifying, transferring a protective order, or withdrawing a protective order. You also cannot be charged any fee for certified copies, comparing copies to originals, the court reporter, judicial fund fees, or for any other service related to a protective order.*

* See the Texas Attorney General's website

How do I cancel the protective order once it is issued?

The following people may file an application with the court at any time to cancel the protective order:

* Tex. C.C.P. Art. 7A.07(b)

Moving to Another State with a Domestic Violence Protective Order

If you are moving out of state or are going to be out of the state for any reason, your protective order can still be enforceable.

General rules

Can I get my protective order from Texas enforced in another state?

Yes.  If you have a valid Texas protective order (“PO”) that meets federal standards, it can be enforced in another state.  The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which is a federal law, states that all valid protective orders granted in the United States receive "full faith and credit" in all state and tribal courts within the US, including US territories.  See How do I know if my protective order is good under federal law? to find out if your protective order qualifies.

Each state must enforce out-of-state protective orders in the same way it enforces its own orders, which means if the abuser violates your out-of-state protective order, s/he will be punished according to the laws of whatever state you are in when the order is violated.  This is what is meant by "full faith and credit."

How do I know if my protective order is good under federal law?

According to federal law, a protective order is good anywhere in the United States as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.*
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.  It doesn’t matter if he actually showed up in court; just that he had the opportunity to do so.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled within a "reasonable time" after the order is issued.**

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

* 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)(A)
** 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a), (b)

I have a temporary ex parte order. Can it be enforced in another state?

Yes.  An ex parte temporary order can be enforced in other states as long as it meets the requirements listed in How do I know if my protective order is good under federal law?*

Note: The state where you are going generally cannot extend your ex parte temporary order or issue you a permanent order when the temporary one expires.  If you need to extend your temporary order, you will have to contact the state that issued the order and arrange to be at the hearing in person or by telephone (if that is an option offered by the court).   However, you may be able to reapply for one in the new state that you are moving to if you meet the requirements for getting a protective order in that state – but, if you apply for one in a new state, the abuser would know what state you are living in, which may put you in danger.

* 18 U.S.C. § 2265(b)(2)

Getting your protective order enforced in another state

How do I get my protective order enforced in another state?

Federal law does not require you to take any special steps to get your protective order enforced in another state.

Many states do have laws or regulations (rules) about registering or filing of out-of-state orders, which can make enforcement easier, but a valid protective order is enforceable regardless of whether it has been registered or filed in the new state.*  Rules differ from state to state, so it may be helpful to find out what the rules are in your new state.  You can contact a local domestic violence organization for more information by visiting our Advocates and Shelters page and entering your new state in the drop-down menu.

* 18 U.S.C. § 2265(d)(2)

Do I need anything special to get my protective order enforced in another state?

In some states, you will need a certified copy of your protective order.  A certified copy says that it is a "true and correct" copy; it is signed and initialed by the clerk of court that gave you the order, and usually has some kind of court stamp on it.

If the original copy you received is not a certified copy, you would need to go to the courthouse where your protective order was issued and request one from the district clerk.  There should be no fee for this service but you may want to call the courthouse to be sure.  See our TX Courthouse Locations page for courthouse contact information.

Can I get someone to help me? Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer to get your protective order enforced in another state.

However, you may want to get help from a local domestic violence advocate or attorney in the state that you move to.  A domestic violence advocate can let you know what the advantages and disadvantages are for registering your protective order, and help you through the process if you decide to do so.

To find a domestic violence advocate or an attorney in the state you are moving to, click the Places that Help tab on the top of this page and then choose your state from the drop-down menu.

Do I need to tell the court in Texas if I move?

If your contact information in your protective order is not confidential, you may file a notification of change of contact information (may be called a “change of address” form) to modify the order. If you file this notification, the court will send a copy to the respondent.* The clerk of court may need your new address to contact you if there is any change - for example, if the abuser asks a judge to dismiss the order or if your order is changed in any way. However, if you do not want the abuser to know your new address, you may want to tell the clerk that the address is confidential and ask what steps you have to take to keep it hidden from the abuser.

* See Tex. Fam. Code § 87.004

Enforcing custody provisions in a protective order in another state

I was granted temporary custody with my protective order. Can I take my kids out of the state?

Maybe.  It may depend on the exact wording of the custody provision in your protective order (if there is a custody provision).  You may have to first get permission from the court before leaving.  If the abuser was granted visitation rights with your children, then you may have to have the order changed, or show the court that there is a fair and realistic alternative to the current visitation schedule.

If you are unsure about whether or not you can take your kids out of the state, it is important to talk to a lawyer who understands domestic violence and custody laws, and can help you make the safest decision for you and your children before you leave.  You can find contact information for local domestic violence organizations and legal assistance in the Texas area on our TX Places that Help page.

I was granted temporary custody with my protective order. Will another state enforce this custody order?

Yes. Custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in a protective order can be enforced across state lines. Law enforcement and courts in another state are required by federal law to enforce these provisions.*

* 18 USC § 2266

Enforcing Your Out-Of-State Order in Texas

If you are planning to move to Texas or are going to be in Texas for any reason, your protection or restraining order can be enforceable.

General rules for out-of-state orders in Texas

Can I get my out-of-state protective order enforced in Texas? What are the requirements?

Yes.  Your protective order can be enforced in Texas as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.*
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.  It doesn’t matter if s/he actually showed up in court; just that s/he had the opportunity to do so.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled within a "reasonable time" after the order is issued.**

All terms of a valid out-of-state protective order are enforceable in Texas, even if your order contains relief not available in a Texas order.

Although some states have laws regarding registering an out-of-state protective order, Texas does not require you to register your protective order for it to be enforced.***  Your protective order can be enforced in Texas by a police officer even if it is not registered in the NCIC – it can be enforced if the officer has a reason to believe that a valid protective order exists and has been violated (even if you do not have a certified copy of your order.)****  To find out more about NCIC, see What is the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Registry? Who has access to it?

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

* 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)(A)
** 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a), (b)
*** Tex. Fam. Code § 88.004(e)
**** Tex. Fam. Code § 88.004(a)-(c)

What happens if the protective order was never served on the abuser and now the abuser violates the order?

If you report a violation in Texas of an out-of-state protective order that was never served on the abuser, the officer is not necessarily required to arrest the abuser for the violation. The officer has to inform the abuser of the order and make a reasonable effort to serve the order on him/her. Then the officer has to allow the abuser a reasonable opportunity to follow what the order says before enforcing it.* Therefore, s/he might not be arrested for the first violation that you report since s/he had not been served with the order at the time s/he “violated” it. However, the officer can still arrest the abuser for any other crime committed at the time.

* Tex. Fam. Code § 88.004(d)

Can I have my out-of-state protective order changed, extended, or canceled in Texas?

No.  Only the state that issued your protective order can change, extend, or cancel the order.  You cannot have this done by a court in Texas.

To have your order changed, extended, or canceled, you will have to file a motion or petition in the court where the order was issued.  You may be able to request that you attend the court hearing by telephone rather than in person, so that you do not need to return to the state where the abuser is living.  To find out more information about how to modify a restraining order, see the Restraining Orders page for the state where your order was issued.

If your order expires while you are living in Texas, you may be able to get a new one issued in Texas but this may be difficult to do if no new incidents of abuse have occurred.  To find out more information on how to get a protective order in Texas, visit our TX Family Violence Protective Orders page.

I was granted temporary custody with my protective order. Will I still have temporary custody of my children in Texas?

Yes.  As long as the child custody provision complies with certain federal laws,* Texas can enforce a temporary custody order that is a part of a protection order.**

To have someone read over your order and tell you if it meets this legal standard, contact a lawyer in your area.  To find a lawyer in your area, select the state you are in from on the Finding a Lawyer page.

* The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and is consistent with the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980.
** Tex. Fam. Code § 88.003(b)

Registering your out-of-state order in Texas

What is the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Registry? Who has access to it?

The National Crime Information Center Registry (NCIC) is a nationwide, electronic database used by law enforcement agencies in the U.S, Canada, and Puerto Rico, that contains information on protective orders. It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.

All law enforcement officials have access to it, but the information is encrypted so outsiders cannot access it.

How do I register my protective order in Texas?

You do not have to register your protective order* however it might make enforcement of the order easier if you do so.  To register your protective order, you must take a certified copy to either the local Sheriff’s Department or to the Department for Public Safety office.  You may be asked to sign an affidavit stating that you believe the protective order is valid.  You should be given a certified copy of your registered order.**

If you need help registering your protection order, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in Texas for assistance.  You can find contact information for organizations in your area here on our TX Advocates and Shelters page.

* Tex. Fam. Code § 88.004(e)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 88.005

Do I have to register my protective order in Texas in order to get it enforced?

No. Texas state law says an order does not have to be registered to be enforced, but the protective order must be valid.*

A police officer must treat an order as valid as long as it appears to be valid.** A order appears valid if it:

  • contains your name and the abuser’s name;
  • is not expired;
  • the court that issued it had the authority (jurisdiction) to issue the order; and
  • the abuser was given notice of the protective order hearing and the opportunity to attend the court hearing before the order was issued or, in the case of an ex parte temporary order, soon after the order was issued.***

* Tex. Fam. Code § 88.004(e)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 88.003(e)
*** Tex. Fam. Code § 88.004(d)

Will the abuser be notified if I register my protective order?

Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which applies to all U.S. states and territories, the court is not permitted to notify the abuser when a protective order has been registered or filed in a new state unless you specifically request that the abuser be notified.*  However, you may wish to confirm that the clerk is aware of this law before registering the order if your address is confidential.

However, remember that there may be a possibility that the abuser could somehow find out what state you have moved to.  It is important to continue to safety plan, even if you are no longer in the state where the abuser is living.  We have some safety planning tips to get you started on our Staying Safe page.  You can also contact a local domestic violence organization to get help in developing a personalized safety plan.  You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our TX Advocates and Shelters page.

* 18 USC § 2265(d)

What if I don't register my protective order? Will it be more difficult to have it enforced?

Maybe.  In Texas, you do not have to register your protective order to get it enforced.*  However, if your order is not entered into the state registry, it may be more difficult for a Texas law enforcement official to determine whether your order is real and therefore it could take longer to get your order enforced.  Additionally, when you register your order in Texas, you will be given a certified copy of the registered order which should be easier for Texas law enforcement to recognize.**  If you are unsure about whether registering your order is the right decision for you, you may want to contact a local domestic violence organization in your area.  An advocate there can help you decide what the safest plan of action is for you in Texas.  To see a list of local domestic violence organizations in Texas, go to our TX Advocates and Shelters page.

* Tex. Fam. Code § 88.004(e)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 88.005(b)

Does it cost anything to register my protective order?

No. There is no fee for registering your protective order in Texas.*

* Tex. Fam. Code § 88.005(f)