Preserving Families

And Protecting Assets

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Domestic Violence: Family Violence Protective Orders in Texas

You might know it as a “restraining order,” which is confusing because restraining orders are a real legal tool in Texas. However, restraining orders are used in a different context than protective orders, which are aimed to help victims or potential victims of domestic violence in Texas. This blog will explore the general contours of protective orders for victims of family violence.

How is “Family Violence” Defined?

In the context of protective orders, “family violence” is any act intended to cause physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault of another family member or household member. It also includes threats that “reasonably” causes the family or household member to fear physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault. There are many more actions that, when committed against a child of a family or household member, qualify as family violence. Dating violence is also under the family-violence umbrella for protective order purposes. 

Eligibility for Family Violence Protective Orders

For you to be able to apply for a protective order in Texas that protects you and your children, one of the following must be true:

  • The abuser is a family or household member
  • You have or had a “dating relationship” with your abuser
  • Your abuser is the ex-spouse or ex-partner of your (current) spouse or partner
  • The abuser is the current spouse or partner of your ex-spouse or ex-partner

There are Actually Three Types of Protective Orders

  • One type of protective order—Magistrate’s Order of Emergency Protection— is typically issued by the criminal court after a family or household member commits an act associated with family violence. The two remaining types of protective orders are issued in civil court and not usually connected with any criminal matters. 
  • Ex parte (temporary) protective order: an applicant will pursue this type of protective order if the judge is convinced that the abuser presents a “clear and present danger” to a family member (including yourself). An ex parte protective order can be issued without the abuser in court and typically lasts for a maximum of 20 days (unless it is extended). 
  • Permanent (final) protective order: once a hearing can be set between the applicant and abuser, the judge will hear both sides and consider the terms requested by the applicant. Ultimately, the judge needs to determine that it is more likely than not that the abuser has committed family violence in the past and is likely to commit future acts of family violence. Permanent protective orders may be in effect for up to two years; however, for more egregious cases, the judge can issue a lifetime protective order. 


If you are in immediate danger, call 911 immediately. There are ways for your abuser to be restricted in his or her actions while a criminal case is pending. However, you shouldn’t hesitate to put matters in your own hands to protect you and your children. When applying for a protective order, it is important to have an attorney help you navigate the process and requirements. Branch Family Law is known for resolving all manner of family law disputes, including ones involving family violence. Call our team at 210-761-6390 to receive a free 30-minute consultation today.