Although divorce cases and other family law proceedings often involve emotionally charged issues, the parties restrict their “battles” to the courtroom. Unfortunately, some family law matters include persons who have either committed or fallen prey to acts of family violence, such as stalking, harassment, assault, or battery between spouses, romantically involved partners, or household members.
Title Four of the Texas Family Code establishes legal procedures for the prevention of family violence. Such procedures include granting emergency restraining orders—also known as “temporary ex parte orders”—and protective orders to prevent family violence.
Temporary Ex Parte Orders
In situations where there is a clear and present danger of family violence, a court can issue what is known as a “temporary ex parte order.” Similar to a temporary restraining order, a person can request a temporary order to prevent family violence “ex parte”—a term in latin meaning “out of the party.” In ex parte proceedings, the judge does not require all interested parties to be present for it to issue an order.
Because temporary ex parte orders are concerned with preventing an immediate risk to a person’s safety, the standard due process requirements for providing the opposing party with notice and a hearing are momentarily relaxed to address the alleged emergency situation.
A temporary ex parte order to prevent family violence can do the following:
- Exclude an alleged aggressor from the family home
- Bar the aggressor from harassing the petitioner and other household members
- Preclude the aggressor from contacting or communicating with the petitioner or other household members
- Prohibit the aggressor from possessing firearms
Temporary ex parte orders to prevent family violence usually remain in effect for no more than 20 days. However, the person who requested the order can ask the court to extend the temporary order for another 20 day period, and further successive 20 day periods if necessary.
However, any person can submit a motion to vacate a temporary ex parte order for the prevention of family violence. Upon moving to vacate a temporary family violence prevention order, the court will schedule a hearing date as soon as possible.
A person who violates a temporary ex parte order against family violence can be found in contempt of court. Upon a hearing demonstrating that the temporary ex parte order was violated, the violator is subject to criminal or civil penalties and jail time.
Title 4 Protective Orders
Under Title Four of the Texas Family Code, a party can obtain a protective order restraining an alleged aggressor from contacting the victim and other household members. Although this provision can be found in the Texas Family Code, a person can request the court for a protective order regardless of whether a family law proceeding is pending before the court.
Unlike the temporary ex parte order, a Title 4 protective order can remain in effect for up to two years. As a result, the issuance of a Title 4 protective order requires notice and a hearing.
Unlike temporary ex parte orders, violating certain provisions under a Title 4 protective order may constitute a crime for which the violator can be immediately arrested without a warrant or hearing. Thus, Title 4 protective orders offer broader, more consequential protections for victims of family violence.
Ask Kay Polk, Attorney at Law for Legal Counsel
If you are concerned about issues of family violence, you should get in touch with an experienced legal advisor and advocate at Kay Polk, Attorney at Law. You can benefit from the experience and sophisticated legal comprehension that Attorney Polk providers her clients.
To schedule an appointment discussing the merits of your case, please call the office at (713) 234-6260 or complete this online request form today.