Category Archives:Orders of Protection

The Difference Between A Restraining Order & Order of Protection

In Tennessee there are two options when it comes to seeking protection from physical abuse, threats or harassment. They are both similar in whom they protect but each have different requirements. Both orders are issued by the court and civil in nature, but violations are punished as criminal contempt of court.

An order of protection orders the abuser to cease all contact of any kind with the victim for a period of one year. This includes phone calls, text messages, emails, and any form of social media or through a third party. In most cases this order is filed to prevent any further domestic violence and harassment. The victim must have either been in a romantic relationship, lived with or be related to the abuser. There are exceptions for sexual assault and stalking in which case no relationship is required. If you do not have one of these relationships or exceptions thereto then you must file a restraining order instead.

When an order of protection is filed, the Court will normally issue a temporary emergency protection order valid for 15 days, without a hearing. The order of protection is then served upon the other party and the case is set for hearing. If after a hearing on the issues, the Court finds that there is sufficient evidence to grant the order of protection then the Court puts down an order valid for 1 year. If the abuser violates either order of protection, they may be sentenced up to ten days in jail and in some rare circumstances charged with a criminal misdemeanor where the punishment increases significantly.

A restraining order is a court order that orders the abuser to cease all contact with the victim. This also includes phone calls, text messages, emails, forms of social media and third parties. A restraining order is typically issued to protect a person who is considered to be in imminent danger or irreparable damage is likely. Unlike an order of protection, you do not have to be related to or romantically involved with the abuser to file a restraining order. In certain cases this type of order can be used to prevent a parent from moving children from one county to another and place temporary holds on bank accounts. Once ordered by the Court the order is generally valid for 10 years, as opposed to 1 year for an order of protection.

It is also important to understand that unlike an order of protection there is usually not a temporary emergency order and you must wait until after the Court hearing to have any protection.

Violations of restraining orders are punishable as criminal contempt in the same manner as the order of protection, but violations cannot be charged as misdemeanors.

In either case it’s best to hire an attorney to help navigate through the process. Legal documents can often be tricky and difficult to understand. An attorney can help guide you with the necessary details needed to get the order approved.

What Is an Order of Protection?

An order of protection (also referred to as an OP) is type of restraining order issued by a court that’s designed to primarily protect people from domestic violence.  To file an order of protection you must be related to, have lived with, or been in a romantic relationship with the other person.  However there are exceptions for stalking and sexual assault and no relationship is required between the parties in those instances.  If you do not meet these requirements but still feel that you need protection you may be entitled to a restraining order instead of an order of protection.  An order of protection orders one person not to have contact of any kind—including contact via emails, phone calls, text messages, social media, or in person another person for a period of 1 year.

Who needs an order of protection?

If you are being hurt, threatened or harassed by a relative or significant other, you may need an order of protection to help keep that person away from you.

What happens if someone violates an order of protection?

If someone violates an order of protection, you have the right to notify the police, who can then arrest that person. Violations constitute contempt and carry up to 10 days in jail per violation. Although rare, a violation can be charged as a crime under some circumstances—not contempt—and carry up to 11 months and 29 days in jail.

How do I request an order of protection?

It is best to hire an attorney before you file for the order of protection.  However in the event that you cannot wait as you need immediate protection, you can go to the Court Clerk or magistrate in the county where the problems occurred and file for an order of protection.

After you file for an order of protection, a judge or magistrate will review your request. If the judge finds there is probable cause, he or she will issue an ex parte order of protection that’s valid for 15 days. The ex parte order will be served on the other person, telling him or her not to have any contact, direct or indirect, with you until your hearing. Keep in mind, the ex parte order is not the final order. It’s only meant to protect you until your initial hearing.

If you’re granted an order of protection, it will be effective for one year and can be renewed for an additional year, but you must prove that the order needs to stay in place.

How do orders of protection affect child custody?

And order of protection can seriously impact child custody matters. For example, one parent will name his or her children as a protected party, which means the other parent may not be allowed to see his or her children for up to a year.

See our Orders of Protection page for more info.