Seeking An Order Of Protection In Tennessee

Under T.C.A. § 36-3-601, a domestic abuse victim is described as anyone falling under these categories:

"Adults or minors who are current or former spouses; adults or minors who live or have lived together; adults or minors who are dating or have dated or who have or had a sexual relationship (as used herein, 'dating' and 'dated' do not include fraternization between two (2) individuals in a business or social context); adults or minors related by blood or adoption; adults or minors who are related or were formerly related by marriage; or adult or minor children of a person in a relationship that is described above."

Under the protection of the law, an order of protection may be obtained by anyone who is a victim of: domestic abuse, stalking or, sexual assault as well as anyone who has been threatened with, or placed in fear of, domestic abuse, stalking or sexual assault.

T.C.A. § 39-17-315 prohibits stalking, and is defined as:

"A course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested, and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested."

In order to obtain an order of protection through the state, a petitioning individual must submit a sworn statement that indicates the alleged abuse. In Knox County, you can find a petition for an order of protection here.

The venue in which a petitioner must may file the sworn petition must be in the county he or she lives in or the county where the abuse occurred under T.C.A. § 36-3-602. There are no initial filing costs for an order of protection and you can obtain one in Knox County from the Family Justice Center.

What Happens After Petitioning The Court?

Once you file a petition for an order of protection, a judge will do one of two things:

  1. Sign an ex parte order of protection if the petitioner shows good cause that there is an immediate and present danger of abuse or violence
  2. Set the case for a hearing, which must be held within 15 days of the service of the ex parte order

T.C.A. § 36-3-606 explains the scope of an order of protection, which may include:

  • Directing the respondent to refrain from committing abuse or threatening to commit abuse against the petitioner or the petitioner's minor children
  • Prohibiting the respondent from telephoning, contacting or otherwise communicating with the petitioner, directly or indirectly
  • Prohibiting the respondent from stalking the petitioner as defined in T.C.A. § 39-17-315.
  • Granting to the petitioner possession of the residence or household to the exclusion of the respondent by evicting the respondent, restoring possession to the petitioner or both
  • Directing the respondent to provide subtle alternate housing for the petitioner when the respondent is the sole owner or lessee of the residence or household
  • Awarding temporary custody of or establishing temporary visitation rights with regard to any minor children born to or adopted by the parties
  • Awarding financial support to the petitioner and such persons as the respondent has a duty to support
  • Directing the respondent to attend available counseling programs that address violence and control issues or substance abuse problems
  • Ordering payment of attorney fees and court costs

If the order of protection is violated in any way, the court may hold the defendant in civil or criminal contempt. In such a case, the judge may assess the individual a civil penalty of $50. Imprisonment is also possible if an order of protection is violated. This may be conducted with or without a warrant.

It's important to point out that an arrest for violating an ex parte order of protection may not proceed unless the respondent was served the order or had knowledge of the order prior to the violation.

In accordance with the law, arresting officers are required to notify victims about an arrestee's eligibility to post bond and the fact that the arrestee may be released until the trial date.

Let Us Help You Through This Difficult Time

At McKellar & Easter, Attorneys at Law, we help victims of domestic violence and abuse get the protection they need to resume a normal life free of future fear and abuse.

To schedule an appointment with our firm, call 865-566-0125 or contact us online. Initial telephone consultations are available at our Knoxville, Tennessee office.