A Guide to Restraining Orders in Texas Divorce & Family Law
When it comes to Texas family law and divorce, knowing the right terms and how to seek the right types of orders for your specific needs is of crucial importance. At Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C., we speak with many clients who think they may need one type of order, when they really require something else, or when they may have more appropriate alternatives available. That’s a common scenario in matters of restraining orders.
To help you get a grasp on how restraining orders work in Texas, we’ve put together a brief guide.
Restraining Orders vs. Protection Orders
For many people, the term restraining order is used interchangeably with protective order. While there are some similarities, and although both can be established immediately through ex parte orders (meaning, without notice to the other party), they do have different meanings. For one:
- Protective orders – A Texas protective order is designed to protect victims of dating or family violence who have been physically harmed or threatened with physical harm (in addition to victims of sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking). A protective order may be sought during a divorce, but are available anytime regardless of whether the two parties involved are married. They can also be used as a means to protect minor children from domestic abuse. Often, protective orders require a person to leave a family home, stay away from a child or a person, not remove a child or property from a shared home, and forfeit their gun rights. In some cases, judges may also order those subject to a protective order to attend a treatment program or anger management classes, comply with new conditions for visitation, or submit to court-ordered drug testing.
- Restraining orders – Restraining orders are less about protection against violence, and more about preventing parties in a divorce from doing certain things. Although cases vary, restraining orders can create a number of “rules” with which a party must comply, such as prohibiting a soon-to-be-ex spouse from draining a bank account or taking out new loans, concealing assets, spending marital funds, or even disparaging the other parent in front of children.
Because there’s no requirement for demonstrating dating or family violence, restraining orders are much more common than protective orders.
Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO)
In terms of divorce, a temporary restraining orders (TRO) are relatively common. TROs can be issued on an ex parte basis, meaning without any notice to the other party involved. In some cases, other types of temporary orders can be issued either voluntarily, or after a hearing:
- Voluntary temporary order – Divorcing spouses, as well as parties in other types of family law proceedings, have the ability to voluntarily agree to the terms of a temporary order. For example, divorcing spouses may mutually agree to not sell certain assets, cancelling utilities, or dropping a spouse from an insurance policy.
- Evidentiary Hearings – In some cases, a lack of agreement may compel one party in a divorce or family law case to seek a temporary order hearing, at which both parties will testify, provide evidence, and make arguments before the court.
Purpose of a TRO
The primary benefits of a TRO in divorce and other family law proceedings are twofold. First, is that they can help prevent disputes, maintain the status quo, and contain any potential issues which may get out of hand and create new challenges in a case. Secondly, they can be enforced by the court. Should a person violate a temporary restraining order, the other party has the right to seek court intervention to enforce the order.
TROs ultimately ensure no party unfairly takes the upper hand in divorce. As short-term restrictions regulating conduct, TROs are similar to protective orders in that they can be ordered without a hearing. TROs remain in effect only for 14 days.
Other “Temporary Orders”
It is worth mentioning that there are other types of temporary orders you may find beneficial in your divorce or family law case, which are not in and of themselves restraining orders. These may include:
- Temporary spousal maintenance ordered during the pendency of a divorce;
- Temporary child custody, visitation, and child support to address co-parenting during divorce, or temporary arrangements for a child during a custody proceeding;
- Temporary possession of property before final property division orders;
- Temporary injunctions, which can apply to parties in a divorce or family law case or a third party, stay in effect for a specific amount of time or until the finalization of a case, and cannot be granted without a hearing.
The Importance of Legal Representation
Restraining orders, protective orders, and temporary orders in divorce and family law cases may each have their unique scope and purpose, but they are all high-stakes and challenging proceedings subject to a number of rules and procedures, complex legal standards, and potential problems. Navigating these proceedings while protecting your rights and interests and seeking a positive final outcome in your case are tasks which demand the attention of experienced lawyers.
Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C. is a Houston-based law firm with regional roots, and a national reputation. Our award-winning family law attorneys have decades of collective experience guiding clients through the many hurdles which can arise during divorce, custody, and other family law proceedings – including restraining and protective orders. Learn how our experience can help you by calling (713) 909-7323.