In Tennessee, if you are the victim of domestic abuse, stalking, sexual assault, or have been placed in fear of any of the aforementioned, then you may file for an order of protection against the alleged abuser. When seeking an order of protection, the court will usually grant and ex parte order of protection and set the matter for a hearing within fifteen (15) days or the court may deny the ex parte petition and set the matter for a hearing within a few weeks.
While there are numerous examples of the different grounds for an order of protection (stalking, domestic abuse, sexual assault), the main requirement is that you have some sort of personal relationship with the alleged attacker. This relationship may be through marriage, a prior marriage, a roommate, or even a dating relationship. If the person has stalked you, you may also file for an order of protection.
During the order of protection hearing, you may expect to tell your side of the story and your alleged attacker or abuser will have the opportunity to respond. Generally, if the attacker was arrested, then this needs to be brought up in court and it is important to gather any evidence that you may have relating to the issues that may come up in court. For example, if you have pictures of your injuries or video of criminal behavior, this needs to be brought to the order of protection hearing.
It is advisable to have an attorney represent you for an order of protection hearing for quite a few reasons. First, many of the victims or the accused will come into court without knowing the rules of evidence and bring documents that are inadmissible for one reason or another. An attorney may help you present your case in a manner that is easy for the judge to understand and digest. Second, an attorney may effectively cross-examine a victim or accuser in such a manner that they may persuade the court to grant or deny a petition for an order of protection. Moreover, if you are seeking a divorce then filing for divorce while there is a pending order of protection will, by operation of law, the order of protection to stay in effect during the divorce.
Orders of protection are very important as there are serious consequences to the same. For example, if someone has been granted an order of protection against you, then you are prohibited from possessing firearms. For example, if you are a hunter and have a safe at home filled with your hunting rifles and other weapons, you are required to dispossess yourself of those firearms within forty-eight (48) hours of the issuance of the order of protection. You are also required to fill out a firearms declaration and file the same with the court within that forty-eight (48) hour period.
Another important consequence of an order of protection is that the accused is not allowed to contact the victim in any way. This would include via email, text message, in person, over the phone, or through any social media accounts. Finally, if the parties involved in an order of protection have minor children, then the court may be required to set visitation and fashion a visitation plan for the duration of the order of protection.
Visitation plans should be carefully crafted so as to avoid any interaction between the victim and the abuser. One example is to exchange the child or children at the local police department and include in the order a specific provision requiring the alleged attacker or abuser to stay in the vehicle throughout the duration of the exchange. Another way to perform the exchange would be to ask a third-party to facilitate the exchange between the children.
Overall, it is important to have an attorney to help navigate through this process and answer any tough questions that you may have. If you have been served with a petition for an order of protection or wish to file for an order of protection, the attorneys at Floyd Law Group are here to assist you through the process.