What to do if You’ve Been Served with an Order of Protection

office desk with laptop, phone, notepad, coffee mug

If you’ve been served with an order of protection (probably a “temporary” or “ex parte” order) there are a few things you need to know, and a few things you need to do before you do anything else.

You may be confused. You may be angry. You may feel like this is unfair and complete nonsense. It may be nonsense, but there’s a right way to handle this.

One thing you need to understand is there are two stages to an order of protection (or “OP”). Initially, a person asks for a “temporary” or “ex parte” order. This is only supposed to be done in an emergency, and the person asking (the “petitioner”) is the only person there to testify. The request is made in front of a judge, commissioner, or magistrate.

If the judge or official decides that there is sufficient reason to issue an order, they issue an ex parte order of protection. This is only supposed to be effective for a short time. Once the respondent (the person responding) to the OP has been served, a hearing before a judge is to be scheduled. This is required to occur within 15 days. That hearing is your opportunity to tell your side of the story. You need to be prepared for that hearing.

That hearing will determine whether the OP moves to the second stage. If the judge decides the petitioner really does need protection, the judge will issue an order of protection that may be in place for up to a year. You want to avoid that if at all possible.

First: Who is protected by the order?

First thing to do is establish who filed the request for an order of protection and who all is protected by it. Tennessee uses a standard form for all orders of protection, and the top of it looks like this:

standard form for all orders of protection

This section will tell you who filed it and whether or not your children are included in the order. If your children are included, the rest of the order applies to them. That means you’re not going to be able to talk to them or visit with them until this is resolved. If your kids are not included, then you can see them like you normally would.

Second: What are your restrictions?

The next part of the order you need to look at looks like this:

second part of order

The judge or commissioner will have checked whatever boxes they feel are appropriate. Notice that the first three are always checked. The fourth and fifth will almost always be checked, but sometimes not.

Whatever the order says, YOU MUST OBEY IT. Take it seriously, it is not a joke. And please don’t try to be clever and sneak around the language in the order. If the order says you can’t contact the petitioner, then don’t call them. Don’t text them. Don’t tag them in social media posts. Don’t leave a sign at the side of the road on their way to work. Don’t write a message in your baby’s diapers. Don’t have a friend call them. Don’t send them glitter bombs. Do not communicate with them at all. The judges have seen all the tricks.

Also, if the petitioner calls you, texts you, emails, or whatever DO NOT RESPOND. But save a copy of the communication to show to your lawyer. Don’t delete anything. This is a common trap. If you respond, you might find yourself being arrested.

Why should you follow the order? Because if you don’t, not only are you risking going to jail over something dumb, if the judge in your case decides that you can’t even follow a simple order for a couple weeks, it will be much more difficult to convince the judge the petitioner was wrong about you and you didn’t do all the things they claim you did.

Third: Know your court date

The last important section of the order looks like this:

last important section of the order

You need to know the court date, and you definitely need to show up. You will (probably) never win this if you don’t show up.

Fourth: Hire a lawyer

Don’t wait, call an attorney now. If you wait for the last couple days prior to the hearing, you’re going to have trouble finding available help. The court date will be a hearing that is a lot like a trial. There are rules of procedure and rules of evidence that have to be followed, and a lawyer can help you prepare your case in a way that allows for all of your admissible evidence to be shown to the judge.

The documents you were served with should include the petition that has a written narrative where the petitioner explained what they claim you have done. Your attorney needs to see this to help you prepare.

Your lawyer will help you lay out your case in a way that is logical, clear, and compelling. It’s a bit of an art and we have a lot of practice at it. Also, if your children were included in the order, the judge will be making decisions about when and how you can see your kids.

Call us, we can help

If you have been served with a temporary or ex parte order of protection and there are also criminal charges involved, call Marie at 615-244-1018 x 101. If your case also involves a divorce or child custody issues, call Lawrence at 615-244-1018 x 102. If you don’t know who you need, call either of us and we’ll help you figure it out.

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