Understanding Domestic Violence And Protective Orders

The statistics surrounding domestic violence indicate that one in four women in the United States are menaced or abused by their partners or former partners at least once in their lives. In Texas, domestic violence causes upwards of 100 deaths per year, and nearly all the victims are women or children. Whether you are a victim of domestic violence or have been wrongly accused of committing it, an important part of protecting yourself is to understand the legal definitions of the different types of domestic violence recognized by Texas courts.

Note: If you are experiencing or believe you are in danger of domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence hotline can be reached here. If you fear that your abuser is monitoring your Internet activity, contacting the hotline by phone may be a safer option. Call them at 1-800-799-7233.

Texas law has three definitions of family violence: violence by a family member against another family member, abuse of a child by a family member, or dating violence. If you or a family member are accused or convicted of any of these, the penalties can include fines, incarceration, and loss of privileges, such as owning firearms, voting, and gaining access to educational loans and financial assistance. Strong legal representation is a vital part of protecting your rights, whether you have been a victim of family violence or have been wrongly accused of committing such violence.

  • Violence by a family member against another family member (this also includes non-family members of the household): This includes any action that is meant to cause physical harm, assault, bodily injury, or sexual assault. It also includes threats that would cause a member of the family or household to have reasonable fear of injury, harm, or assault. This does not include self-defensive actions or reasonable corporal punishment by a parent.
  • Abuse of a child by a family or household member: This includes physical injuries that cause substantial harm to the child, or the threat of such injury. Reasonable discipline by a parent or guardian that does not put the child at risk of substantial injury does not constitute abuse. Abuse of a child also includes any sexual conduct that puts the child’s mental, emotional, or physical well being at risk, as well as encouraging or forcing a child to engage in any sexual conduct. Such abuse may necessitate a family-violence protective order.
  • Dating violence: Dating violence is defined as a non-self-defensive act that is intended to cause bodily injury, physical harm, or physical or sexual assault against someone with whom the offender is or was in a dating relationship with. This now includes victims who are or were dating or married to the person to whom the offender is or was married or dating.


Protective orders can be of tremendous help to anyone under the threat of family violence. Unlike restraining orders, police officers can enforce a protective order, and a violation of a protective order can result in arrest, fines, loss of conservatorship/parental rights, and incarceration. Orders of protection are intended to protect family members by preventing further domestic violence or harassment by abusers. Kits are available online to help you get your own order of protection. This is especially helpful if you are unable to hire an attorney. You are eligible for an order of protection if you and your abuser (or potential abuser) meet any of the following criteria:

  • Are current or former spouses
  • Are current or former dating partners
  • Have a natural, foster, or adopted child or children together
  • Are related by blood or marriage
  • Are currently or have lived together

Once a request for a protective order is filed, a hearing date will be set within 14 days. If the situation requires greater expediency, a temporary order can be issued immediately and is valid until the hearing. Once approved by the court, a protective order is effective for the period stated in the order, not to exceed two years; if a period is not stated in the order, the order is effective for two years. Protective orders issued in any US court are valid anywhere in the United States, and should the order be violated, it is imperative that police be called immediately.

Whether male or female, adult or child, being the victim of domestic violence can create feelings of guilt, shame, fear, dread, and helplessness. An experienced family law attorney can provide the help and guidance you need to navigate the situation and create a safe space for you and your family that is free from harassment and abuse. Protecting yourself, your children, and your rights is paramount in any case of family violence, and the assistance of a lawyer who understands the intricacies and difficulties associated with family violence cases can be an invaluable part of protecting yourself. Contact an attorney at Espronceda Law today if you need assistance with a domestic violence case.


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