You do not have to be married or related to another person to be protected or liable under the Texas Family Code where protective orders and further legal tools may be used in connection with violence between people.Texas family violence laws, reformed over years of efforts to stop abuse, are strict and there are many limitations and liabilities people face when they are found to have committed family violence against another. The Texas Council on Family Violence reporting facts and statistics indicates that in 2014 there were 132 women killed by abusers, 21,331 adults and children placed in shelters, and 185,817 family violence incidents in Texas. Family violence victims may obtain protective orders from the court to protect them from their abusers. The implications and violations of which are serious and not something anyone wants to experience or have on their record.
Dating violence: The Texas Family Code
The Texas Family Code defines dating violence as follows:
“(a) “Dating violence” means an act, other than a defensive measure to protect oneself, by an actor that: (1) is committed against a victim or applicant for a protective order: (A) with whom the actor has or has had a dating relationship; or (B) because of the victim’s or applicant’s marriage to or dating relationship with an individual with whom the actor is or has been in a dating relationship or marriage; and (2) is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the victim or applicant in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault.”
“(b) For purposes of this title, “dating relationship” means a relationship between individuals who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. The existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on consideration of: (1) the length of the relationship; (2) the nature of the relationship; and (3) the frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.”
“(c) A casual acquaintanceship or ordinary fraternization in a business or social context does not constitute a “dating relationship” under Subsection (b).”
What can a person can do to apply for help and protection from an abuser?
If a person is in a dating relationship as defined in the Texas Family Code and an act of dating violence occurs, the victim may complete and submit an application to the district court clerk for a judge to render a finding of domestic violence and a protective order specifically prohibiting the abuser from doing any of the acts that lead to the victim’s petition and the court’s finding that family violence occurred and was likely to occur in the future, even dating violence.
In some cases, judges will render separate protective orders that apply to both parties, requiring both of them to restrain from whatever acts are identified in the underlying application and order. In many cases where dating violence leads to a protective order, the dating relationship may be over between the parties in any case, and it is best to stay away from one another and not violate any protective orders.
What happens when a protective order is rendered against an abuser?
The protective order will require the abuser to stay away from the victim, at least 500 feet from their home or work place. They abuser must not commit any acts of violence, make threats through another person, or stalk the victim seeking protection. The protective order can also order the abuser to obtain counseling for their conduct and behavior. The protective order is good for up to two or more years. The terms and conditions of protective orders are designed to protect the victim and the abuser may have significant conditions placed upon them in the protective order.
It is important to note that while a protective order prohibits an abuser from being within 500 feet of the home or work place, it does not prohibit them from staying 500 feet away from you. The protective order is also not body armor and it is important to talk to your attorney and or the judge or police about ways to be safe and protect yourself and others. Note that the victim may move residences to feel safe, and may not tell the abuser the new address, which may seem odd, but the abuser could inadvertently violate the protective order by being within 500 feet of the new home of a victim.
Contrary to opinions of some, protective orders do not change or prohibit periods of possession and access with children as determined in court-ordered visitation schedules. Harassing and threatening the other who is named as the protected individual may lead to an arrest and penalties for violating the protective order. Furthermore, many people do not know that possession of a firearm may be prohibited. For more information about family violence protective orders and dating violence as a factor, it is best to seek the advice and counsel of an experienced family law attorney.
Dallas and Collin County Board Certified divorce and family law attorney, Mark Scroggins, along with their team at Scroggins Law Group?advise and represent DFW Metroplex families with all their legal issues, including dating and family violence and protective orders.
At Scroggins Law Group, our Dallas and Collin County divorce attorneys have more than over 24 years of collective experience with family law cases. When you retain our firm, you can trust that your case is in the hands of a highly skilled, dedicated professional. we understand the unique challenges of a high value divorce case, and more importantly, have the knowledge and experience you need on your side. Call us today to learn more about Texas divorce and family law: (214) 469-3100.
[i] Texas Council on Family Violence,
facts and statistics
Section 71.0021(b) [iv] Texas Family Code