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Focus on the Law: Orders of protection

By Sharon Frankenberg,
Attorney at Law

An Order of Protection is a legal document signed by a judge that helps protect you from domestic violence.  To qualify to obtain an Order of Protection you must have at least one of several particular types of relationships with your abuser.  You may be current or former spouses, have lived together, have dated or had a sexual relationship, be related by blood, adoption or marriage.  No specific relationship is required if you have been the victim of a sexual assault or stalking.

There are three kinds of Orders of Protection:  No Contact, No Contact with Communication and Social Contact. The first two types do not permit any physical contact between victim and abuser.  The last type merely prohibits the abuser from hurting, attempting to hurt or threatening to harm to the victim. The Order of Protection can also designate who lives in the home, award custody and visitation of children and/or pets, require payment of spousal support and/or child support and require the abuser to attend counseling for domestic violence.

You do not have to have a lawyer to get an Order of Protection but a petition for an Ex Parte Order of Protection must be filed with the court in your county.  This is called an “Ex Parte” order because initially only one party appears before the judge.  The Ex Parte Order is only temporary until a full hearing may be had with both parties having the opportunity to be heard.  You will need to fill out a form describing the abuse.  You must be prepared to tell when, where and what happened.  You will need to give specific examples of why you were in fear and how you were hurt.  This form is available at both the Family Justice Center (400 Harriet Tubman Street, Knoxville, TN 37915 ph. 521-6336) and the Fourth Circuit Court Clerk (City-County Bldg. , Main Floor, 400 Main Ave., Knoxville, TN 37902 ph. 215-2404).  The Chancery Court also has jurisdiction to issue Orders of Protection.  When your papers have been filled out, the clerk will tell you when you can see a judge about issuing the Order of Protection.

In addition, almost every Thursday morning, Fourth Circuit Court in Knox County has hearings on Orders of Protection.   Fourth Circuit Court is located on the main floor of the City-County Building.  Attorneys with Legal Aid of East Tennessee, volunteer attorneys and advocates from the YWCA help victims of domestic violence file the necessary paperwork and complete the court hearings needed to obtain an order of protection.  They can also help with pursuing punishment of the abuser if he or she is violating the order of protection.  Violations must be reported to the court by filing a violation petition.

Violations of Orders of Protection are punishable by jail time as well as fines.  Remember if you are in immediate danger call 911, whether you have an order of protection or not.

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