A protective order is a legal declaration that protects victims of family violence from their abusers or potential abusers. Concerned persons may request this order from the county court or the district court at no cost, regardless of gender or marital status. Likewise, minors can request a child protective order, but this usually means child protective services will be involved.
Generally, the protective order legally compels the abuser to stay away from you for some time – usually two years, but you can get an extension. Although the terms of a protective order vary with the case, it usually means no phone calls, virtual contacts on digital platforms, or physical contact from your abuser. If your abuser violates any term of the protective order, they could go to jail or pay punitive fines.
Before You Get A Protective Order
Getting a protective order does not cost any money, and you may request one at any time – not necessarily after a violent episode.
To get a protective order, interested persons must visit the district court or county court in person, whichever is closer to them. There, you will need to visit the clerk’s office and fill a couple of forms and provide your information.
Persons who have been survivors of sexual assault worry about providing their personal information in a court application for protective order or complaint. But you needn’t worry about providing personal information if you don’t want to, per the survivor’s right based on the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure and Texas Health and Safety Code.
Getting A Protective Order
Collin County residents may visit the clerk’s office at the county court or the district court during business hours. The courts are located at:
Collin County Administration Building
2300 Bloomdale Road, Suite 2106
McKinney, TX 75071
Phone: (972) 548-4185 (McKinney)
Phone: (972) 424-1460 ext. 4185 (Metro)
Fax: (972) 547-5731
Russell A. Steindam Courts Building
2100 Bloomdale Road, Suite 12132
McKinney, TX 75071
Phone: (972) 548-4320 (McKinney)
Phone: (972) 424-1460 ext. 4320 (Metro)
These clerks’ offices are open between 8 A.M. and 4:30 P.M. on Mondays through Fridays. You do not need an appointment, although calling ahead may help fast-track your petition. You may even print and complete the form before reaching the courthouse.
When you file for a protective order, you may ask the judge for a Temporary Ex Parte Protective Order that protects you until your court hearing. Otherwise, the judge will schedule a hearing before issuing the protective order. Your abuser can still legally contact you before the hearing, which is typically two (2) weeks after your application. So, if your circumstances require that your abuser stay away from you or leave the house immediately, you must ask the judge. You will need to sign an affidavit or declaration to that effect.
Either way, court rules require that you serve the other person with a copy of your application and affidavit or declaration before the courting hearing. You do not have to visit your abuser to serve the papers. In fact, this is not advisable. Instead, ask the clerk to arrange for law enforcement to serve the other person with the court papers. This service is free.
The Court Hearing For A Protective Order
The court typically sets a hearing date for two weeks after the application for a protective order. You will need to take a copy of the documents you filed with the clerk along with you. Also, if you have any pictures, video, or paper evidence that can help your case, take those along too. These include photographs, medical records, torn clothing, police reports, and court records. Also, remember to take the proof of service with you.
To be safe, make copies of these documentary pieces of evidence and keep them safe. Put the original copies in an envelope and take them to court on the hearing date.
If you do not have these pieces of evidence or if your abuser destroyed relevant evidence, you ask that witnesses who know about the situation follow you to court. A witness may be a neighbor, friend, relative, or even a police officer who has intervened before. These individuals will provide testimony that corroborates your story. It is usually best to inform these individuals several days in advance. If an individual is reluctant to show up, you may request a subpoena from the judge before the trial.
On the court hearing day, arrive early at the courthouse and inform the clerk or bailiff of your presence. Then, wait for the clerk to call up your case. In the meantime, call your witnesses to remind them of the hearing if you haven’t. You may also rehearse your story and request. Most people find the courtroom experience to be unnerving. It’s ok if you feel anxious. You can write down your words instead and read from a paper when the hearing starts. Speak slowly and answer all questions completely. Half-truths and incomplete answers may hurt your application. Call witnesses and submit your evidence to the judge when necessary. You can always ask participants to repeat their questions or statements if you do not understand them at first. However, do not interject.
After the court hearing
At the end of the hearing, the judge will review the statements and evidence presented. If the judge concludes you need a protection order, the judge will sign your application. You will need to take this signed order to the clerk, who will certify the document. Make as many copies of the protective order as you want. You will need to file one with the court and send a copy to the relevant persons and entities, including your children’s daycare, babysitter, and school. If the abuser is employed, send a copy to their employer. Also, keep a copy of the protective order on you at all times.
If Your Abuser Violates A Protective Order
When the abuser violates the terms of the protective order, report the violation to the Collin County Sheriff’s Office and present a copy of the order. You may call or visit the Sheriff’s Office to report the violation:
Collin County Sheriff’s Office
4300 Community Avenue
McKinney, TX 75071
Phone: (972) 547-5100
Dail 911 for emergencies
Generally, they will arrest the violator and charge them to court. The judge will impose civil or criminal sanctions on the individual depending on the circumstances surrounding the violation. You should call the police immediately after a violation. Otherwise, one violation may embolden the abuser to disregard the protective order entirely.
Some abusers have used burner phones, numbers, and social media profiles to contact persons under a protective order. If this is the case, report the individual for cyberstalking.