Temporary Restraining Orders in Texas – What Does a TRO Do
A temporary restraining order, commonly known as a “TRO” is used in family law to place injunctions without a full hearing on one or both parties. These injunctions prohibit specific actions that could endanger or prove damaging to the property in a divorce or the children of a divorce. You should have an idea on what the process entails.
A TRO is governed by Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 680 and Texas Family Code § 6.501. If your spouse wishes to file a TRO that immediately excludes you from possession of or access to your children, a notice of this hearing must be given to you prior to the court date. The only exception to this is an Ex-Parte meeting with the judge, which means that only your spouse or her attorney will be present at the preliminary hearing. The judge may order a TRO Ex-Parte only if the TRO clearly demonstrates from specific facts shown by affidavit or by a verified complaint that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the applicant or children before notice can be served and an actual hearing.
If you are on the receiving end of TRO and it prohibits you from access to your children, there are some things to keep in mind.
First: a TRO has a time limit, which is 14 days. After 14 days the TRO may be extended by a judge only once for an additional 14 days. Thus at most this TRO may only last 28 days’ absent agreement to an additional extension. A Judge does have the discretion to extend the TRO more than once if it is uncontested (you do nothing or do not appear).
Second: A TRO is NOT a Protective Order. This means that the police cannot kick you out of your house or forcibly arrest you for violating a TRO, absent any related criminal conduct. There are consequences for violating the TRO but not criminal consequence. You may be found in contempt of court by the Judge who ordered the TRO and forced to pay fines or be held to more severe sanctions. Violations will not be good for your case if you intentionally violate.
Third: A TRO must have a signed and notarized Affidavit or a verified pleading attached to the motion. If the opposing counsel did not follow these procedures the order may upon motion to dissolve be found void due to violation of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
Fourth: You cannot practically appeal a TRO because it may only last for at most 28 days, if contested. Once you are served with the Ex-Parte TRO, you may request a motion to modify or dissolve the TRO after giving your spouse 48-hour notice and seek attorney fees if the filing was false or frivolous.
TRO’s are civil injunctions that are usually given without notice only if immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will happen. The proof rules are more relaxed in Family Law Cases. Specific TRO procedures can differ in all counties and in different courts so make sure the check online the rules of each specific jurisdiction.
TRO’s only last 14 days and cannot be enforced by police officers, absent related criminal activity. Do not be distressed if you are served a TRO one day while you are battling your spouse for child custody or property. Take a deep breath call your attorney and set a hearing to modify, vacate or dissolve the TRO.
Many counties have standing orders that issue and are effective as to both parties upon the filing of a Family Law Proceeding. Read such mandatory orders before you file your case.
Recurring Wrongful Conduct: Holiday Violations of Visitation Access
The holidays can be very frustrating times for both spouses when undergoing divorce proceedings that involve custody issues with children and one spouse acts in bad faith or arbitrarily. If a spouse violates a temporary custody order, he or she may not face consequences at the time but must explain their actions to a district judge in the future.
If a temporary custody order describes in detail the periods of possession during the Christmas holiday, the order is binding on both spouses. The temporary custody order is binding civilly and NOT criminally per se. This is an important distinction to understand before you decide to call the police. Family law matters, with notable exceptions such as domestic violence and protective orders, are generally governed in civil and not criminal courts. Because temporary custody orders involving children are governed by civil courts, a police officer has no immediate basis to enforce the civil order.
If your spouse refuses to release your child to you at the prescribed time mandated in the temporary custody order, there are certain things that you should do to insure this wrongful conduct properly is documented for future civil contempt proceedings.
- Call the police!!! Many police departments will not respond because temporary custody orders are not criminally enforceable, but if the police department decides to respond then you may request a police report to be filed noting that your spouse deliberately violated the temporary custody order. This may be used in Court to persuade the judge to hold your spouse in civil contempt or validate your properly made demand for access in accordance with your temporary order.
- Save and preserve any text messages, emails, letters, or recorded phone calls that demonstrate and reaffirm your spouse’s refusal to deliver your children into your custody during the holiday or other allotted time in your visitation order.
- Call your attorney and notify him of your spouse’s refusal to deliver the children to you.
- Do not be tricked or cohered into a physical confrontation with your soon to be ex-spouse!!!
By completing these four tasks you will be gathering and preserving evidence to hold your spouse in civil contempt of Court. After the Christmas Holiday season or other access periods are over, your lawyer with your consent will file a motion to hold your spouse in contempt of Court for violation of the temporary custody order. If your spouse is found in civil contempt of Court, he or she may be fined, ordered to jail for up to 180 days until the fine and attorney fees are paid, and the violation may be a solid basis to favourably modify the previous temporary custody orders. Such rulings are at the judge’s discretion.
Though you may feel helpless at the time, justice may be achieved through the District Courts in the form of civil or contempt sanctions. Judges usually look down on a spouse that blatantly violates temporary custody orders especially during Christmas or other special holidays. Just relax and be patience if your spouse refuses to deliver the children to you and document the conduct. Justice may take time but in the end, it is usually affirmed.
The Nacol Law Firm P.C.
8144 Walnut Hill Lane
Dallas, Texas 75231
Emotional Abuse in a Marriage
Many headlines are common as to in what ways Domestic Physical Violence and Physical Abuse affects families and individuals. Consider however the silent spoiler of marriage: Emotional Abuse!
Most domestic abuse and violence commences with deliberate on-going negative behavior by one partner/parent against another family member as the abuser demeans and dismantles the victim’s feelings of self-worth and independence.
Just because a person does not end up in the hospital as a victim of physical abuse, emotional scars and a resulting negative self-image may adversely impact the individual for their entire life.
Emotional abuse often includes verbal abuse, controlling behavior, intimidation and isolation. Most emotional abusers will also make multiple violence threats and orchestrate other non-physical types of punishments if their victims refuse to blindly obey.
Since “the Abuser’s Goal is Always Control”, economic/ financial control is one of the most common forms of emotional abuse. Victims have feelings of “no way out” from abusive relationships and strict financial control imposed by the abuser results in spiraling hopelessness.
What are some serious financial control issues to look out for? Do you have a problem?
Total controlling of all family expenses.
Withholding money and credit cards and strict, unrealistic allowance restrictions.
Withholding basic necessities (food, clothing, shelter, medical needs).
Controlling your choice of career and prevention or obstruction from gainful employment.
Sabotaging your job by constantly calling you, causing problems with your boss or associates, and causing you to miss work.
Stealing money from you.
All types of abuse are sick, but emotional abuse the silent spoiler of lives is often overlooked until it is too late. Every family member in these cases may be effected and scared for years. Many children who are tainted by abuse never completely know a normal loving relationship with a partner, spouse, or child since their low self-esteem prevents normal intimacy with others.
Texas SB 250 Protective Orders for Stalking Victims
Texas SB250 bill, effective 9/1/2012, provides stalking as grounds for a protective order. All persons who are victims of stalking have the right to a protective order against their stalker without requiring that the alleged stalker first be arrested for the crime. This legislation also eliminates the need for the stalker to be related, have had relations, or children with the victim before a protective order can be placed. Now more victims who have been exposed to cyber bulling attacks or fixations by strangers and feel that they could be subjected to serious bodily injury or death can petition the court for a protective order.
If you are a victim of stalking, find a lawyer who is familiar with the Texas SB250 Stalking Law. The victim can petition the county court in either their or the stalker’s county with an affidavit on the stalking situation.
If the court finds the information in the application for a protective order that there is a definite and present danger of a sexual assault, stalking, or other harm to the victim, the court, without a hearing, may enter a temporary ex parte order for the protection of the victim and other members of the victim’s family or household for a period up to 20 days without notifying the stalker. If the stalker violates the protective order, the victim should immediately call the police who will arrest the stalker for violating the order.
By allowing victims to seek protection from any type of stalker, no matter of relationship, Texas has provided a new layer of protection to their citizens.