A person who has been physically abused, threatened with physical abuse, stalked, sexually abused, or harassed may file a petition and obtain an order of protection in Tennessee. An order of protection may be a part of a divorce proceeding. However, it may not involve a divorce at all. While many procedures apply before a person may be ordered to stay away from the petitioner of an order of protection, the person against whom the order of protection is sought and obtained may be required to terminate possession of all of their firearms within 48 hours of the court granting the order of protection. A person who continues to possess firearms after an order of protection is granted commits a criminal offense in some circumstances. Furthermore, a person’s rights to purchase a gun may be terminated or suspended.
While a court may immediately order a person to stay away from the other in an order of protection, the person who is told to stay away has a right to hearing within fifteen days of the initial order being granted. Orders of protection can last up to ten years.
When a person seeks an order of protection, Tennessee law does not allow the clerk to require that person to pay a filing fee. If the court grants the order of protection, the court can order the person who is told to stay away from the petitioner to pay the petitioner their attorneys fees, court costs, and other expenses. However, a court is not allowed to award attorneys fees, court costs, and other expenses to the person who successfully defends the order of protection to a dismissal. While a lot of orders of protections are agreed to with the understanding they will be dismissed after a period of time, that dismissal does not allow the judge to expunge the public records unless the dismissal was part of hearing. Since this produces an illogical result, the attorneys at Hodges, Doughty and Carson, PLLC are proposing legislation to change the law in Tennessee on this issue.
An order of protection may order the person who has committed domestic abuse, sexual abuse, harassment, stalking or threatened abuse to stay away from the petitioner and have no contact with them. In addition a court may award possession of the marital home to one of the parties and order the support of one of the parties by the other. Orders of protection can also include provisions regarding the custody, visitation and co-parenting time regarding children.
A person who violates the order of protection can be held in criminal or civil contempt, ordered to pay a fine, and order to serve time in the county jail for the violation. A police officer may arrest the respondent with or without an arrest warrant if he or she has reasonable cause to believe that the person has violated the order of protection. A person arrested for violating the order of protection may receive a bond so that they can remain free on bail pending the trial.