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“Every Step You Take, Every Move You Make, I'll Be Watching You”—Protective Orders In Texas

“Every Step You Take, Every Move You Make, I'll Be Watching You”—Protective Orders In Texas

While some people may have thought The Police’s song Every Breath You Take was a love song and played it at weddings, Sting has called the song “very, very sinister.” See Sold on Song, “Every Breath You Take” BBC, available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/soldonsong/songlibrary/indepth/everybreathyoutake.shtml.

To victims of family violence, the lyrics may describe stalking. The song may make them think about a court order to protect them from such behavior, rather than reminding them of their first dance together.

A protective order is designed to protect victims of past family violence. Texas believes that victims of family violence should be “entitled to the maximum protection from harm or abuse or the threat of harm or abuse as is permitted by law.” Tex. Code Crim. Pro. art. 5.01. To that end, the legislature enacted Title 4 of the Family Code, which provides a means for victims to protect themselves from abusers.

A protective order shall be issued “if the court finds that family violence has occurred and is likely to occur in the future.” Tex. Fam. Code § 81.001. Briefly, family violence is violence against a family member, someone in a shared household as the offender “without regard to whether they are related to each other,” someone the abuser is dating, or a past or current romantic partner. See Tex. Fam. Code § 71.001 et seq. It is also violence spurred because of the victim’s marriage or romantic relationship to a person with whom the offender once married or dated. Id. at § 71.0021. For example, if someone punches his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, that might be family violence. What constitutes family violence can be broad, as the Houston Court of Appeals explored in Wilkerson v. Wilkerson, 321 S.W.3d 110 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2010, pet. dism’d). There, the court determined a protective order may be issued to protect half-siblings from their half-brother and a stepmother from her stepson when the offender had never shared a household with them.

The terms a court may require in a protective order may also be broad. In addition to prohibiting more violence or threats of violence, a court may order the offender to participate in a battering intervention program or counseling. Tex. Fam. Code § 85.022(a) and (b). If the circumstances require, an offender may be ordered to communicate with the victim only through the victim’s attorney. Id. at § 85.022(b)(2)(C). The offender may also be ordered not to go near the residence of place of employment of the victim. Id. § 85.022(b)(3).

Concerning children, a protective order may prohibit either party—the offender or the victim—from removing a child from the child’s guardian, grant a parent possession or access, or order child support. Id. § 85.021(1), (3), and (4). The order may prohibit the offender from going near the residence of the children or their school or child-care facility. Id. at § 85.022(b)(4).

The terms of a protective order may also concern the parties’ property. A protective order must suspend an offender’s license to carry a concealed handgun and may prohibit the offender from possessing a handgun. § 85.022(b)(6) and (d). Further, it may prohibit either party from disposing of jointly owned property, award one party the exclusive use of jointly owned or leased property, or order a party out of a jointly owned or leased home. Tex. Fam. Code § 85.021(1), (2), and (5). It may also prohibit a person from harming or removing a pet or assistance animal from the animal’s owner and prohibit the offender from harming or threatening a pet. Tex. Fam. Code §§ 85.021(1)(C) and 85.022(b)(7).

So if thinking about someone you know watching you at every moment leaves you feeling more unsettled than romantic, perhaps it’s time you look into a protective order.

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