The terms “restraining order” and “protective order” are often used interchangeably. However, these two orders, as used in Texas family law, are quite distinct in their purpose, scope, and remedy. It is important to understand the distinction between these two orders if you think it may be necessary to pursue special protection from the court.


Protective Order

There are two key differences between a restraining order and a protective order. First, a protective order creates a body of criminal law applicable only to the person who is the subject of the order. This has an important effect on the difficult of obtaining a protective order and the remedy if the order is violated as opposed to the restraining order. The other major difference is, the obligations of a protective order only apply to one individual. On the other hand, a restraining order usually include a set of mutual restrictions between the parties.

Protective orders are used to try and prevent family violence. These are a more extreme order and thus require a high standard of proof to obtain. The purpose of a protective order is to protect the life, limb, and emotional well-being of people who have been victims of family violence. Therefore, it is necessary for the individual applying for a protective order to be able to prove that the subject of the protective order has committed one or more acts of family violence.

Protective orders usually prevent the subject from contacting, communicating with, or even getting near one or more other family members. Further, if a protective order prevents the subject from coming within 500 feet of another individual, the 500 feet restriction moves with the protected individual. Protective orders necessarily restrain the liberty of the subject and a violation of a protective order can be prosecuted as a criminal offense. Thus, this is a serious order and is only granted in cases where it can be proven that family violence is likely to occur and needs to be prevented.

Restraining Order

In contrast, restraining orders are often granted by the court, especially in the family law context. Restraining orders are a civil court order. Restraining orders often apply to both parties subject to the court proceeding. The remedy for violation of a restraining order generally will not extend beyond contempt of court and correcting any damage caused by the violation. However, depending on the violation, if it is a first violation, the court will most likely admonish the offender to behave better in the future.

Restraining orders are often much more broad than protective orders. For example, they often prevent parties from speaking ill of one another in front of the children, emptying bank accounts, or harassing one another to name a few common restrictions. Further, restraining orders are easier to obtain and routinely granted by the court. Usually, a reasonable request for a restraining provision will be granted by a court. Finally, restraining orders conclude with the conclusion of the lawsuit (or sooner upon agreement of the parties); however, a protective order may remain in effect for up to 2 years without regard to the status of the lawsuit.

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