Tennessee: Restraining Orders

  1. Protective Orders

    1. Introduction

      A civil or criminal protection order (“CPO”) is distinguishable from a “restraining order.” A domestic relations court may issue a restraining order in a divorce or legal separation case in order to protect one spouse from the other, abusive spouse. A restraining order remains in effect and enforceable as long as the parties’ divorce or legal separation case is pending, and it expires upon the termination of that divorce or legal separation. Police and law enforcement officers cannot enforce restraining orders, which effectively places the burden on the protected spouse.

      In contrast, a CPO may be granted for the protection of an unmarried or married intimate partner, or the relatives of the abuser or abuser’s partner if the abuser and the victim are living together or have lived together previously. A WMC victim would be able to petition for a protective order in any case in which he or she can show that he or she is being repeatedly victimized by a defendant. A violation of such an order could lead to serious penalties for the defendant including money damages and jail time.

    2. Text of the Statute(s)

      1. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-605 – Protection order – extension – hearing

      2. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-606 – Scope of Protection Order

      3. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-609 – Copies of protection order to be issued

      4. Tenn. Code. Ann. § 36-3-612 – Violation of protection order or restraining order

    3. Cases

      1. Brown v. Vaughn, No. E2010-00373-COA-R3-CV, 2010 WL 3767123 (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 28, 2010)

        • Procedural Posture: Defendant ex-boyfriend of plaintiff appealed from the lower court order extending the plaintiff’s protective order against him for an additional year.

        • Law: Protective orders.

        • Facts: The parties D and A were romantically involved for about a year, immediately after which, D and her ex-husband remarried. Nonetheless, D and A continued to see each other until September 2009, when they ended their relationship, and she returned home to Tennessee to live with her husband. Three months later, she petitioned for and was granted a protective order based on her allegations that A was stalking her and that she was afraid of him. She later applied to extend the protective order, and her request was granted. The defendant appealed, arguing, among other things, that the court did not have jurisdiction to consider the parties’ dispute because none of the alleged behavior occurred in Tennessee, and “there was no proof of physical abuse or physical contact in this state.”1

        • Outcome: The court found that the trial court had properly exercised jurisdiction over the defendant based on numerous text messages and a photograph he transmitted in Tennessee although he had previously abused and threatened D out of state. The court noted that “in our view, such contacts constituted ‘conduct and connection with the forum state . . . such that [A] should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there.”2

        • Special Notes: Although the credibility of both parties was at issue, the court found the defendant to be less credible.3

    4. Practice Pointers

      • The party seeking the entry of an ex parte order of protection has a high burden of proof and must demonstrate “[a]n immediate and present danger of abuse to the petitioner.”4

      • The party seeking an extension of an existing order of protection must establish the allegation of “domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault by a preponderance of the evidence.”5

      • The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that the 10-day hearing requirement set forth in the statute is merely a limit on the duration of the ex parte order and is not a limit on jurisdiction.6

      • The forms to file an order of protection in Tennessee are available online.7

    1. Brown v. Vaughn, No. E2010-00373-COA-R3-CV, 2010 WL 3767123, at *4 (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 28, 2010).
    2. Id. (citing World-Wide Volkswagon Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980)).
    3. Id. (citing World-Wide Volkswagon Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980)).
    4. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-605(a).
    5. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-605(b).
    6. Kite v. Kite, 22 S.W.3d 803, 806 (Tenn. 1997) (reversing dismissal based on determination that the court maintained jurisdiction though the ten-day hearing requirement had come and gone).
    7. See, “Order of Protection Forms,” available at (last visited July 23, 2013).
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