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Do Past Instances of Family Violence Enough to Justify a Protective Order?

A protective order is designed to protect Houston-area residents from the threat of family violence, which under Texas law includes any act intended to cause “physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault” against a family or household member. Family violence also applies to people who are in, or have been in, a dating relationship.

Judges May Consider All Prior Acts of Physical & Verbal Abuse

A judge is required to issue a protective order if the person seeking said order can prove two things:

  • that family violence has occurred in the past; and
  • that family violence is likely to occur in the future.

The court may infer the violence is likely to occur in the future based on past events. Here is a recent example from a case in Dallas. A woman–the petitioner in this case–obtained a protective order against her former boyfriend, the respondent, with whom she currently has a child. At a hearing, the woman presented evidence regarding a number of past incidents that the court categorized as family violence.

The petitioner and respondent were in a dating relationship for some time when she became pregnant. She initially decided to get an abortion, but was scared off due to the presence of anti-abortion “picketers and rioters outside the clinic,” according to court records. She subsequently spoke with the respondent, who became angry and “without warning, took his open hand and bashed her head against the passenger side window” of his car. The petitioner initially reported this act of violence to the police, but she declined to seek a protective order at the time because they were “having a child together.”

Later, when the petitioner was about nine months’ pregnant, she testified that the respondent “pushed her and she stumbled down six stairs” at her home. The petitioner called the police, but no further action was taken against the respondent.

After the child was born, there was another incident where the respondent “pushed [the petitioner] against the living room wall.” There were at least two more acts of physical violence after this, including an attack in front of the child. The petitioner said the respondent became angry one day when she was late for an appointment. He pushed the petitioner into the seat of her car and “pinned her down by the neck,” causing her to gasp for air. The purpose of this attack, the petitioner testified, was so the respondent could take her cell phone to prevent her from calling for help. Eventually, the petitioner did contact police and at that she decided to seek a protective order, which the court granted.

The respondent appealed the protective order, arguing these past incidents did not prove “that family violence is likely to occur in the future.” The appeals court rejected that argument, noting a judge can infer the likelihood of future violence based on the “several instances of abuse” documented against the respondent over the course of his relationship with the petitioner. The court also cited evidence of the respondent’s verbal abuse.

Has Family Violence Affected You in League City?

Whether you are the accuser or the accused in scenarios like the one described above, it is important to seek advice from a qualified Galveston protective order lawyer. If you need any assistance in a legal matter related to family violence, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today.