The Law Office of Judy Ritts
Domestic Violence

Domestic (family) violence is one of the many important issues involved in divorce or child custody cases. There are countless books and articles written about family violence and counseling resources designed to help stop the cycle of abuse. Those resources can be very valuable, but this page is focused on educating you regarding legal rights and judicial resources, whether you are the victim of family violence or you are accused of family violence.

The most important thing to do if you are the victim of family violence is to keep yourself and your children safe. The Houston Area Women’s Shelter helps survivors of domestic violence (both female and male victims) by providing crisis intervention, emergency shelter, counseling, advocacy and support services. They can be reached at (713) 528-2121 or visit their website. If you are still in the home with your abuser, you should make a safety plan. For ideas regarding what to include in your plan and some other helpful suggestions, please visit Safe Horizon’s website.

Family Violence Defined

Family violence includes:
1) an act by a member of a family or household against another member of that family or household, or against a victim with whom the individual is or was involved in a marriage or dating relationship, that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault,
2) a threat that places another member of the family, household, or who is or was in a marriage or dating relationship, in reasonable fear of physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual abuse, or
3) child abuse, including physical injury to the child, genuine threat of physical injury, or sexual abuse.

Protective Orders

If you or your child is the victim of family violence, there are numerous ways to get help in the form of a protective order from a court.

First, if family violence has recently occurred, call the police. If an individual is arrested for a criminal offense involving family violence, a magistrate MAY issue an order for emergency protection. If the arrest for family violence involves serious bodily injury or use of, or even showing, a deadly weapon, the magistrate MUST issue a protective order. A Magistrate’s Protective Order is only effective for a limited time, usually 60 days.

After receiving a Magistrate’s Protective Order, or if you do not contact the police and/or receive a Magistrate’s Protective Order, you should contact the District Attorney’s Office to receive a regular protective order.

The District Attorney’s Office provides free services to obtain a regular protective order that can be effective for up to 2 years. The DA’s office provides these free services only if you are not represented by a private attorney. It is important to contact the DA’s office as soon as possible because they may need to gather evidence, take photos, etc., to help document the abuse. The DA’s office is located in the Criminal Justice Center at 1201 Franklin, Houston, TX 77002.

If you ask for a protective order and there is a clear and present danger of family violence, the court may enter a temporary order without first holding a hearing. Temporary orders are only valid for 20 days, with the possibility of additional 20-day extensions.

A private attorney can also help you get a protective order. Along with the protective order, the Judge may order the perpetrator to pay your attorney’s fees spent getting the order. However, you may not always be able to collect this money.

Who Can Apply for a Protective Order

1) An adult member of a family or household may file an application for a protective order to protect himself/herself or any other member of his or her family or household who has suffered family violence.
2) A member of a dating relationship in which there is violence.
3) Any adult may apply for a protective order to protect a child from family violence.
4) A prosecuting attorney or the Department of Family and Protective Services.

Keeping the Abuser Out of the House

In some cases, a protective order may keep an individual from occupying his or her own residence. A court may only order this if:
1) the person requesting the order currently resides in the residence or resided there within 30 days before applying for the protective order;
2) the person to be kept out of the residence committed family violence within the 30 days before the application for the order; and
3) there is a clear and present danger that the person to be kept out of the residence is likely to commit family violence against a member of the household.

What the Protective Order Will Actually Do

Protective orders are entered into the Statewide Law Enforcement Information System, maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

If someone violates a protective order, there are a variety of remedies available. The perpetrator may be punished by contempt (possibly resulting in jail time), a fine, or both.

The court may also order a person found to have committed family violence to complete a battering intervention and prevention program.

WARNING: Remember that a protective order is only a piece of paper. It is not a brick wall and it will not stop a fist, a bullet, a car, a baseball bat, or a determined perpetrator. A protective order will only order the perpetrator to stay away from your home, place of work, and/or your children’s school or daycare. It does not order the perpetrator to stay away from YOU, wherever you happen to be. If you run into the perpetrator at any other location - the grocery store, a movie theater - he/she is not required to leave. YOU MUST DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR CHILDREN. YOU CANNOT DEPEND ON A PROTECTIVE ORDER TO DO THAT FOR YOU!

If You are Accused of Family Violence

The existence of temporary or permanent protective orders can influence the court’s final determination in divorce, child custody, and child support cases. If you are accused of family violence, seek legal representation immediately to protect your interests.

Call Call
for a FREE Case Assessment

Practice Areas
  • Family Law
  • Divorce
  • Adoption Law
  • Child Custody Law
  • Child Support
  • Visitation Rights
  • Domestic Violence
  • Spousal Support
  • Paternity
  • Father's Rights

  • What Our Clients Say

    Credit Cards

    This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. [ Site Map ] [ Bookmark Us ]