If your spouse has been abusive or threatened violence, you should take legal steps to protect yourself during divorce proceedings. An order of protection requires the person to remain at least a certain physical distance away from you, your home and your workplace for at least one year.

These are the answers to frequently asked questions about obtaining a legal order of protection if you live in Tennessee.

How do I request an order of protection?

Complete the state’s Petition for Order of Protection form and submit it to your local circuit court. You do not have to pay court fees for this document.

What happens after I file?

Your spouse will receive official legal service of the petition and have the opportunity to attend a hearing, which the court will schedule to be held within 15 days. In the meantime, you can request a temporary (ex parte) order of protection. At the hearing, which you must attend, the judge will review the evidence in your petition and give your spouse a chance to respond. The judge will then decide whether or not to issue the order of protection.

How does an order of protection work?

In Tennessee, you can request in the petition that your spouse:

  • Refrain from contacting you and/or your children
  • Stay away from you, your home and your workplace
  • Refrain from damaging or interfering with your home, vehicle or property
  • Refrain from abusing or threatening to abuse your pets
  • Pay child support and/or spousal support as ordered by the court
  • Move out of the family home or provide you with suitable alternate housing
  • Attend violence and/or substance abuse counseling
  • Refrain from purchasing, buying or transporting weapons
  • Pay court costs and legal fees associated with your case

You can also ask the court to grant you temporary child custody and to transfer billing for your phone account. Although the court does not require you to have an attorney for this process, you may have one to advocate on your behalf during the hearing.