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Can a protective order truly prevent domestic violence?

Texas residents may have heard about the recent slaying of a Tyler mother of two. Her ex-husband is accused of killing her, putting a final point on a long history of violence between the former couple. At one point the woman filed a protective order against her former spouse, though it had expired about six months before her death. But court records show that even when the order was still valid, her ex-husband violated it three times. Those violations may lead some to wonder whether a protective order offers any guarantees of safety.

Protective orders are designed to protect people from ongoing family violence. "Family" can include child or adult blood relatives, spouses, relatives by marriage, former spouses, foster parents or children, or any member or former member of a household, even if they are not related.

Protective orders don't just prohibit physical violence. Offenders are also not allowed to harass or threaten a victim, either directly or through communication from another person. People served with a protective order may also be prohibited from going to a place the victim frequents, such as a school or day care center, if the victim is a child.

But can a piece of paper really prevent someone from committing acts of violence? The Texas attorney general's office is quick to point out that no protective order can offer complete protection, and that victims of people who violate the order should call police immediately. Police are made aware of all orders in their area and will arrest violators, who risk fines of up to $4,000, up to a year of jail time or both.

Unfortunately, not even these penalties are enough to deter all violent offenders. The man suspected in the Tyler woman's death has yet to be convicted, and the orders that were filed against him in the past apparently weren't effective. But for those who feel threatened or are harmed by a family member, obtaining a protective order is one of the first steps to take.

Source: KLTV.com, "How protective is a protective order?" Melanie Torre, Nov. 1, 2012

· Our firm handles domestic violence, divorce and a wide range of other family law issues. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Dallas family law website.

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