In Tennessee, if a person claims that you have abused, sexually assaulted, or stalked them, they may petition the court for an order of protection. If granted, the order would effectively restrict you from engaging in certain conduct. But can an order of protection be issued against you without your knowledge? In some cases, yes, but it depends on the circumstances.
A Temporary Ex Parte Order of Protection
In all cases, before a permanent order of protection can be issued in your name, you must be given the opportunity to defend yourself and dispute the claims made against you. To allow you this right, a court will schedule you for a hearing. During that process, you (and the person seeking to have the order of protection issued in your name) answer questions from a judge. Based on what facts and evidence you and the other person provide, the judge will decide whether or not to approve the request for an order of protection.
However, in some situations, you might not be scheduled for a hearing before an order of protection is issued in your name. This happens when the person applying for the order of protection claims that you pose an immediate risk to their safety. The judge may determine, solely upon hearing the applicant's side of the story, that you cause the alleged victim irreparable injury or damage. Thus, they will grant a temporary order of protection without giving you a chance to fight back against the claims. In essence, it will be issued without your knowledge.
Being Served with an Order of Protection
Although a temporary order of protection may be issued without your attending a hearing, that doesn't mean you will never know that you are required to abide by certain court-mandated conditions. After the temporary order of protection is granted, you will be served with notice of it. The documents you receive will state what terms you are subject to. As soon as you are served, the order takes effect.
A temporary order of protection is not permanent. It will expire within 15 days after being issued. If a permanent order is being sought, you will be scheduled for a hearing, which, as mentioned before, is your chance to challenge the accusations made against you.
What Should I Do If I'm Served with an Order of Protection?
If you receive notice that a temporary ex parte order of protection has been issued in your name, speak with a skilled Nashville attorney as soon as possible. They can help you understand what the order means and what could happen if you violate the conditions. Additionally, a lawyer can help you prepare for your hearing. It's important to show up for court ready to defend yourself, as a permanent order of protection can place severe limitations on your life.