Texas Flag
Texas Divorce Laws

What’s a DVRO? Domestic Violence Restraining Order Explained

Michael Tierney
February 9, 2023

We spend a long time getting to know our romantic partners before we commit to them completely. This process is especially important since most people are looking for a potential spouse with whom to share their lives. Usually, this involves getting to know how our prospective partner's ambitions and ideologies mesh with our own. This helps us eliminate partners incompatible with what we want and avoid getting trapped in unhealthy relationships.

Unfortunately, the process is not foolproof, and less-than-ideal partners can pass the initial criteria only to reveal undesirable characteristics later. Sometimes these traits are personality differences or mutually exclusive ambitions. In the worst cases, these issues are abusive tendencies that endanger you or your children.

Abusive spouses are more common than they should be and will use their families as outlets for their frustrations. The worst of abusive spouses take things further and violently strike their spouses and possibly their children. This violent behavior is horrific, endangers the victims, and could lead to death if the abusive party is not confronted. Unfortunately, standing up to an abusive spouse is extremely difficult since there is a natural and reasonable fear.

Solution When confronted, abusive individuals tend to escalate the severity of their abuse and could go so far as to attempt murder. That is why it is imperative to file a DVRO as soon as possible.

The question you might have is: what is a DVRO?

What is Domestic Violence?

This might seem like a strange question to ask since domestic violence is a fairly simple concept to grasp. Unfortunately, there have been situations where the true meaning of domestic violence has been diluted by people trying to demonize their spouses and family members. While false accusations are extremely rare, they have the unfortunate consequence of reducing the impact of the term.

Domestic violence is an incredibly sensitive topic that involves an individual harming their spouse or children. When the average person thinks about domestic violence, they immediately think someone is striking their spouse or child. While this is not wrong, domestic violence does not inherently mean physical assault.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence can be broken into 6 major subtypes that meet the definition according to the United States Department of Justice:

  • Physical Abuse: This is the traditional definition of domestic violence in which one person strikes, shoves, or otherwise assaults a family member.
  • Sexual Abuse: While this offense is slightly more heinous, it still qualifies as domestic violence. Sexual abuse involves marital rape or sexual assault on the perpetrator's own children.
  • Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse is a slightly more abstract form of domestic violence and possibly the most difficult to prove. It is a type of abuse in which the perpetrator demeans the victim and undermines their self-esteem.
  • Economic Abuse: This type of domestic violence is one of the more nefarious since it is a form of manipulation. The individual committing the abuse restricts their victim's access to financial resources and renders them completely dependent on their abuser for important expenses.
  • Psychological Abuse: This type of domestic violence is equally as manipulative as economic and emotional abuse since it involves keeping the victim engrossed in terror. The abuser uses threats to intimidate their victim and "punishes" them by destroying valuables and heirlooms while manipulating them to believe they deserve the abuse.
  • Technological Abuse: This form of abuse is similar to economic abuse in that it prevents the victim from accessing certain resources. In this scenario, the abuser withholds access to computers and phones that enable the victim to communicate with the outside world or access important information.

As you can see, domestic violence is a broader term than you might have initially believed. The form domestic violence takes will usually vary depending on the type of person rendering the abuse. However, any form of domestic violence represents a danger to you and your children since an abusive spouse is unlikely to correct themselves without serious intervention. Unfortunately, confronting an abusive person is dangerous since they might retaliate with a greater level of violence than they normally employ. That is why you must understand what a DVRO is and how to acquire one.

What is a DVRO?

A domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) is designed to separate you from an abusive spouse or parent legally. These documents are temporary restraining orders (TRO) and are valid for a set period before expiring. Generally, a domestic violence restraining order becomes permanent when the abusive behavior is proven in a court of law. The temporary equivalents are issued when the need for a restraining order is urgent, and there is no time to wait for a judgment.

In urgent cases, a judge can issue a temporary restraining order that expires following a hearing. If the hearing proves that the subject of the restraining order is abusive, a permanent restraining order can take its place. If the hearing does not prove abuse, the temporary order expires without a new order being issued.

Domestic violence restraining orders are designed to protect victims of any previously mentioned forms of domestic violence.

Solution The only caveat is that they can only be issued against people with a familial connection, be it biological, adoptive, or marital.

Filing a Restraining Order

The people against whom a domestic violence restraining order can be filed include:

  • A spouse or romantic partner with whom you currently or previously lived.
  • A partner with whom you share a child regardless of marital status.
  • An individual with whom you live but have no marital or familial relationship.

If someone who meets those criteria has begun abusing you or your child, a DVRO is a viable option until a hearing can be scheduled. Filing a DVRO is not overly difficult but has slightly different requirements depending on the state. It usually involves filling out the proper form and submitting it to the local courthouse, but the best course of action is to retain the services of an attorney who can file it on your behalf. The hearing will be scheduled after the DVRO is filed, and your attorney can represent you when the time comes.

TROs are also used during divorce cases for several reasons that do not relate to domestic violence. When divorcing a spouse guilty of domestic violence, it is possible to have your attorney petition for a DVRO to protect you from retaliation. This is important since abusive spouses will not view you as a person but as property and will likely view the divorce as a personal insult. In these cases, a judge can rush the DVRO process and ensure you are protected until the divorce proceedings are complete.

Until the hearing, you will need to gather as much corroborating information as possible to prove your spouse, relative, or roommate abused you. Otherwise, your chances of maintaining a permanent restraining order against them become almost non-existent. The DVRO is meant to put a legally enforceable distance between you and your abuser while you prepare for the hearing. The result of that hearing could go in your abuser's favor if you lack the proper resources.

Proving Domestic Violence

Proving domestic violence can be extremely difficult in some cases because the signs are not always obvious. Domestic violence involving physical or sexual abuse is among the easiest to prove since there are physical markers. These physical markers usually include permanent injuries and medical records corresponding to abuse allegations. Unfortunately, those physical markers are useless without an existing police report of abuse or previous claims.

Usually, injuries caused by domestic violence are specific enough that most medical professionals are trained to recognize the signs and will log their observations in official reports. Most hospitals require their physicians to report the suspected abuse to the authorities, especially if the victim is a minor.

Sexual abuse can also be proven but requires consent from the victim since the method for proving this kind of abuse is a little invasive. Nevertheless, proving physical and sexual abuse requires immediate action because the longer you go without reporting it, the harder it is to believe the abuse is a longstanding issue. The other forms of domestic violence are significantly harder to prove because the amount of physical evidence is much lower. This lack of hard evidence is because these types of abuse are abstract concepts that can be executed without physically doing anything.

A Physically Abused Spouse

Psychological and emotional abuse is easier to hide because it leaves no physical marks and affects the victim's psyche. As a result, the most obvious way to prove a history of this type of domestic violence is to subject the victim to psychological counseling and have the counselor present their findings. Fortunately, there is physical evidence that can corroborate claims of psychological or emotional abuse that might be equally as effective.

Solution The only issue is that some evidence supporting emotional or psychological abuse is considered unreliable by certain standards. The most reliable evidence you can use is electronic communication demonstrating certain abusive behaviors your spouse might have employed.

An abuser will seldom limit their actions to in-person interactions and might extend their abuse to text messages and phone calls. These exchanges provide irrefutable proof of emotionally and psychologically abusive statements. They might even reference previous abusive acts in their messages as "warnings" for defiance. The abuser might try to purge these messages from their own device but cannot control the messages on yours unless you give them access. The only risk is that one of the main tactics an abuser employs is coercing their partners to provide their passwords.

An Emotionally Abusive Marriage

If text or e-mail exchanges are unavailable, the other option is to request witnesses' testimony. Sometimes an abusive spouse will slip up and demonstrate their abusive tendencies while someone is watching or listening. This is rare, but these mistakes generate witnesses who can testify on your behalf. Unfortunately, witnesses are considered unreliable in certain circles and are easy to counter if your spouse has a decent legal team. Nevertheless, witness statements are admissible and can be a powerful tool to prove your spouse's abusive tendencies when combined with other evidence.

Claiming your spouse is guilty of domestic violence and providing preliminary evidence is usually sufficient to get a DVRO issued. The burden of proving how extensive the abuse is so the DVRO is replaced with a more permanent alternative is designed to help with the subsequent hearing. If you fear for your safety during divorce proceedings, having a DVRO against your spouse can help ensure your children are not mistakenly placed in an abusive parent's custody.

Learn the Law

Domestic violence is a serious issue that is more common than it should be, affecting 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men. Being the victim of a violent crime is horrifying enough, but the perpetrator being a family member is a devastating scenario. Many victims of domestic violence fear reprisal if they report the crime or try to retaliate, and therefore remain victims until they either escape or their abuser takes things too far.

While this is a terrifying reality, some options can protect the victims while they seek a permanent escape. A DVRO, while temporary, is sufficient for keeping an abusive spouse away until the divorce is finalized and a permanent restraining order can be issued. Unfortunately, an abusive spouse retains rights in divorce court, and they might take advantage in ways you are not prepared to handle.

Divorce Court

Divorce is one of the world's most complicated and draining civil proceedings, and some attempt to skew it in their favor. An abusive spouse is already extremely manipulative and will direct that same manipulation to the divorce process to try and leverage a favorable outcome. A DVRO cannot protect against these underhanded tactics, but learning more about divorce and the scenarios it breeds can be effective in protecting your interests and upholding a restraining order against your spouse.

Knowledge is one of the best resources when entering a legal conflict like divorce, and knowledge of TROs will only take you so far. We realize this is a difficult and scary time, but we hope this article is helpful.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Written By:
Michael Tierney

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Our Divorce Newsletter
Subscribe to receive information, free guides and tutorials