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Understanding domestic violence in Tennessee

In Tennessee and elsewhere, acts of domestic violence are rarely premeditated; rather, they most often arise from spur-of-the-moment arguments about any number of life issues. A false allegation of domestic violence can also be spawned by the same incident or by a wish to gain revenge for imagined abuse. In any event, persons who are the subject of domestic violence or have been charged with such acts can benefit from a basic understanding of Tennessee’s laws on this subject.

The first requirement of domestic violence is proving that parties share or have shared an intimate relationship, including marriage, co-habiting or dating; or have a relationship as parent and child through blood or adoption. “Abuse” means the intentional infliction of or attempt to inflict physical injury on the other person in the relationship. Abuse includes many different acts, all of which share the common attribute of engendering or attempting to engender fear of physical harm in the victim. Examples of abuse include physical harm, physical restraint, malicious damage to personal property and injury to pets. Abuse also includes threats to commit any of these acts.

Any person who fears they are or may become the victim of domestic violence can apply to the court for a protective order. Generally such orders require the person who is subject to the order to avoid contact with the person who obtained the order. The exact terms of such orders may vary from situation to situation, but violation of any term of such an order is a misdemeanor that can be punished by incarceration or a fine, or both.

The procedures in Tennessee courts are designed to allow person to seek a protective order without the assistance of an attorney, but in complex cases, and especially when the feared abuse is part of a divorce dispute, seeking advice from an attorney experienced in family law can provide useful assistance. Whether the desired outcome is obtaining a protective order or successfully defending against an application for such an order, a knowledgeable attorney can evaluate the situation, suggest useful legal strategies and provide an estimate of the likelihood of a favorable outcome.