If you are a victim and your abuser has a gun or you feel unsafe for other reasons, it is important to work with a victim advocate. The following organizations can help you find an advocate free of charge:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE;
- VictimConnect at (855) 484-2846;
- The State-Wide Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 356-6767;
- Any of the local domestic violence programs on this map.
It is also helpful to have a lawyer assist you, particularly when you are seeking an order of protection. You can find a lawyer by contacting the Tennessee Bar Association. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you can find free- and low-cost help at a Legal Aid office or by calling the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services at (844) HELP4TN or going to their website.
How to Get Protection
What kind of domestic violence orders of protection are available?
Tennessee courts can issue two types of domestic violence orders of protection. In one of these orders, the court can help protect you from gun violence or threats of gun violence by an intimate partner:
- Ex parte orders of protection1*
- (Final) orders of protection2*
Tennessee law automatically prohibits some respondents to (final) orders of protection from possessing* firearms3 and requires them to get rid of their firearms within 48 hours.4
How can you get an order of protection?
Click here to see if you are eligible for an order of protection in Tennessee.
You can find your local court here.
Court forms can be found here.
What do I do if I am not a victim of domestic violence, but I still need protection from someone?
Victims and survivors of sexual assault and stalking are also eligible for orders of protection.5 Contact VictimConnect at (855) 484-2846 or a lawyer for more information. You can find a lawyer by contacting the Tennessee Bar Association. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you can find free- and low-cost help at a Legal Aid office or by calling the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services at (844) HELP4TN or going to their website.
How can the court help protect you?
Tennessee law says that if you are married, separated, or divorced from the respondent, live or have lived with the respondent*, or have children together, the respondent is automatically prohibited from possessing* firearms once the court issues a (final) order of protection.6 In this case, the court will:
- Order a respondent to sell or transfer their firearms to a third party who is not prohibited from possessing firearms within 48 hours; and
- Order a respondent to submit a form to the court to prove he/she/they got rid of their firearms as required.7
In (final) orders of protection, Tennessee courts can also order whatever relief* they deem necessary to protect you – this means that if your case is not fully covered under the law cited above, a court can still protect you from gun violence.8 Some of the things a court can order include:
- Requiring the respondent to turn over their firearms to local law enforcement immediately;
- Prohibiting the respondent from purchasing or possessing firearms while the order is in effect;
- Ordering law enforcement to retrieve the respondent’s firearms if the respondent does not get rid of them in within 48 hours;
- Requiring the respondent to appear before the court to self-report getting rid of their guns;
- Directing law enforcement to follow up with the respondent to make sure they got rid of their guns;
- Scheduling a follow up compliance hearing* to ensure that the respondent has not accessed additional firearms since the order was issued;
- Ordering law enforcement to go to your home at scheduled times to check in on your safety;
- Ordering the respondent to stay away from you, your children, your family, and anyone else in immediate danger, based on the threats and/or actions of the respondent;
- Ordering the respondent not to hurt you or threaten to hurt you in the future;
- Anything else you need to be safe.
How will the court know what you need to protect you from the respondent’s firearms violence?
In your petition* and during any of the hearings* you participate in when you are seeking protection, you will have the opportunity to tell the court about the respondent’s* threats or acts of abuse, especially ones involving firearms. Every situation is different, and it is important to talk to a lawyer about your specific situation. You can find a lawyer by contacting the Tennessee Bar Association. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you can find free- and low-cost help at a Legal Aid office or by calling the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services at (844) HELP4TN or going to their website.
Your story will help the court decide what relief* to give you. Whether you are filling out court forms or speaking directly to the court, it is important to tell the court about the violence you experienced (working with your lawyer, if you have one), especially if the respondent used or threatened to use a firearm against you, a member of your family, any member of the community, or your pet. Among other things, this may include telling the court:
- About incidents of physical violence or threats of physical violence and include dates wherever you can;
- How the respondent used firearms to hurt or threaten you, your family, your pet(s), or anyone in the community;
- If you fear that the respondent may use firearms violence or threats of firearms violence in the future;
- If the respondent has threatened to harm him/her/themself. This may be a sign that the respondent intends to use a dangerous weapon like a firearm against you, themself, or other people;
- If you can, the type(s), number, and location of firearms the respondent has access to.