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I want to get a TRO, temporary injunction, and temporary orders in a child custody emergency.

Child Custody & Visitation

How to ask the court for a temporary restraining order, temporary injunction, and temporary orders during a child custody emergency.
Overview

Guide Overview

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not legal advice and are not a substitute for the help of a lawyer. It's a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation.

This guide is intended for use only in an emergency child custody case when a child is in danger. It is not intended for use in cases that only involve basic (non-emergency) child custody or child support issues. 

It is not necessary for CPS to be involved before you can use this guide. In some situations, CPS may be investigating your case, or CPS may have told you to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) to avoid having the children legally removed. In other situations, there may be no CPS involvement and you may want to request a TRO to avoid any CPS involvement.

Research Tips

The legal system can be very complex. This guide can’t answer every question. Researching the laws and regulations governing this type of case is important. For more information on how to conduct this research, read the Legal Research Guide

You can go to a law library to conduct legal research. There is a directory of public local law libraries at Law Libraries in Texas.

Examples of books and guides to look for at a law library:

  • O’Connor's Texas Family Law Handbook
  • Texas Family Law Practice Manual
  • Texas Family Code Annotated
  • Texas Jurisprudence

A law library may also have a subscription to an electronic legal research service such as Westlaw or LexisNexis.

A Texas resident who's not near a law library may access more information by registering for a free Texas State Law Library Account. With this account, you can access a variety of online sources.

Common questions about Child Custody & Visitation

Any person who has standing to file a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (“SAPCR”), Modification, or Enforcement can file a Motion for TRO. For information on standing, you can refer back to the Original SAPCRModification, or Enforcement guides on TexasLawHelp. 

Keep in mind that a TRO cannot be filed on its own; it must be filed along with an Original SAPCR, Modification, or Enforcement, or filed into an active SAPCR, Modification, or Enforcement case.  

Every case is different, but in general, the person filing the Motion for TRO is also the person who wants to have managing conservatorship of the child and who plans to keep them safe from the other parent or both parents.

There are several situations where a temporary restraining order can be filed, but this guide is intended only for an emergency situation where a child has been harmed or is at risk of being harmed and a protective order is not more suitable to protect the child.  

A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is a court order that tells a person not to do certain things such as harming a child, leaving the state with a child, or being around a child.  A TRO is only good for 14 days, so it can work as a quick fix to address an emergency situation

You can read more about the types of protections in TROs, Temporary Injunctions, and Temporary Orders In Child Custody Emergencies.

Note: If a child has been a victim of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or family violence, and is in fear of being harmed again or likely to be harmed again, a protective order may be another available legal option.

A protective order may provide better protection than a TRO because it is criminally enforceable. However, a judge may not always be willing to grant a protective order to keep a child safe from a parent. This is because conservatorship (including TROs) can provide a lot of protection without completely cutting the parent out of the child's life. A protective order may not be appropriate for many situations where a child is in danger, such as where a parent has a substance addiction, lives in an unsafe environment, or is not providing for the child's basic needs. 

But not all child abuse or child neglect situations meet all the requirements where a court is allowed to grant a protective order. If you have questions about whether a protective order is more appropriate to protect a child, please consult an attorney. Call the Family Helpline at 844-888-6565 with your CPS-related questions. You can also look for help in our Legal Help Directory.

A TRO is different from a family violence protective order. Getting served with a TRO does not necessarily mean you’ve done anything wrong, and not all TROs are filed because there is an emergency involving a child. Sometimes a person who files for divorce or conservatorship (custody) will ask the judge to sign a TRO to help them control money, property, or where a child lives or travels.

All TROs will order one party or both parties not to do certain things until a temporary orders hearing can be held. A TRO usually lasts for 14 days or until the hearing, whichever is sooner. 

If you have been served with a TRO:

  1. Read the TRO carefully and obey it. The judge can hold you in contempt if you do not obey a court order.
  2. Make plans to go to the hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, the judge can make orders about your money, property, and children (if applicable) without any input from you.
  3. Talk with a lawyer about your legal rights and what to expect at the hearing. If possible, hire a lawyer to represent you at the hearing.
  4. If you need more time to hire a lawyer or time to get ready for the hearing, you can ask the judge to reset the hearing date to a later date by filing a Motion for Continuance. Read How to Ask for a Continuance.

This TRO guide is only meant for situations where a child is in danger, needs to be protected immediately, and the person putting the child in danger is a parent or someone else with conservatorship rights. 

Also, read Temporary Orders & Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs).

This guide includes a Motion for Temporary Orders, which can be used to make temporary changes to your visitation schedule. But temporary orders will not last forever. Eventually, you will also have to go to court to get final orders about visitation, conservatorship, and child support (if applicable). You can read more about agreed modifications here:

Not necessarily. In many cases, if you and the other parent (or parents) agree, you can deviate from your court-ordered visitation schedule. However, if you expect the visitation change to last a long time, or if you do not trust the other parent (or parents) to stick to the agreement, it may be better to do an agreed modification.

You can read more about agreed modifications here in Instructions and Forms for an Agreed Modification and Changing a Custody, Visitation, or Child Support Order.

A temporary injunction is similar to a TRO because it tells another person not to do certain things. The difference between a TRO and a temporary injunction is that a TRO:

  1. Is only good for 14 days, but a temporary injunction is good until your case is over, and
  2. Can be granted without notice to the other parent or conservator.

A temporary injunction cannot be granted unless the other parties have been given at least 3 days notice of the hearing and a chance to attend it.

If you can provide competent evidence that the temporary injunction is necessary, a judge should agree to change your TRO into a temporary injunction at your second hearing (scheduled within 14 days of when the TRO is granted).

This means that the protections in the TRO will continue until you get a final order, which can take several months.

However, if the other parent or conservator is able to show that your evidence is not true or that the children are not actually in danger, the judge can dissolve your TRO – meaning that it will no longer be in effect – and refuse to grant your temporary injunction.  

It is important to remember that if you do not attend your second hearing, then you will not get your temporary injunction and your TRO will expire (the protections will go away).

Instructions & Forms

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not legal advice and are not a substitute for the help of a lawyer. It's a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation.

These instructions explain the steps to:

  1. Request a Temporary Restraining Order for the protection of a child, and
  2. Attend a second court hearing to request a Temporary Injunction and Temporary Orders for conservatorship, visitation, and child support. 

Each step includes a link to the form or forms needed for that step.

Remember that all TROs must be filed along with (or into an active) Original SAPCR, Modification, or Enforcement case! You should review the instructions for your Original SAPCR, Modification, or Enforcement kit along with these instructions. 

You must read TROs, Temporary Injunctions, and Temporary Orders In Child Custody Emergencies to help you understand what a court can do in this situation. 

Use these instructions and forms only if:

  1. You have filed or are planning to file an Original Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship, a modification of a conservatorship order, or an enforcement of a conservatorship order. Note: If you are a nonparent, make sure you have standing to file the Original SAPCR or Modification. 

    Texas Family Code 102.004(a)(1) lets a relative related within three degrees of consanguinity file an Original SAPCR or Modification if there is proof that the child’s present circumstances would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development.

    A relative within three degrees of consanguinity under this law includes a child’s aunt, uncle, adult sibling, grandparent, or great-grandparent by blood or adoption.
  2. The children who are involved in the case are in a dangerous situation. In general, you will have to be able to show that the children are at risk of immediate (meaning it is currently happening or about to happen) and irreparable (meaning it will have a permanent or long-term negative effect that cannot be reversed) harm or injury. Some common situations where a TRO may be useful include:
    • The parent who currently has the children in his or her care is harming the children; is not providing a safe home, or is not meeting the children’s most basic needs.
    • Another parent or conservator has visitation rights and that person is harming or putting the children at risk during the visits.
    • There is no custody order in place for the children, and one parent needs to immediately put limits on the other parent’s access to the children due to safety concerns.
    • A nonparent has standing to file an Original SAPCR or Suit to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship and neither parent is able or willing to keep the children safe.
  3. If there is an existing order, it is a Texas order. If there is no existing order, the children must have lived in Texas for at least six months or since they were born (if under the age of six months).

    Note: It may be possible for a court to obtain emergency jurisdiction and issue a TRO even when this is NOT true; however, this situation is legally complicated and you should speak with an attorney.
  4. A protective order is not more suitable to protect the child.

Note: there are two different form sets available.

  • “1 Respondent” – use this for a case with two parties. Most often, this will be when one parent is trying to keep a child safe from the other parent. 
  • “2 Respondents” – use this if your case has three parties – one Petitioner and two Respondents. These forms will most often be used when a close relative (such as a grandparent or aunt) or another nonparent who has been caring for a child for over six months, needs to protect a child from both parents. However, it can be used any time there are at least three adults with legal standing involved in a case. 

*Only required in some cases—read the instructions carefully!

Checklist Steps

Before you file a motion for temporary restraining orders, temporary orders, or a temporary injunction, you must prepare your Original SAPCR, Modification, or Enforcement case.

Read the instructions for the Original SAPCR, modification, or enforcement case that you plan to file.

If you are a nonparent, make sure you have standing to file the case. 

Prepare all your forms according to the instructions.

Fill out one of these starting forms:

This form (the “Motion” for short) tells the judge all three things you are asking for:

  1. At the first emergency hearing you are asking for a temporary restraining order that tells the other parents or conservators not to do certain things for 14 days; you are also asking the judge to schedule a second hearing.
  2. At the second hearing, you are asking the judge to change your TRO into a temporary injunction that tells the other parent or conservator to continue not doing certain things until your case is over.
  3. Also at the second hearing, you are asking for temporary orders regarding conservatorship, visitation, and child support.

    You do not have to request temporary orders for all three of these things. Many parents may just want to place limits on visitation and not make any other changes to child support or conservatorship. Other parents or nonparents may want to change who has managing conservatorship of the child, and as a result, will also need to make changes to both visitation and child support. 

If you are filing this along with an Original SAPCR, leave the cause number and court number on the first page blank. The clerk will fill in this information when you file it.

If you are filing this Motion along with a Modification or Enforcement action, write the cause number and court number on the first page of the Petition just as it is written on the order you want to change or enforce. (Write these numbers at the top of any document you file in your modification or enforcement case.) 

When you fill out the Motion:

  • Print your answers clearly in blue or black ink.
  • Do not leave blanks.
  • Use full names for any name blanks.

Remember to think about what evidence you have to support that everything you are asking for is in the child(ren)'s best interest. For example, if the other parent can have a safe and loving relationship with your child as long as all visits are supervised by another trusted adult, it may not be in your child’s best interest to try to completely end all visits. Review Gathering and Presenting Evidence to help you organize what you can use when presenting your case.

Who is the petitioner? You are the petitioner: the person who is asking the court for the TRO, temporary injunction, and temporary orders. This is true even if you are listed as the Respondent in the existing order.  

Who must be listed as a respondent? If you are filing your Motion along with an Original SAPCR, the other parent of the child must be listed as the respondent.

  • If you are a nonparent, both parents must be listed as Respondents, even if you are only requesting a TRO for one parent.
  • If you are filing your Motion along with a Modification or Enforcement action, any person listed as a party in the existing order must be listed as a respondent.

In some cases, the only respondent is the other parent. In other cases, there may be additional Respondents, such as family members or friends who are the child’s legal conservator or who have court-ordered visitation rights. 

  • If your case has one Respondent, use the TRO forms for two parties (one respondent).

  • If your case has two different Respondents (not including the Attorney General’s Office), make sure to use the TRO forms for three parties (with two respondents). 

If you have more than two respondents (not including the Attorney General’s Office), you should talk to a lawyer about how to include additional respondents in your Motion and Orders. Visit TexasLawHelp's Legal Help Directory or call a lawyer referral service

Next, fill out the appropriate additional forms:

There will likely be additional forms that you need to attach to your motion. If you are not sure which forms you need, you should speak to an attorney.

  • Affidavit for TRO
    • ​​This affidavit will be included in most requests for TRO when there is an emergency. If you are unsure if it applies to you, talk to an attorney. 
    • Attach this affidavit if you are asking that the court issue a TRO (1) attaching the body of the child; (2) taking the child into the possession of the court or putting the child in your possession; or (3) excluding a parent from possession of or access to a child.
  • Affidavit for Temporary Orders Changing Custodial Parent or Geographical Restriction
    • Use this affidavit if you are asking to:
      • change who the custodial parent is;
      • change the geographic restriction;
      • create a geographic restriction; or
      • remove the geographic restriction.
  • Certificate of Attempted Notice
    • If your county requires you to try to give notice to the other parent (check your county’s local rules) before obtaining a TRO, follow the instructions in the form and include it among the forms you file in Step 3, below. 

It is a good idea to go ahead and fill out your Temporary Restraining Order, Temporary Injunction, and Temporary Order so it is ready to go if the judge decides to sign it. Print out an extra blank copy in case the judge orders something different than what you’ve asked for.

File your completed Petition and Motion for TRO and other forms with the court in the county where the child has lived for 90 days (if it is an original SAPCR) or where the current order was made (if it is a modification or enforcement).

  • If there is not an active Original SAPCR, Modification, or Enforcement case, you will file your Motion at the same time as your Petition for Original SAPCR, Enforcement, or Modification (referred to as the Petition).
  • If there is a pending or active Original SAPCR, Modification, or Enforcement action, you will file your Motion for TRO into that case. Important: The Motion for TRO will never be filed on its own to create a new case.

You should be able to file your forms online. Go to E-File Texas and follow the instructions. Read How to E-File if you need help.

Before filing:

  • Talk to your District Clerk’s Office about their local rules for handling a Motion for TRO.
    • Some counties require the Petitioner to file the Petition and the Motion first, and then the clerk will send your Motion to the judge that will hear the case.
    • Other counties may want you to present your Motion for TRO to a judge and get a signature before you file it.
    • In either case, your Petition and Motion should both be filed with the clerk, and you should speak to a judge and request your TRO all on the same day. If you are in a smaller county and a judge is not available that day, ask the clerk how soon you can see a judge and when to come back. 
  • Counties may have different rules about which judges can hear your TRO case. Ask your District Clerk about your county's procedure.
    • Although Texas law allows any presiding judge, associate judge, or district or county court judge to hear a Motion for TRO, some counties may want you to try to present your Motion to the judge assigned to your case first. If that judge is unavailable, you should be able to present it to any other judge.
    • Other counties may have a certain judge available each day for “uncontested docket,” and that judge will be the one to hear your Motion.

Important: You do not know if the judge will grant your TRO and – for those counties where the Respondent must be given notice – you do not know if the Respondent will appear at the hearing. It is good practice to fill out your Temporary Restraining Order in advance with the things you are asking for and to bring an extra blank copy of the TRO in case the judge orders something different than what you asked for. On the blank copy, you can fill in the case number, court, and style at the top of the page.

To prepare for presenting your Motion to the court, read Tips for the Courtroom, Gathering and Presenting Evidence, and Virtual Court.

First, you will hand the judge your completed forms:

  • Petitioner's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Temporary Injunction, and Temporary Orders 1 Respondent, or
  • Petitioner's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Temporary Injunction, and Temporary Orders 2 Respondents,
  • Affidavit for TRO,
  • TRO Affidavit - Change of Custodial Parent or Geographic Restriction,
  • Certificate of Attempted Notice, if necessary.

Have your filled out and your blank Temporary Restraining Order on hand; the judge may want to look at it, as well.

Next, the judge will review your affidavit and may ask you additional questions.

Last, the judge will either deny your TRO or will grant your TRO. If the judge grants your TRO, they should fill it in (if necessary), sign it, and set your next hearing within 14 days. This second hearing should take precedence over other civil matters. 

Note: If the court is unable to set the second hearing within 14 days, you can:

Otherwise, the TRO will expire after 14 days, and the protections will be lost. The court is allowed to grant one 14-day extension. After that, any extensions must be agreed to by the Respondent.

If the TRO is not extended or converted into a temporary injunction within 14 days, the TRO will expire at midnight on the 14th calendar day after the TRO was signed, or the date of the second hearing – whichever is earlier. 

 

The judge will either (1) send your temporary restraining order and order setting hearing to the clerk, or (2) you will take the TRO and order setting hearing to the clerk’s office to file yourself. Once filed, the clerk is responsible for issuing a “writ” and serving all the documents on the respondents. 

The writ will list out who the parties to the case are, describe what happened at court, and command the Respondents to refrain from doing any acts listed in the TRO. It will also tell the Respondents the day and time for the second hearing on the temporary injunction and temporary orders. 

The respondents must be served with the writ, the temporary restraining order, and all the other paperwork filed with the clerk. The method of service will depend on whether you filed your motion for TRO along with your petition for original SAPCR, modification, or enforcement case, or whether you filed your motion for TRO by itself.

Read How to Serve the Initial Court Papers for more info on service. The motion, TRO, and writ must be served on the respondents immediately and no later than three days before the second hearing, unless the court shortens this time period. 

Important: The TRO is not effective until the respondent to be restrained receives actual notice by personal service or otherwise. The TRO must include the date and the hour that it was issued because a court cannot hold a respondent in contempt for an act that happened before the order was issued.

Both the temporary injunction and the temporary orders require the Respondents to be given notice of the hearing at least three days in advance, unless the court gives a shorter deadline. If you are requesting child support in your temporary orders, notice of the second hearing must also be given to the Attorney General’s Office.

Some counties require parties to do certain things before setting a temporary orders hearing (like exchanging financial information if child support is requested, or attending mediation). Check your county’s local rules, and do not forget that your TRO is only good for 14 days unless the court extends it (the court can only do this once) or the parties agree to extend it (this can be done more than once). If you do not feel safe attending mediation or completing other local requirements, you can ask the judge to waive the requirement or seek other legal remedies.

Prepare Your Evidence

Think about what you believe the safety concerns involving your children are and why the situation was an emergency requiring a TRO. You must be able to prove your allegations with evidence. Evidence can come in the form of in-person witness testimony, documents, photographs, and videos.

Read Gathering and Presenting Evidence.

Know the Laws

Keep in mind that when a court makes orders about a child, the court typically must consider what is in the best interest of the child. Read Best Interest of the Child Standard for the factors considered by the court.

Talk to a lawyer for help understanding these factors. 

You should also read Legal Research: Steps to FollowLegal Research Resources for Beginners (from the state law library of Texas), and the Harris County Law Library's guide on family law research.

You must review and understand the applicable laws, which are explained in Factors the Family Court Considers for Temporary Orders.

Prepare Your Orders

Print and prepare your temporary order forms.

  • Remember that some Petitioners will be asking for changes to visitation, custody, and child support; some petitioners will only be asking for changes to visitation.
  • If you have two different respondents, you may be asking for a change for one Respondent but not the other.

Decide which attachments you need for your order, and print out two copies of each one. Fill out one copy based on what you are asking the judge for, and keep the other copy blank.

The attachments can include:

  • Temporary Child Support – ​If you are asking that the other parent or parents be ordered to pay child support, complete and attach a Temporary Child Support Order and an Income Withholding Order for each parent who will be ordered to pay.
  • Temporary Medical and Dental Support – ​​If you are asking that the other parent or parents be ordered to pay medical and dental support, complete and attach a Temporary Temporary Medical and Dental Support Order and an Income Withholding Order for each parent who will be ordered to pay.
  • Temporary Standard Possession Order
    • Use this form for a case with 2 Respondents if you are asking that one of the Respondents be given a standard possession order.
    • Note: a standard possession order will not be appropriate if a Respondent is a danger to the child.
  • Income Withholding Order (IWO)– fill out one for every parent who will be paying child support, medical support, dental support, or all three. The same IWO can be used if a parent will be ordered to pay both child support and medical support and dental support.

At the hearing, the judge will decide:

  1. Whether to grant the request for temporary injunction. If this is granted, your TRO will change into a temporary injunction. It will continue to protect the child(ren) until your court case is over and you get final orders;
  2. What temporary orders to grant. These temporary orders will be in effect until your court case is over and you get final orders, or you or another party requests further temporary orders and the judge grants the request.

If you do not attend the hearing, the TRO will be dissolved (meaning it will no longer be in effect) and your injunction will be denied. It may also take much longer to get another hearing for your temporary orders. It is very important that you attend your second hearing. 

Bring these papers with you to the courthouse on the day of your second hearing:

  1. A file-stamped copy of your Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Temporary Injunction & Temporary Orders, including affidavits;
  2. A file-stamped copy of the Return of Service showing that the Respondent(s) have been properly served;
  3. A completely filled out Temporary Injunction and Temporary Orders (including attachments) and a blank copy of your Temporary Injunction and Temporary Orders in case the judge orders something different than what you are asking for;
  4. A completely filled out Income Withholding for Support Order for each parent if child support will be ordered, changed, or stopped.

Once you get to the courthouse:

  • Go to the clerk’s office.
  • Ask the clerk if you need the court file or docket sheet (list of what has been filed in your case).
  • When you get to the courtroom, tell the clerk (usually sitting next to the judge’s bench) you are there and give the clerk your paperwork. Sit down until the judge calls your case.

When the judge calls your case:

  • Walk to the front of the courtroom and stand in front of the judge’s bench. The judge will have you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth. Be prepared to quickly tell the judge that you want to change your TRO into a temporary injunction, and what temporary orders you are asking for. It is a good idea to write down everything you want to say ahead of time. You can read it to the judge if you get nervous.
  • You must show the judge “competent evidence” to convince the judge to grant your temporary injunction, even if the respondent does not attend. Be prepared to tell the judge why you are asking for a temporary injunction and why these orders would be in your child’s best interest.
  • If the respondent does not appear at the hearing, you may be able to get a default order for your temporary orders.
  • The judge can limit the amount of time each party has to present evidence. You can ask at the beginning of the hearing how much time you have. If your time is limited, you should prepare to offer the most compelling evidence first. Although the judge can limit the evidence, the judge cannot deny any party the right to offer evidence. 
  • The judge will listen to what you say (and what the respondent says if they come to court) and will make an order. Your Temporary Injunction and Temporary Orders document should reflect exactly what the judge says, and then the judge will sign the orders.  

After the judge signs your Temporary Injunction and Temporary Orders, go back to the district clerk’s office and file them. Contact the clerk's office to see if you can file electronically or need to make an appointment.

Get a certified copy of the signed Temporary Injunction and Temporary Orders from the clerk while you are there. This way, you can show anyone who needs to know the limits that have been placed on a respondent’s access to the children – such as a school, daycare, doctor, the police, CPS, other relatives, etc. The clerk may charge a fee for the certified copies.  

If child support was ordered, ask the clerk what you need to do to set up a child support account. If child support was changed or terminated, ask the clerk to send a copy of the income withholding order for support to the employer of the person who was ordered to pay child support.

Similar to Step 5, if your temporary injunction is granted, the clerk is responsible for issuing a writ and serving the respondents with the temporary injunction. The writ will say name the parties, describe what happened in court, and command the respondents to refrain from the acts listed in the temporary injunction.

The writ must be served by the sheriff or constable in the county where the respondent to be restrained resides, or by another person authorized by the court.

Remember that the orders you’ve received are only temporary

You still must complete your Original SAPCR (parent filing or nonparent filing), modification, or enforcement case. You will be required to set an additional hearing for Final Orders and to prepare for that hearing. You can review the instructions for your original SAPCR, modification, or enforcement kit to find out how to do this.

Forms Required

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