Courts Task Force

The Courts Task Force was formed to enhance effectiveness and efficiency of the justice system and to increase consistency by developing written protocols for processing domestic violence cases through the system.  The task force meets regularly to examine ways to continue improvement of the court system.

In January, 2010, Hamilton County Sessions Court initiated its first domestic violence court.

Objectives for creating a domestic violence court include, but are not limited to:

(i) Consolidation and coordination of services available to domestic violence

victims and perpetrators;

(ii)  Enhanced safety for victims, witnesses, parties, court personnel and

community by increased security of domestic violence court and separate

victim accomodations.

(iii)  Consistent availability and education about domestic violence services to all

victims and perpetrators

(iv)   Increasing judicial efficiency and economy for victims and perpetrators of

domestic violence and to parties, witnesses, court personnel and services; and

(v)   Continued consistent adjudication of domestic violence cases.


Creating a DV Court

ABA Standards of Practice

Anger Management Prohibited in Domestic Violence


The purposes of developing and adopting a protocol for issuing and enforcing Orders of Protection in Hamilton County include:
(1) Increasing access to the courts for victims of domestic violence;
(2) Improving court efficiency and cost effectiveness; and
(3) Improving the effectiveness of the process.

Petition >Ex-Parte >Service >Hearing Site >Court Date > Ruling >Order>Violation
A victim of domestic violence can enter the system in these manners:

1. Directly through Civil Court Clerk’s office (petition not completed);
2. Accompanied or assisted by the Partnership DCA, Southeast Tennessee Legal Services, or any member of the Family Justice Alliance (FJA) (petition completed);
3. Alternative: After hours and weekends-petition given by General Sessions Clerk’s office to be reviewed by Magistrate/Judicial Commissioner
Petition NOT completed

A. Court Clerk gives Victim the OOP forms to complete.
1. Designated clerk
2. Second clerk crossed trained to cover overflow.
B. Victim completes the forms.
1. The Clerk MAY:
A. Answer general questions about how to complete the forms;
B. Require victim to provide address to serve the Defendant.

2. The Clerk may NOT:
A. Determine whether the victim qualifies for or needs an OOP;
B. Prohibit the victim from placing minor children on the OOP;
C. Give the victim any legal advice;
D. If the trained clerk believes there are no grounds stated in the petition to obtain an OOP, the clerk may advise the client to consult with a FJA member prior to filing the petition. (Example: Wants OOP to keep brother in law from trying to convert to religion.)
E. If the victim insists on filing the petition, the clerk shall present the petition to Judge.
Petition Completed

Alternative 1: Victim brings petition completed with the assistance of FJA partner

Alternative 2: Verified Petition brought to Clerk’s office by FJA partner only due to victim’s inability to come to court (ex. Hospital)

Alternative 3: Petition faxed to clerk
Permitted by TRCP 5A & 5A.03 (2); and Local Rule 4.03 and 3.06.
A. Allow for everyone;
B. Allow only when there are exigent circumstances;
C. Allow only from FJA partners;
D. Use existing video conference equipment to verify petition w/victim;

Fees taxed as court costs. Possible issue is page limit (10 pages including required cover sheet)

Current Protocol: The Petition is completed, and a Clerk takes Petition and Ex Parte OOP to the designated or available Judge. The Judge decides whether the allegations in the petition warrant the issuance of the Ex Parte OOP.

Victim is given copy of Ex-Parte Order or Show Cause Order with hearing date and location on document.

Alternative: After hours and weekends-Magistrate/Judicial Commissioner reviews Petition for
Order of Protection and determines if the Petition meets the statutory requirements, if it does, issues Ex Parte Order, if it does not issues a show cause order.

*SERVICE- Ex Parte Order is sent to Sheriff’s Department/Civil Process for service on the Defendant (Monday through Friday 8:00 through 4:00 pm ) and entry into NCIC of the Ex-Parte Order.

Alternative: After hours-If Magistrate signs ex parte or issues show cause order and Defendant on 12 hour hold, Sheriff will serve immediately.

Current Protocol:
A. Service obtained: Hearing held on Monday at 1:30pm at Circuit Court in Divisions I, II and III; Division IV varies.

B. Service is NOT obtained: Victim must appear. No limit on the number of times service can be reissued in the statute. Service can be reissued, but if Petition cannot be served:

Alternative: Victim encouraged to attempt service a few times, after which the case will be put on inactive status until either respondent located or closed.

Since victim has not requested dismissal or found not to be a victim, VAWA regulations prohibit charging costs against the petitioner.


Current Protocol: Circuit hears most cases, Chancery hears them if attorney chooses that court for other reasons [need to change form police give out that only says to go to circuit court without further explanation]


Current Protocol: Hearing assigned to rotating judge or previous judge of the parties. Judges all agree ONE Day (Currently Mondays at 1:30 in divisions I and III)


Alternative 1: If rotating JUDGE and not assigned day, then need mechanisms to let clerk know what day to set on the ex-parte

Alternative 2: All hearings are set in general sessions court:
a. Not Married/No children: Court decides OOP.
b. Not Married/Children: Court decides OOP & may issue temporary order regarding child support (good for 90 days to allow parent time to file and be heard in Circuit/Chancery/or Juvenile Court).
c. Married/No Children: Court decides OOP
d. Married/Children: Court decides OOP & may issue temporary order regarding child support (good for 90 days to allow parent time to file and be heard in Circuit/Chancery/or Juvenile Court).

Alternative 3: Where case is heard depends on whether there are pending criminal charges:
a. Pending Criminal – set in general sessions’ court
b. No Pending Criminal – set in circuit court

*RULING: Court has discretion on whether to rule on all issues other than the issuance or denial of the OOP (i.e. custody/visitation/support/possession of home or vehicle/etc.).


OOP Granted
1. Defendant does not appear;
2. Defendant appears and consents to OOP;
3. Hearing is held, Defendant loses-ordered to pay costs;
4. No Mutual OOPs entered unless requested via written petition prior to hearing;
5. As part of a plea agreement in criminal case.

OOP Dismissed

1. Victim fails to appear (whether to dismiss is up to the discretion of the Judge);
2. Victim asks that it be dismissed;
3. Hearing is held/petitioner loses-ordered to pay costs

Final Issue
Court Officer ensures both parties (if present) receive a copy of the order. Courthouse officers will ensure the safe exit of petitioner regardless of outcome of petition. If either party not present, the clerk’s office mails a copy of the order to the address provided.
NCIC entered immediately

Arrest =Reasonable Cause, less than probably cause
Out of State Order=Full Faith and Credit

FILED : SESSIONS 1) All- Determine punishment, all other issues brought up through modification
2) If officer does not find reasonable cause, victim files affidavit in Civil Court


1) Hearing at court that issued Ex -parte
2) Hearing at court that will hold hearing on Petition

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