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Legal Information: Tennessee

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of November 27, 2023

What are the legal definitions of an elderly adult and a vulnerable adult?

An elderly adult is a person who is 70 or older. A vulnerable adult is a person who is 18 or older who is unable to do any of the following on his/her own due to an intellectual or physical disability:

  • manage his/her money;
  • carry out daily tasks; or
  • protect him/herself against neglect, exploitation, or abuse.1

1 Tenn. Code §§ 71-6-124(f)(2); 39-15-501(6), (14)

What is the legal definition of "abuse against an elderly adult or vulnerable adult"?

To qualify for an order, you must be the victim of “abuse against an elderly adult or vulnerable adult.” For the purposes of getting an elderly or vulnerable adult protection order, “abuse” includes:

1 Tenn. Code § 71-6-124(a)(1)(A), (a)(1)(C)

What is the legal definition of neglect and aggravated neglect?

Neglect includes when a caregiver:

  • fails to provide care needed for your physical health, including:
    • food;
    • water;
    • clothing;
    • medicine;
    • shelter;
    • medical services/medical treatment plan;
    • basic hygiene;
    • reasonable supervision for your well-being; or
    • other care you may need;1
  • does not make a reasonable effort to protect you from neglect or financial exploitation by others;2
  • leaves you alone when there is a reasonable likelihood that physical harm will occur (abandonment);3 or
  • knowingly and unreasonably restricts your movement (confinement), which can include:
    • keeping you in a locked room;
    • separating you from your living space;
    • using restraining devices on you; or
    • giving you unnecessary medication or too much medication.4

When a caregiver neglects you in a way that causes serious physical harm or bodily injury, it is known as aggravated neglect.5

1 Tenn. Code § 39-15-501(8)(A)(i)
2 Tenn. Code § 39-15-501(8)(A)(ii)
3 Tenn. Code § 39-15-501(1), (8)(A)(iii)
4 Tenn. Code § 39-15-501(5), (8)(A)(iv)
5 Tenn. Code § 39-15-508

What is the legal definition of abuse and aggravated abuse?

Abuse is defined as when someone causes “physical harm” to you. The law defines physical harm as an act that causes you pain or injury or that would cause a reasonable person to suffer pain or injury.1 When someone causes serious physical, bodily, or psychological injury to you, including with a deadly weapon or strangulation, it is known as aggravated abuse.2

1 Tenn. Code §§ 39-15-501(2), (9); 39-15-510
2 Tenn. Code § 39-15-511

What is the legal definition of financial exploitation?

Financial exploitation is when someone does any of the following:

  1. controls your property without your permission through:
    • lying (deception);
    • intimidation;
    • using his/her influence to take advantage of you (undue influence);
    • force; or
    • threat of force;
  2. violates his/her financial obligation to you (fiduciary duty) as your guardian, conservator, or person with power of attorney, which results in your property being:
    • used for a reason you did not consent to (appropriated);
    • sold without your consent; or
    • transferred to someone else without your consent; or
  3. gets or uses control over your property in his/her role as your caregiver, or as an accomplice to the caregiver, without your consent and for the purposes of benefiting your caregiver or another person.1

1 Tenn. Code §§ 39-15-501(7); 39-15-502

What is the legal definition of sexual exploitation?

Sexual exploitation is when someone does any of the following things in front of you without your consent and without a valid medical or caregiving purpose:

  • sexual contact as defined by law;
  • showing you his/her genitals;
  • exposing you to sexual acts;
  • exposing your sexual organs; or
  • any other act that the abuser knew or should have known would cause shame, humiliation, or other harm to your personal dignity.1

The reason that the person commits one of these acts could be:

  • for sexual pleasure; or
  • to show (disseminate) the act to others, knowing that it is offensive or embarrassing.1

1 Tenn. Code § 39-15-501(13)