What is a Family Violence Protective Order in Georgia?
Have you been the victim of family or domestic violence? If so, you can file a petition for a temporary protective order against the abuser. You can also seek a permanent protective order. A protective order restrains your abuser, also known as the respondent, from harassing, stalking, or threatening your physical safety.
What is the Legal Definition of Family Violence in Georgia?
In Georgia, “family violence” means that a family/household member has committed one of the following against another family/household member:
- simple battery;
- simple assault;
- criminal damage to property;
- unlawful restraint;
- criminal trespass; or,
- any felony.
Any one of these acts may make you eligible for a family violence protective order.
Who is Eligible to Get a Family Violence Protective Order?
You may be eligible to file for a family violence protective order if you have experienced an act of family violence committed by:
- Your past or present spouse;
- A person who you share a child with;
- A parent/child;
- A stepparent/stepchild;
- A foster parents/foster children; or
- Any other person living or formerly living in the same household.
In Georgia, you may apply for a family violence protective order against your abuser if you share one of the relationships listed above.
Minor children cannot file their own petitions for family violence protective orders. A parent or guardian must file on a minor child’s behalf.
What Are the Different Types of Family Violence Protective Orders, and How Long Do They Last?
There are two types of family violence protective orders in Georgia. The first is called a temporary ex parte order. Ex parte means that you will ask for the protective order without the respondent present. These orders are intended to protect you from the respondent until the court holds a hearing to allow the respondent to tell their side of the story. This means that the court can grant you a temporary ex parte order without a hearing and without the respondent knowing.
The second is called a family violence protective order. After you and the respondent have the opportunity to present your stories and relevant evidence at a hearing on the temporary ex parte order, a court may issue a family violence protective order. Family violence protective orders last for one year. However, you may file a motion and ask the judge to extend the order for up to three years, or even to make the order permanent.
What Kinds of Protections Can Be Included in a Family Violence Protective Order?
In an ex parte family violence protective order, the court can order that:
- the respondent does not, or not attempt, to injure, mistreat, bother, follow, harass, harm, or abuse you, your family, or any other member of your household;
- the respondent does not interfere with your travel or communication;
- the respondent does not follow, surveil, or contact you just to harass or intimidate you;
- you receive possession of the house (meaning that your abuser must leave);
- the respondent provides adequate alternate housing for you or your child;
- the respondent stay a certain number of yards away from you, your children, and/or any protected location (i.e., your residence, workplace, children’s school, etc.);
- the respondent has no contact with you, directly or indirectly;
- that you (or the other party) receive temporary child support and/or spousal support;
- that you receive temporary custody and visitation rights of your children;
- the respondent not to get rid of your pets or property (or pets or property you and your abuser share);
- the respondent does not disconnect home utilities, alter or cancel any insurance policies (auto, health, or life), or interfere with your mail;
- that if not given possession of the home, law enforcement help you obtain your personal property from the home; and/or,
- you receive possession of certain property, such as a car.
In a final family violence protective order, the court can order:
- all of the protections detailed above;
- the respondent goes to counseling for family violence and/or drug or alcohol issues; and,
- costs and attorney’s fees to either party.
Where can I file for a family violence protective order?
In Georgia, you will file for a family violence protective order in the superior court based on where your abuser lives. If the respondent lives in Georgia, you can file for a family violence protective order in the superior court in the county where the abuser lives.
If the respondent lives outside of Georgia, you can file in the superior court in the county where you live or where the family violence happened.
What are the steps for filing a family violence protective order in Georgia?
Step 1: Gather all of the necessary information and fill out the forms.
Before going to the superior court to file a petition for a family violence protective order, make sure you bring proof of your identity, like a valid Georgia driver’s license. It is also a good idea to bring any information about the respondent that you might have (i.e., their full name, date of birth, address, contact information, etc.). This information will help you while filling out the forms.
After arriving at the superior court, locate the required forms, such as the petition. You may ask one of the clerks for help. Make sure that you locate all of the required forms because there may be more than one. For example, if your case involves children or support issues, you may need to include additional forms along with the petition for a family violence protective order.
While filling the required forms out, make sure that you explain why you believe the protective order is necessary. Provide details about the type of violence that has happened and about any violence you believe may happen in the future if the court does not grant the protective order.
After you have filled out the required forms, you may want to make a list of evidence and witnesses that will support the details in your petition.
Step 2: File the petition for a family violence protective order.
File your petition for family violence with the Clerk’s Office of the proper superior court (discussed above). Make sure you complete and sign all required forms.
Step 3: Appear at your court date.
The first court appearance will likely be an ex parte initial hearing. This hearing could happen on the same day you file your petition. The respondent will not receive notice of and does not attend the first hearing. At the ex parte hearing, the judge will review your case and make a decision as to whether your requested protective order is necessary. If the judge is convinced that you will suffer immediate harm, they will issue an ex parte protective order that will last until the full hearing. The local sheriff’s department will serve the ex parte protective order on the respondent.
The court will hold that full hearing on your petition for a protective order within 30 days of when you filed your petition. At the full hearing, both you and the respondent will have the opportunity to tell the judge what happened, present evidence, and present any witness testimony you may need. The judge will then review the testimony and evidence, and make a decision. If the judge feels that you did not prove your case, they will dismiss your petition. If the judge believes that you will be harmed by the respondent, they will grant the family violence protective order. If you fail to attend the full hearing, the court will dismiss your petition.
Finding an Attorney You Can Trust
A family law attorney can help you navigate the process of getting an order of protection in Georgia. Contact Crystal Wright Law today for a free consultation at 404-594-2143 to see how we can help you.
You can also visit our law firm at 368 W Pike St STE 201, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.