In May of this year, the Georgia Court of Appeals made an important decision which may impact how Petitions for Family Violence Protective Orders are handled in Georgia, including in the metro Atlanta counties. Specifically, Lewis v. Lewis, Court of Appeals No.A12A0601, makes it clear that trial courts are not permitted to condition the granting of a 12-Month Temporary Protective Order on a showing of a "reasonably recent" act of family violence.Prior to this ruling, some courts in Georgia were dismissing petitions brought under the Georgia Family Violence Act (O.C.G.A. § 19-13-1 et seq.) if the petitioner could not show a reasonably recent act of family violence. In the case which led to the Court of Appeals decision, the last act of violence had occurred more than a year before the petition was filed with the court.
This new ruling may have a large impact on victims of domestic violence who previously chose not to pursue a protective order thinking too much time has lapsed since the acts of violence complained of. However, it is important to remember that the ruling in Lewis does not change the requirement under the Georgia Family Violence Act that a petitioner show that a protective order is necessary to "bring about a cessation of acts of family violence." It therefore follows that more recent evidence of acts of violence are more likely to be persuasive with the court.
Our team of Atlanta family law attorneys is available to assist you in filing or handling issues under the Georgia Family Violence Act. Feel free to contact us if you have a family violence action you would like to discuss.
By Melissa Tracy, Associate, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC