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Obtaining a Family Violence Protective Order in Georgia

There are specific requirements for obtaining a family violence protective order in Georgia, and courts cannot add additional requirements to those listed in the statute. In a recent case heard by the Georgia Court of Appeals, the parties separated a following an incident of family violence committed by the husband against the wife, and the wife moved to a new residence, the location of which she tried to keep from the husband. Lewis v. Lewis, A12A0601(2012). The husband subsequently located the wife’s new residence and “on more than one occasion, he appeared at the residence unannounced and proceeded to harass and threaten” the wife.Id. at 2. After one particularly violent incident in late 2010, the wife took out a warrant for the husband’s arrest. The husband then agreed to stay away from the wife and moved to another state. Id.

A few months later, the husband moved back to Georgia and the wife served him with a petition for child support. Based upon the husband’s reaction to this lawsuit and her previous experience with him, the wife feared he would soon become physically violent with her again “because of the look on his face and his demeanor.” Id. at 3. The wife, therefore, applied for and received a temporary protective order under OCGA §19-13-3(b). At the hearing to extend that order for 12 months,however, the judge dismissed the petition for protective order because the wife could not show a “reasonably recent” incidence of family violence, as the last occurrence was almost a year prior.Id. at 4.

The wife appealed, arguing “the statute under which she sought a protective order, OCGA §19-13-3, does not absolutely require her to show a ‘relatively recent’ act of family violence.”Id. at 5. The Court of Appeals of Georgia agreed, looking to the plain language of the statute, which only requires that “family violence has occurred in the past and may occur in the future.” OCGA §19-13-3(b). There is no specific time requirement in this statute. In holding that the trial court abused its discretion, the Court pointed out that “[t]he recency of past violence may, of course, bear upon the likelihood of future violence, but a ‘reasonably recent’ act of violence is not absolutely required.” Id. at 6. The Court of Appeals, thus, vacated the order dismissing the wife’s petition and remanded the case for additional proceedings.

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