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Georgia Courts offer protection for individuals who have been victimized by family violence through the issuance of Temporary Protective Orders (TPOs). A TPO is a court order designed to help victims of family violence obtain protection from the individual or individuals who are abusing, harassing, or stalking them. Generally, TPOs prohibit contact between the party seeking the order and alleged abuser. In some circumstances, a TPO may order the alleged abuser to vacate the family’s residence or refrain from visiting a certain place or residence.
In order to obtain a Temporary Protective Order, the victim, or someone acting on the victims behalf, must go to the Superior Court in the county where the Defendant (abuser) resides to file a Petition outlining the specific acts of family violence, as defined in O.C.G.A. § 19-13-1, that have occurred. For more information regarding what constituted family violence in the state of Georgia, see our article titled “Family Violence: Generally.” See O.C.G.A. §§ 19-13-1(2) and 19-13-3(a). Once the petition is submitted, it will be reviewed by a Judge. If, after review of the petition, the presiding Judge finds that family violence has occurred in the past and may occur in the future, the Court may immediately issue a temporary ex parte protective order to protect the victim from further acts of violence by requiring the Defendant to stay away from the victim and refrain from committing other acts of family violence against the victim. O.C.G.A. §19-13-3(b). Once this order is entered by the presiding judge, a copy will be served on the Defendant.
Within the next 30 days, the Court will schedule a hearing that both parties must attend. At this hearing, the victim must prove his or her allegations by a preponderance of evidence, and the Defendant will have a chance to present his or her defense. O.C.G.A. § 19-13-3(c). In order to prove his or her allegations, the victim should bring all evidence, such as pictures of bruises, scratches or other injuries, doctor’s reports, audio recordings, and damaged property to the hearing. If the family violence is proven by a preponderance of evidence, the Order may be extended for up to three years; or the Order may be made permanent, if the Court deems it necessary for the protection of the victim. O.C.G.A. § 19-13-4(c). Additionally, the Temporary Protective Order may provide other forms of relief, such as:
- Granting the victim possession of the residence or household to the exclusion of the abuser;
- Requiring the abuser to provide his or her spouse and children suitable alternative housing;
- Awarding temporary custody of minor children and establishing temporary visitation rights;
- Ordering the eviction of the abuser from the residence or household and assistance to the victim in returning to the residence or retrieving his or her possessions from the residence;
- Ordering either the victim or abuser to make payments for the support of minor children pursuant to a court order;
- Ordering either the victim or abuser to make spousal support payments pursuant to a court order;
- Ordering the abuser to cease harassment or interference with the victim;
- Awarding costs and attorney’s fees to either party; and
- Ordering the abuser to receive psychiatric or psychological services to prevent future acts of family violence.
See O.C.G.A. §§ 19-13-4 and 19-6-17(e). See also James-Dickens v. Petit-Compere, 299 Ga. App. 519 (2009). Once a victim obtains a Temporary Protective Order in one county in the state of Georgia, that TPO is effective in all counties in the state of Georgia. Additionally, the Violence Against Women Act, VAWA U.S. Code Section 2265, requires other states to enforce valid protection orders issued by the state of Georgia.
Please remember that although a Temporary Protective Order entitles you to certain protections against the abuser, TPOs, just as other court orders, have limitations. So, if you believe that your TPO has been violated, immediately contact the authorities. Most importantly, if you feel that you are in imminent danger, please call 911.