Family Violence

Georgia law provides an important tool to help shield individuals from domestic violence: the Procedures for Prevention of Family Violence Act. Those who are able to show that they meet the Act’s requirements are able to obtain a Family Violence Protective Order that all law enforcement agencies throughout the State are obligated to enforce. The Act has special expedited procedures and authorizes the court to enter a temporary order on any of a wide range of matters. For instance, the court has the authority on a temporary basis to decide custody of children, to set or modify the parenting time (or visitation) given the noncustodial parent, to award child support and spousal support, to award attorney fees, to provide direction regarding which party may keep possession of the family residence (and who must get out), to divide up the parties’ personal property on a temporary basis, and to restrict the responding parties’ possession of firearms. There are also potential remedies to use to prevent the respondent from harassing the petitioner at work.

To get a Family Violence Protective Order a petitioner must prove to the satisfaction of the Judge that parties’ current or prior relationship is one of a type covered by the Act, that the respondent has engaged in one or more of the particular types of violence specified in the Act, and that the petitioner has a genuine need for protection against future violence by the respondent.

The expedited procedures provided in the Act permit the court to enter a temporary order after an initial “Ex Parte Hearing” with the petitioner. This “Ex Parte Hearing” is held before the respondent is served and the respondent is not given any chance to present evidence or argument to the court at that point. This initial order can stay in effect up to thirty days. A second hearing is scheduled to give the court an opportunity to hear from both parties. At this second hearing the court considers whether to lift the protective order, modify it, or extend it. The court can keep a protective order in place permanently.

Georgia law also provides remedies for stalking and cyberstalking, with a similar expedited procedure. To obtain a Stalking Protective Order a petitioner must show that the respondent has stalked him or her and that the petitioner needs protection against future stalking by the respondent. The petitioner is not required to show that there is any particular type of relationship between the parties.

Georgia Lord worked within the Family Division of Fulton Superior Court for over five years and is personally familiar with the processes used for Family Violence petitions and the ways in which such a petition can impact any other claims pending. She can suggest alternative courses of action and provide valuable assistance in evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of each, while always making your personal safety the top priority.

A scary cousin of mine keeps calling and threatening me. Can I bring a Family Violence petition against my cousin?
It depends. In order to get a Family Protective Order the petitioner must show that the respondent is either his or her past spouse, present spouse, the other parent of the petitioner’s child, parent, foster parent, stepparent, child, foster child, stepchild, a person now living in the same household with the petitioner or a person form formerly living in the same household with the petitioner. So, a cousin would only be covered if he or she has shared a household with you or falls into one of the other relationships listed.

It is taking a really long time to get a hearing on my request for temporary relief. Can I speed up the process and get the jump on my husband by filing a Family Violence Petition? He yells at me sometimes and looks angry.
You should only file a Family Violence Petition if you believe in good faith that your husband’s actions constitute violence within the meaning of the Family Violence Act and that you genuinely need protection against future violence by him. Any attempt to try to exaggerate the facts regarding what the respondent has done may boomerang on the petitioner: if the court ends up convinced that you have used this process in order to gain a tactical advantage rather than out of a genuine concern regarding potential violence it may view all your arguments with skepticism. Sometimes it is more appropriate to seek a restraining order in your family litigation instead of bringing a Family Violence Petition. This question should be discussed with counsel knowledgeable about both your existing cause of action and the Family Violence Act. Your personal safety and the safety of other family members should always be your top priority.

My husband told me he wanted a divorce and then two weeks later filed a Family Violence Petition. The court entered an order that kicks me out of the house, keeps me from seeing my kids, and requires me to hand over most of my salary to him. I did not even know about this until after the order was entered. What should I do?
You need to immediately obtain counsel proficient with family violence litigation. You will probably only get one chance to have some important issues heard and hearing may only be a day or two in the future. Check the paperwork you receive right away to see the date, time and place of your hearing and make sure you understand where and when you are supposed to show up. You will need the help of experienced counsel, such as Georgia Lord, in quickly gathering your evidence and presenting it to the court.

Further information regarding Family Violence petitions can be found at:

Fulton County Superior Court, Family Division of Domestic Violence

Dekalb County Magistrate Court, Protective or Restraining Orders