5 Things to Know about Getting a Temporary Protective Order in Georgia
As people have been stuck at home during the coronavirus quarantine, instances of domestic abuse have been on the rise. For those suffering from domestic abuse, Georgia courts offer an expedited process to obtain immediate legal protection from your abuser: a family violence temporary protective order (“TPO”). While the process to obtain a TPO is relatively simple, ensuring that the order is granted and stays in place can be more difficult. Here are five things to keep in mind if you are suffering family violence or are considering seeking a TPO.
- Family violence TPOs protect against several forms of domestic abuse.
Family violence TPOs serve to protect victims of domestic violence from numerous forms of abuse. Georgia’s family violence statute provides that a TPO may issue where there has been one or more acts of violence between past or present spouses, people who are parents to the same child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster families, or current or former roommates. Specifically, to obtain a TPO, you will need to show one of those individuals has committed a felony or an act of battery, assault, stalking, damage to property, unlawful restraint, or criminal trespass.
- A TPO is a formal court order with the force of law.
A TPO granted by a court carries the force of law, and violation of the order is generally considered contempt of court. Violation of a TPO can result in serious penalties, including criminal charges, jail time, fines, and other sanctions. If your abuser has violated the terms of a TPO, you should immediately contact the police and provide them a copy of your TPO.
- A TPO can provide protection for you and your children.
A TPO can afford protection to more than just the person that files the petition. If both you and your children have been victims of domestic violence, you can request that the protections of the TPO extend to your children. However, if another adult wishes to obtain a TPO against the same abuser for the same acts, that person must generally file their own petition.
- An initial TPO is only effective for a few weeks.
When you first seek a TPO in Georgia, you do so “ex parte” – meaning your abuser does not have an opportunity to respond before the court grants the initial order. However, the initial order is generally only effective for 30 days. The Court will schedule a full evidentiary hearing on your petition for a TPO within that 30-day period. Your abuser must be served with the TPO and a notice of the 30-day hearing, at which he or she will have an opportunity to respond to your allegations.
- To extend a TPO, you must prove your allegations in court.
To extent your TPO beyond the initial 30-day period, you will have to prove the allegations supporting your petition in court to a judge. Because the TPO process is civil (rather than criminal), you only need to prove your case by a “preponderance of the evidence” – meaning, that it is more likely than not that your allegations are true. This can be a difficult process, and it requires the formal presentation of evidence to the court. To prepare for this hearing, you should collect all your evidence demonstrating your allegations, such as photographs of injuries, text messages, emails, police reports, call logs, etc. You will also need to secure any witnesses that support your allegations to testify in court. Without support for your allegations, the court is unlikely to extend your initial TPO, and it will be allowed to expire.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of domestic abuse, you should seek the assistance of an family law attorney to assist you in this process. The experienced attorneys at Buckhead Family Law are here to provide personalized assistance and attention.