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Served with a Temporary Protective Order? Here’s what to do.

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Georgia courts have the authority to issue temporary protective orders (“TPOs”) upon the filing of a sworn petition by an alleged family violence victim. After a petition is filed, a judge will examine the petition and, if the allegations sufficiently state a claim for family violence, the judge will issue an “ex parte” TPO—meaning, a TPO that the alleged defendant has not yet had an opportunity to respond to. Once the ex parte TPO is entered, a county sheriff will usually serve it on the defendant and provide notice of full hearing on the allegations within 30 days.

If you have been served with a TPO, understand that it is a serious matter. You generally have less than 30 days to prepare for the evidentiary hearing. Here are a few things you can do during that time to prepare for the hearing and minimize your risk.

  1. Do not violate the terms of the TPO.

A TPO is a formal court order that carries significant penalties if violated. If a court finds that you willfully violated the terms of a TPO, it can impose fines, jail time, and other sanctions. You can also be charged with crime for violating the TPO. Regardless of the circumstances that gave rise to the TPO, you should treat it seriously. Violations will not be tolerated by the court, and the court will likely hold violations against you at the full evidentiary hearing.

  1. You will have the opportunity to present your case.

Although the court will issue an initial order without you being present, the court is required to hold a hearing within 30 days of issuing the initial TPO. At that hearing, you will be permitted to present evidence in your defense—in other words, it is your opportunity to tell your side of the story. If, after considering the evidence, the court finds that the TPO was not warranted or the allegations are not supported by the evidence, then it will dismiss the TPO.

  1. You should gather any evidence to support your position.

To prepare for the hearing, you should gather any evidence that supports your case. This may include photographs, videos, text messages, emails, police reports, GPS records, phone records, etc. At the hearing, you will also be permitted to present witness testimony, so you should work on identifying any witnesses that can contradict the allegations in the TPO petition.

  1. You have the right to be represented by an attorney.

At the TPO hearing, you have the right to be represented by an attorney. However, because a TPO proceeding is a civil (rather than criminal) matter, an attorney will not be appointed to you—you will need to hire one yourself. TPO hearings are formal court proceedings, and having the experience and advocacy of an attorney can be invaluable in ensuring that your rights are protected. If you have been served with a TPO and are unsure of how to proceed, the experienced attorneys at Buckhead Family Law are here to help.

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