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Know the Laws: Georgia

UPDATED September 29, 2016

Family Violence Protective Orders

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A family violence protective order is a civil order that provides protection if a family or household member is hurting you or threatens to hurt you.

Basic info

back to topWhat is the legal definition in Georgia of family violence?

This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a family violence protective order.

In general, if a family or household member hurts you or tries to hurt you (with or without using a weapon) or gives you reason to believe that s/he is going to hurt you in the near future, that person has committed an act of family violence.  In order to get a protective order, you must have a specific relationship with the abuser.  See Am I eligible to get a family violence protective order? for relationships that could qualify you for a protective order.

"Family violence" includes the occurrence of one or more of the following acts when committed by a family/household member:

  • battery;
  • simple battery;
  • simple assault;
  • assault;
  • stalking;
  • criminal damage to property;
  • unlawful restraint;
  • criminal trespass; or
  • any felony.*
You can read the definitions of these crimes on our GA Statutes page.  Family violence does not include "reasonable discipline" by a parent to a child in corporal punishment, restraint or detention.* 

* O.C.G.A. § 19-13-1

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back to topWhat types of family violence protective order are available? How long do they last?

In Georgia, there are two types of family violence protective orders. 

A temporary ex parte order is designed to protect you from the abuser until the court holds a hearing.  A hearing is mandatory before you can receive a long-term family violence protective order.  You can receive a temporary ex parte order without a court hearing and without the abuser’s prior knowledge.

In order to receive a temporary ex parte order, you must file a petition with the court.*  After you file your petition, a judge may grant a temporary order only if s/he believes that you are in immediate danger.  In your petition, it is important to tell the judge, in detail, of the occurrence of family violence in the past so that the judge can take that into account when s/he makes a decision.**  Temporary orders last up to 30 days, or until your court hearing if it is being heard in another county in the same circuit.  Orders can be extended beyond 30 days upon agreement by both parties.***

A family violence protective order can be issued after a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to tell your sides of the story and present evidence to the judge.  Family violence protective orders last up to one year, but can be extended for up to three years (a "permanent" order).****

* O.C.G.A. § 19-13-3(a)
** O.C.G.A. § 19-13-3(b)
*** O.C.G.A. § 19-13-3(c)
**** O.C.G.A. § 19-13-4(c)

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back to topHow can a family violence protective order help me?

An ex parte family violence protective order can:

  • Order that the abuser not do or attempt to do any of the following: injure, mistreat, bother, follow, harass, harm, or abuse you or your family or household members;
  • Order the abuser not to interfere with your travel, transportation, or communication;
  • Order the abuser not to follow, place under surveillance, or contact you for the purpose of harassing and intimidating you;
  • Give you possession of the house and force the abuser to leave (you can ask the court to have the sheriff send someone home with you to enforce this part of the order);
  • Make the abuser provide decent alternate housing for a spouse, former spouse, parent, or child of the parties;
  • Order the abuser to stay a certain number of yards away from you and/or your children, your residence, workplace, children's school, etc. and to have no contact with you, directly or indirectly;
  • Award you (or the other party) temporary child support and/or spousal support;
  • Give you temporary custody of your children and set temporary visitation rights;
  • Order the abuser not to get rid of and pets or property of yours or that you share with the respondent and provide for possession of the personal property of the parties;
  • Order the abuser not to disconnect or have disconnected home utilities, change or have changed and/or cancel or have canceled auto, health or life insurance for you, your children or for the respondent and not interfere with your mail or your children's mail;
  • Order law enforcement to help you get your personal property if you are not given possession of the home and order the abuser to return certain specified property to you; and/or
  • Give you possession of a car.*
A final family violence protective order can:
  • Order all of the protections listed above;
  • Order the abuser to go to counseling to try to prevent future family violence and/or drug or alcohol counseling; and
  • Award costs and attorney's fees to either party.**
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on your need for protection and the facts of your case.

* O.C.G.A. § 19-13-4(a); Georgia Courts website, petition for family violence ex parte protective order
** O.C.G.A. § 19-13-4(a); Georgia Courts website, petition for family violence twelve month protective order

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back to topIn which county can I file for a family violence protective order?

You can file for a family violence protective order in the superior court in the county where the abuser lives if s/he lives in Georgia.  If the abuser lives outside of Georgia, you can file in the superior court in the county where you live or where the abuse occurred.*

* O.C.G.A § 19-13-2

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Who can get a family violence protective order

back to topAm I eligible to get a family violence protective order?

You may be eligible to file for a family violence protective order if you and/or your minor child have experienced an act of family violence by:

  • Your spouse or ex-spouse;
  • Your parent, step-parent, or foster parent;
  • Your child, step-child, or foster child;
  • Any person who lives or has lived in the same household with you; or
  • Someone you have a child in common with.*
Note: A minor cannot file his/her own petition. If you are under 18 years old, you may have to get a parent/guardian to file on your behalf.**

If someone other than a family or household member is hurting you, you may be eligible for a stalking protective order.  See What can I do if I'm not eligible for a family violence protective order? for more information.

* O.C.G.A. § 19-13-1
** See O.C.G.A. § 19-13-3(a)

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back to topCan I get a family violence protective order against a same-sex partner?

In Georgia, you may apply for a family violence protective order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Am I eligible to get a family violence protective order?  You must also be the victim of an act of family violence, which is explained here What is the legal definition in Georgia of family violence?

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back to topHow much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?

There is no cost to file for a family violence protective order.*

While you do not need a lawyer to file for a family violence protective order, it may be better to have one, especially if the abuser has a lawyer.  Even if the abuser does not have a lawyer, it is recommended that you contact a lawyer who is knowledgeable about protective orders to make sure that your legal rights are protected.

In addition, the domestic violence organizations in your area and/or court staff may be able to answer some of your questions or help you fill out the necessary court forms.  While the court staff can give you the necessary forms for filing a petition, they are not required to help you complete the forms, present your case to the judge, or give legal advice.*  To find help, please go to GA Where to Find Help.  You will find contact information for courthouses on the GA Courthouse Locations page.

* O.C.G.A. § 19-13-3(d)

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back to topWhat can I do if I'm not eligible for a family violence protective order?

If someone other than a family or household member is hurting you, there may be different laws designed to protect you.  If anyone has stalked you, you may be eligible for a stalking protective order.  See our Stalking Protective Orders page for more information.  Also, certain abusive actions can be considered crimes and the abuser can be arrested and prosecuted in criminal court.  To read the legal definitions of some common crimes in Georgia, you can go to our Crimes page.

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Steps for getting a family violence protective order

back to topStep 1: Get the necessary forms and fill them out.

You can file for a family violence protective order at the superior court in the county where the abuser lives.  If the abuser does not live in Georgia, then you should go to the superior court where you live or where the abuse happened.*  To find courthouse contact information, go to our GA Courthouse Locations page.  At the courthouse, you will speak with the civil clerk of court.  Ask for a petition for a family violence protective order.  The clerk will give you the forms that you need to file.  If you need help filling out the form, ask the clerk for help. You will also find links to online forms at our GA Download Court Forms page.

Also, you may be able to get help through one of the domestic violence organizations listed on our GA State and Local Programs page.

Note: Remember to bring some form of identification (a driver's license or a picture ID) when going to court to fill out a petition.  Carefully fill out the petition. Be specific. Write about the most recent incident of violence, using descriptive language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, when the police were called, etc.) that fits your situation.  Include past instances of abuse as the form provides.  The judge is going to make a ruling regarding whether or not to issue a temporary ex parte order based on the events that you describe.  Make sure the information provided accurately tells your story in detail.

* O.C.G.A. § 19-13-2

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back to topStep 2: Get an ex parte temporary family violence protective order

If you are in immediate danger, you can ask for an ex parte temporary family violence protective order when you file your petition.  According to the Georgia Courts self-help manual, each court operates a little differently.  In some cases, you have to tell the bailiff or the judge that you have a family violence petition and want to have an ex parte hearing.  In some courts, the judge may meet with you in his/her chambers - the equivalent of a judge's office (the abuser will not be present).  You will be sworn in and the judge may ask you questions about your case and may ask you what protections you are seeking.  Domestic violence organizations often help people get through the ex parte process. 

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back to topStep 3: Service of process

If the judge gives you a temporary ex parte order, you may have to bring it to the clerk's office to have it filed.  According to the Georgia Courts self-help manual, service may be done differently in different counties - you may need to take the order to the sheriff’s department and fill out a form so that the sheriff’s office can serve the papers on the abuser.  If so, you will need to fill out information about the abuser's address, workplace and work hours, Social Security number, and a physical description.  Sometimes the petitioner fills out the form at the clerk’s office and the clerk will send this form and the respondent’s copy of the petition and the temporary ex parte order to the sheriff’s office for service on the respondent.  You can ask the clerk which way service will be carried out in your county.

You can go to our GA Sheriff Departments page to find your nearest sheriff's department.  The abuser must be served with the papers and given notice of the court hearing. 

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back to topStep 4: The hearing

Whether the judge grants you a temporary ex parte order or not, you will likely be given a court date for a hearing within 30 days to determine if a final family violence protective order will be issued.  The hearing will be in front of a judge.  Both you and the abuser will have a chance to be present at this hearing and give evidence and testimony.

You must go to the hearing.  If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary family violence protective order will expire and you will have to start the process over.  If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you a family violence protective order, or the judge may order a new hearing date.

It's generally best to have a lawyer represent you at a hearing, especially if the abuser will have a lawyer.  For legal referrals, go to our GA Finding a Lawyer page.  If you will be representing yourself in court, you can see the Preparing Your Case page for ways you can show the judge that you were abused. 

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After the hearing

back to topWhat should I do when I leave the courthouse?

You should review the family violence protective order before you leave the courthouse.  If something is wrong or missing, you might want to ask the clerk how to get it corrected.  Here are some additional things that you may want to do after leaving the courthouse:

  • Keep a copy of the family violence protective order with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order at your workplace, at your home, at the children's school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks and your phone number if permitted by law.
  • Be aware of your safety while leaving the courthouse.  If you are concerned that the abuser may try to approach you, contact a court officer to see if you can be accompanied to your car.

Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving a family violence protective order.  People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school.  Many abusers obey protective orders, but some do not and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  View our Staying Safe page for some suggestions.  Advocates at local domestic violence resource centers can assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support.  For a list of domestic violence centers, see our GA State and Local Programs page.

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back to topWhat can I do if the abuser violates the order?

If the abuser violates the order, s/he can be arrested.  You can call law enforcement and report that you have a family violence protective order and that the abuser has violated the order. 

For a non-violent violation of certain terms of a family violence protective order, the abuser can be convicted of a misdemeanor crime of violating a family violence order.*  It can also be possible to be convicted of the felony offense of aggravated stalking if the abuser follows you, places you under surveillance, or contacts you without your consent for the purpose of harassing and intimidating you.**

If the abuser violates the order by not paying support for yourself or your minor children, generally this is not handled by the police/criminal justice system.  Instead, you can file an action for contempt or garnishment with the court.  An action for contempt is a legal procedure to get the court to make the abuser obey the order and/or to punish him/her.  An action for garnishment asks the court to take money for support directly out of his/her paycheck.  For legal advice on your particular situation, you may find a lawyer on our GA Finding a Lawyer page.

* O.C.G.A. § 16-5-95(b),(c)
** O.C.G.A. § 16-5-91

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back to topHow do I extend my protective order?

If you would like to extend your protective order, you must file a motion with the court and your petition will be served upon the abuser.  The court will hold a hearing where you and the abuser both have the right to be present.  The judge has the option of extending the order for up to three years or making the order permanent.*

* O.C.G.A § 19-13-4(c) 

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back to topCan I get my family violence protective order enforced if I move?

If you move within Georgia, it is often a good idea to talk with an advocate at a domestic violence organization in your new community so the advocate can help you with safety planning.  Your order is enforceable anywhere in Georgia.  Additionally, the federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protective order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. territories and tribal lands.  If you are moving to a new state, please visit our Moving to Another State with a Family Violence Protective Order page for more information.


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