What is the legal definition of family violence in Georgia?
This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a family violence protective order. “Family violence” includes the occurrence of one or more of the following acts when committed by a family/household member:
- simple assault;
- simple battery;
- criminal damage to property in the 1st degree or 2nd degree;
- unlawful restraint;
- criminal trespass; or
- any felony.1
Family violence does not include “reasonable discipline” by a parent to a child in corporal punishment, restraint or detention.1
1 O.C.G.A. § 19-13-1
What 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.1 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.2 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.3
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, you can file a motion to ask the judge to turn your temporary order into an order that lasts for up to three years or a permanent order, with no expiration date.4
1 O.C.G.A. § 19-13-3(a)
2 O.C.G.A. § 19-13-3(b)
3 O.C.G.A. § 19-13-3(c)
4 O.C.G.A. § 19-13-4(c)
What protections can I get in a family violence protective order?
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.1
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.2
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on your need for protection and the facts of your case.
1 O.C.G.A. § 19-13-4(a); Georgia Courts website, petition for family violence ex parte protective order
2 O.C.G.A. § 19-13-4(a); Georgia Courts website, petition for family violence twelve month protective order
In 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.1
1 O.C.G.A § 19-13-2
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.