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Legal Information: Georgia

Georgia Restraining Orders

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Restraining Orders

Included in this section is information about family violence protection orders, stalking protection orders, bonds for good behavior, and moving in and out of state with a protection order.

Family Violence Protective Orders

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

What is the legal definition in Georgia of family violence?

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:

  • battery;
  • simple battery;
  • simple assault;
  • assault;
  • stalking;
  • criminal damage to property;
  • unlawful restraint;
  • criminal trespass; or
  • any felony.1

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.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 can be extended for up to three years (a “permanent” order).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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Who can get a family violence protective order

Am 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 with whom you have a child in common.1

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.2

If someone other than a family or household member is hurting you, you may be eligible for a stalking protective order.

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

Can 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?

You can find information about LGBTQIA victims of abuse and what types of barriers they may face on our LGBTQIA Victims page.

How much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?

There is no cost to file for a family violence protective order.1

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.1  To find help, please go to GA Places that Help.  You will find contact information for courthouses on the GA Courthouse Locations page.

1 O.C.G.A. § 19-13-3(d)

If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.

What 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.

Steps for getting a family violence protective order

Step 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.1  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 Advocates and Shelters 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.

1 O.C.G.A. § 19-13-2

Step 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. 

Step 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. 

You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

Step 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. 

After the hearing

Can the abuser have a gun?

Once you get a protection order, there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession.  There are a few places where you can find this information:

  • first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in Georgia have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
  • second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
  • third you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal laws that apply to all states.

You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website

What 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 Advocates and Shelters page.

What 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.1  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.2

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.

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

How 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.1

1 O.C.G.A § 19-13-4(c)

Can 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.

Stalking Protective Orders

A stalking protective order is a civil order issued by the court to protect you from the stalking behavior of another person, regardless of your relationship to that person.

Basic information

What is the legal definition of stalking in Georgia?

Stalking is defined as when someone does any of the following without your permission for the purpose of “harassing or intimidating” you:

  • follows you;
  • places you under surveillance; or
  • contacts you (in person, by phone, email, computer or other electronic device, etc.).1

“Harassing or intimidating” you means that the stalker does repeated acts that cause you emotional distress by placing you in reasonable fear for your safety or the safety of a member of your immediate family (and the acts serve no legitimate purpose). There does not have to be a specific threat of death or bodily injury.1

1 O.C.G.A. § 16-5-90(a)(1)

What protections can I get in a stalking protective order?

An ex parte temporary order can do any of the following:

  • Order the respondent to stop stalking, harassing you or interfering with you and your immediate family;
  • Order the respondent to stay a certain number of yards away from you;
  • Order the respondent to have no contact, directly or indirectly, with you and your immediate family.1

A final protective order can do any of the following:

  • Order all of the protections listed above;
  • Order the respondent (or you) to get psychiatric or psychological services to prevent continued stalking in the future; and
  • Order the respondent to pay your attorney’s fees (or, if you lose the case, order that you pay the respondent’s attorney’s fees).2

Note: If the stalker is also arrested for stalking, you also have the right to be notified when bail hearings are scheduled and when the stalker is released from custody if you provide the court with a landline telephone number.3

1 O.C.G.A. § 16-5-94(d); see GA Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority, petition for a stalking ex parte temporary protective order
2 O.C.G.A. § 16-5-94(d); see GA Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority, petition for a stalking twelve month protective order
3 O.C.G.A. § 16-5-93

What types of stalking protective orders are there and how long do they last?

When you file for a protective order, if the judge believes that stalking has happened in the past and that it may likely happen again in the future, the judge can issue a temporary ex parte order to protect you.  An ex parte order can be issued by the court without the presence of the stalker (respondent).  After the court issues an ex parte order, a hearing must be held within 30 days, at which point you and the respondent will have a chance to prove your case, and the judge will decide whether or not to issue a final order.2  A final order will generally last for up to one year.  However, you can later file a motion (legal papers) asking that it be extended for up to three years or permanently.3  For more information on how to extend the order, we suggest that you talk to a lawyer.  Go to our GA Finding a Lawyer page for free and paid legal services.

1 O.C.G.A. § 16-5-94(d)
2 O.C.G.A. §§ 16-5-94(e); 19-13-3(c)
3 O.C.G.A. §§ 16-5-94(e); 19-13-4(c)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Who is eligible

Am I eligible for a stalking protective order?

If someone is following, harassing, or intimidating you (in the way explained in What is the legal definition of stalking in Georgia?) and you fear for your safety, you may file a petition for protective order.  You do not need to have an intimate relationship with, or be related to, the person stalking you in order to be eligible for a protective order - you can file against anyone who is stalking you.1

The stalker does not have to be arrested in order for you to be eligible for a protective order from stalking.  Additionally, if you do get a protective order, you can still pursue criminal charges against the stalker.

1 O.C.G.A. § 16-5-94(a)

Can a minor file for a protective order?

No. You cannot file on your own. If you are under 18 years of age, someone over 18 will have to file the petition on your behalf.1

1 O.C.G.A. § 16-5-94(a)

Getting the order

In which county can I file for a stalking protective order?

You can file for a stalking protective order in the superior court in the county where the stalker lives if s/he lives in Georgia. If the stalker lives outside of Georgia, you can file in the superior court in the county where you live or where the stalking occurred.1Note: If the stalking is based on the respondent contacting you through phone, email, computer, etc., the county where you receive this contact is considered to be the place where it occurred (as opposed to the county where the respondent initiates this contact).2

1 O.C.G.A §§ 16-5-94(b); 19-13-2
2 O.C.G.A § 16-5-90(a)(1)

What are the steps for getting a stalking protective order?

To get a stalking protective order, you will need to fill out and file the proper forms with the clerk’s office at the appropriate superior courthouse.  For the basic steps to filing an order, you can see our Steps for getting a family violence protective orders section.  Also, the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority allows you to fill out the stalking protective order forms online here.

How does the order get delivered to the respondent?

The sheriff’s department generally delivers the protective order to the respondent/stalker.  You should check with the clerk’s office to see if you have to bring the papers to the sheriff or if the court will deliver them to the sheriff.  You can find contact information for sheriff offices on our GA Sheriff Departments page.

What happens if the respondent violates the order?

If the respondent/stalker violates the protective order in any way, you can call the police to report it. Violation of a stalking protective order may result in his/her arrest and a criminal charge of aggravated stalking, which is a felony and can result in imprisonment of between 1 and 10 years and fine up to $10,000.00.1

1 O.C.G.A. § 16-5-91

Bonds for Good Behavior

A bond for good behavior, also known as a good behavior warrant or a good behavior bond, requires the abuser to post a bond (through giving money or property to the court) that the abuser will lose to the court if s/he violates the judge’s order or commits a crime against you.

What is a bond for good behavior?

In the state of Georgia, you can apply for a bond for good behavior in the criminal division of magistrate court if a crime has been committed or is immediately threatened. The judge may issue a bond for good behavior if s/he believes the safety, peace or property of another person in the county is in danger of being injured or disturbed. Unlike a protective order, a bond for good behavior can mean that both parties (you and the abuser) have to follow the terms of the bond that are set (such as no contact). In some counties, a police report is required.1

A bond for good behavior requires the abuser (defendant) to post bond by giving money or property to the court to hold. The abuser will lose this money or property if s/he violates the judge’s order or commits a crime against you.2 The court may also find the abuser in contempt of court for violating an order.3

Bonds for good behavior can arise in domestic abuse situations or other situation (such as disputes between neighbors). They can be useful if you need some protection from the court for a short period of time. A bond for good behavior will last for a certain term (such as 6 months) but may be extended by the superior or state court for additional 60-day periods.4 If you have questions, you may want to talk to a lawyer. Go to our GA Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.

1 O.C.G.A. § 17-6-90; see, for example, Effingham County’s website
2 O.C.G.A. § 17-6-92
3 O.C.G.A. § 17-6-94
4 O.C.G.A. § 17-6-93; see, for example, Effingham County’s website

In what situations can a bond for good behavior be issued?

Here are some examples of where a bond for good behavior can be issued:

  • where a crime has occurred, but the victim is reluctant to pursue criminal prosecution;
  • where probable cause exists for cross-warrants against both parties;
  • where probable cause exists for the crime of terroristic threats but there is no corroboration that would be required for a conviction;
  • where stalking of a former domestic partner is combined with a history of past violence;
  • where the seriousness of the criminal conduct does not yet warrant prosecution, but some action is needed to prevent escalation;1
  • where there has been harassment or harassing phone calls; and
  • where there has been physical or verbal contact of an insulting nature.2

Note: These are examples given by two counties in Georgia but other counties may issues bonds in different situations.

1 See, for example, Carroll County’s website and Effingham County’s website
2 See, for example, Effingham County’s website

What protections can a bond for good behavior offer?

Depending on the county, a bond for good behavior may order remedies such as any of the following:

  1. no physical or verbal contact between parties;
  2. not to come within a certain distance (usually within 200 or 300 feet) of your home, job, school, or another place you often go;
  3. not to enter or remain in at your place of employment;
  4. not communicate with you by phone or electronically (i.e., texting, emails, Facebook, etc.);
  5. not intentionally follow you or stalk you;
  6. not cause a third party to do any of the things listed above;1
  7. not to violate any criminal laws or engage in any illegal or criminal activity;
  8. not to use alcohol or drugs;
  9. not to engage in any harassing behavior to you, directly or indirectly; and
  10. order for an evaluation and/or treatment for violent behavior, alcohol dependency, or drug dependency.2

1 See Magistrate Court of Pike County website and Effingham County’s website
2 See Carroll County website

How can I get a bond for good behavior?

Here’s how you would go about getting a bond for good behavior:

Step 1. Go to the criminal division of the magistrate court in the county where the incident occurred. Tell the magistrate that you are interested in getting a bond for good behavior taken out on the abuser. Be sure to bring any evidence or police incident reports with you. The magistrate will give you a pre-warrant application form.

Step 2. Fill out the pre-warrant application form. The magistrate may charge you a small fee for this application (often between $30 and $40),1 but this fee can be waived in some situations. You will have to swear that everything you have written is true and sign the forms in front of the magistrate or another court official.

Step 3. The magistrate will take your application to the judge. The judge will review the application. The judge may want to ask you some questions.

Step 4. After reviewing your application, the judge will decide if there is enough evidence and information to have a hearing. If there is not enough evidence, you will have to come back and start over if another incident occurs. If there is enough evidence, the judge will set a hearing date and time. Note: If there is immediate danger to you or to your family, the judge may decide to issue an immediate absolute warrant and arrest the abuser immediately. However, it is much more likely that the judge will just set a hearing date and time.

Step 5. You must go to the hearing. At the hearing, the judge will listen to you and to the abuser, and will look at all the evidence. Then the judge will make a decision. There are three possible decisions:

  1. The judge may decide that the evidence is so strong, and the situation so dangerous, that the abuser needs to be arrested. In this case, the judge will issue a warrant for the abuser’s arrest and take him/her immediately into custody.
  2. The judge may decide that there is enough evidence to issue a bond for good behavior. (See next steps below.)
  3. The judge may decide that there is not enough evidence to either issue a bond or to arrest the abuser. In this case, the judge will just let the abuser leave, with no legal action taken.

Step 6. If the judge decides to issue a bond for good behavior, then the abuser will be required to follow the orders set and written down by the judge for the duration of the bond.

Step 7. The abuser will have to pay a certain amount of money to the court or post bond in the form of property. The bond could be anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

Step 8. The bond for good behavior will last for a certain term (such as 6 months),2 but can be renewed in 60-day increments.3 For the duration of the bond, the court will keep the money of the abuser. If the abuser violates the judge’s orders or commits any crime against you, then the abuser will lose the money and can be arrested.

Step 9. To renew a bond for good behavior, you must go back to the criminal division of the magistrate court and apply for a renewal.

The magistrate in the criminal division of your county should be able to help you with more specific information if you are interested in filing for a bond for good behavior or you can ask a lawyer for legal advice. Go to our GA Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.

1 See, for example, Effingham County’s website and Carroll County’s website
2 See, for example, Effingham County’s website
3 O.C.G.A. § 17-6-93

Moving to Another State with a Family Violence Protective Order

If you are moving out of state or are going to be out of the state for any reason, your protective order can still be enforceable.

General rules

Can I get my protection order from Georgia enforced in another state?

Yes. If you have a valid Georgia protective order that meets federal standards, it can be enforced in another state. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which is a federal law, states that all valid protection orders granted in the United States receive “full faith and credit” in all state and tribal courts within the US, including US territories.  See How do I know if my protection order is good under federal law? to find out if your protective order qualifies.

“Full faith and credit” means that your order must be recognized and enforced throughout the United States.  Each state must enforce out-of-state protective orders in the same way it enforces its own orders, which means that if the abuser violates your out-of-state protective order, s/he will be punished according to the laws of whatever state you are in when the order is violated.

How do I know if my protection order is good under federal law?

A protective order is good anywhere in the United States as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.2

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a) & (b)

I have a temporary ex parte order. Can it be enforced in another state?

Yes. An ex parte temporary order can be enforced in other states as long as it meets the requirements listed in How do I know if my protection order is good under federal law?1

Note: The state where you are going generally cannot extend your ex parte temporary order or issue you a permanent order when the temporary one expires. If you need to extend your temporary order, you will have to contact the state that issued the order and arrange to be at the hearing in person or by telephone (if that is an option offered by the court). However, you may be able to reapply for one in the new state that you are moving to if you meet the requirements for getting a protective order in that state – but, if you apply for one in a new state, the abuser would know what state you are living in, which may put you in danger.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(b)(2)

Getting your Georgia family violence protection order enforced in another state

How do I get my protection order enforced in another state?

Federal law does not require you to take any special steps to get your protection order enforced in another state.

Many states do have laws or regulations (rules) about registering or filing of out-of-state orders, which can make enforcement easier, but a valid protection order is enforceable regardless of whether it has been registered or filed in the new state.1 Rules differ from state to state, so it may be helpful to find out what the rules are in your new state. You can contact a local domestic violence organization for more information by visiting our Advocates and Shelters page and entering your new state in the drop-down menu.

Note: It is important to keep a copy of your protective order with you at all times.  It is also a good idea to know the rules of states you will be living in or visiting to ensure that your out-of-state order can be enforced in a timely manner.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(d)(2)

Do I need anything special to get my protection order enforced in another state?

In some states, you may need a certified copy of your protection order.  If your copy is not a certified copy, you may request a copy from the clerk in the records department of the courthouse where your protective order was granted.  You may want to call the courthouse to see if there is any cost for a certified order.  See our GA Courthouse Locations page for courthouse contact information.

Can I get someone to help me? Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer to get your protective order enforced in another state.

However, you may want to get help from a local domestic violence advocate or attorney in the state that you move to.  A domestic violence advocate can let you know what the advantages and disadvantages are for registering your protective order, and help you through the process if you decide to do so.

To find a domestic violence advocate or an attorney in the state you are moving to, please click on the Places that Help tab at the top of this page.

Do I need to tell the court in Georgia if I move?

You may want to make sure the court has an address where you can receive mail in case the respondent files any sort of motion related to your order. However, if your new address is confidential, you may want to be give the address of a family member where you can receive mail or a P.O. box.

Enforcing custody provisions in another state

I was granted temporary custody with my protective order. Can I take my kids out of the state?

Maybe.  It may depend on the exact wording of the custody provision in your protective order (if there is a custody provision).  You may have to first get permission from the court before leaving.  If the abuser was granted visitation rights with your children, then you may have to have the order changed, or show the court that there is a fair and realistic alternative to the current visitation schedule.

If you are unsure about whether or not you can take your kids out of the state, it is important to talk to a lawyer who understands domestic violence and custody laws, and can help you make the safest decision for you and your children before you leave.  You can find contact information for local domestic violence organizations and legal assistance in the Georgia area on our GA Places that Help page.

I was granted temporary custody with my protective order. Will another state enforce this custody order?

Yes. Custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in a protective order can be enforced across state lines. Law enforcement and courts in another state are required by federal law to enforce these provisions.1

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266

Enforcing Your Out-of-State Order in Georgia

If you are planning to move to Georgia or are going to be in Georgia for any reason, your protection or restraining order can be enforced.

General rules for out-of-state orders in Georgia

Can I get my out-of-state protective order enforced in Georgia? What are the requirements?

Yes. Your protective order from another state can be enforced in Georgia as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case); and
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.2

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a), (b)

Can I have my out-of-state protective order changed, extended, or canceled in Georgia?

No.  Only the state that issued your protective order can change, extend, or cancel the order.  You cannot have this done by a court in Georgia.

To have your order changed, extended, or canceled, you will have to file a motion or petition, notify the abuser, and attend a hearing in the court where the order was issued.  You may be able to request that you attend the court hearing by telephone rather than in person, so that you do not need to return to the state where the abuser is living.  To find out more information about how to modify a restraining order, see the Restraining Order page for the state where your order was issued.

If your order does expire while you are living in Georgia, you may be able to get a new one issued in Georgia. but this may be difficult to do if no new incidents of abuse have occurred in Georgia.  To find out more information on how to get a protective order in Georgia, visit our  Family Violence Protection Orders page.

I was granted temporary custody with my protective order. Will I still have temporary custody of my children in Georgia?

Yes. As long as the child custody provision complies with certain federal laws,1 Georgia can enforce a temporary custody order that is a part of a protection order.

To have someone read over your order and tell you if it meets these standards, contact a lawyer in your area. To find a lawyer in your area click here GA Finding a Lawyer.

1 The federal laws are the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and the Parental Kidnapping

Registering your out-of-state order in Georgia

If I don’t have a hard copy of my out-of-state order, how can law enforcement enforce it?

To enforce an out-of-state order, law enforcement typically may rely on the National Crime Information Center Protection Order File (NCIC-POF). The NCIC-POF is a nationwide, electronic database that contains information about orders of protection that were issued in each state and territory in the U.S. The Protection Order File (POF) contains court orders that are issued to prevent acts of domestic violence, or to prevent someone from stalking, intimidating, or harassing another person. It contains orders issued by both civil and criminal state courts. The types of protection orders issued and the information contained in them vary from state to state.1

There is no way for the general public to access the NCIC-POF. That means you cannot confirm a protection order is in the registry or add a protection order to the registry without the help of a government agency that has access to it.

Typically, the state police or criminal justice agency in the state has the responsibility of reporting protection orders to NCIC. However, in some cases, the courts have taken on that role and they manage the protection order reporting process.2 NCICPOF is used by law enforcement agencies when they need to verify and enforce an out-of-state protection order. It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.

However, not all states routinely enter protection orders into the NCIC. Instead, some states may enter the orders only in their own state protection order registry, which would not be accessible to law enforcement in other states. According to a 2016 report by the National Center for State Courts, more than 700,000 protection orders that were registered in state protection order databases were not registered in the federal NCIC Protection Order File.2 This means that if a law enforcement officer is trying to enforce a protection order from another state that is missing from the NCIC, the victim would likely need to show the officer a hard copy of the order to get it immediately enforced. If you no longer have a copy of your original order, you may want to contact the court that issued the order to ask them how you can get another copy sent to you.

1 National Center for Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit
2 See State Progress in Record Reporting for Firearm-Related Background Checks: Protection Order Submissions, prepared by the National Center for State Courts, April 2016

How do I register my protective order in Georgia?

Anyone may register a foreign (out-of-state) protection order in Georgia.  To register a foreign protection order, you have to present a certified copy of the order to the local Superior Court.  A certified copy will usually be signed and initialed by the clerk of the court that issued the order, and will usually have some kind of stamp or raised seal on it.   The clerk will give you a receipt that shows the order has been received.  There will be no charge for filing your foreign protection order.1  The clerk will then transmit the information to where it will be entered in NCIC.2

If you need help registering your protection order, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in Georgia for assistance.  You can find contact information for organizations in your area on our GA Advocates and Shelters page.

1 O.C.G.A. § 19-13-54(b)
2 O.C.G.A. § 19-13-53

Do I have to register my protection order in Georgia in order to get it enforced?

No. Neither federal law nor Georgia state law1 requires that you register your protection order in order to get it enforced. (However, if your order is not entered into the registry, it may be more difficult for a Georgia law enforcement official to determine whether your order is valid and so it could take longer to get your order enforced.)

1 O.C.G.A. § 19-13-53(e)

Will the abuser be notified if I register my protective order?

Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which applies to all U.S. states and territories, the court is not permitted to notify the abuser when a protective order has been registered or filed in a new state unless you specifically request that the abuser be notified.1 However, you may wish to confirm that the clerk is aware of this law before registering the order if your address is confidential.

However, remember that there may be a possibility that the abuser could somehow find out what state you have moved to. It is important to continue to safety plan, even if you are no longer in the state where the abuser is living. We have some safety planning tips to get you started on our Safety Tips page. You can also contact a local domestic violence organization to get help in developing a personalized safety plan. You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our GA Advocates and Shelters page.

1 18 USC § 2265(d)

Does it cost anything to register my protective order?

No. There is no fee for registering your protective order in Georgia.1

1 O.C.G.A. § 19-13-54(b)