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.
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:
- simple battery;
- simple assault;
- 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