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 At the Hearing page for ways you can show the judge that you were abused.