19-13-3. Petition; hearing
(a) A person who is not a minor may seek relief under this article by filing a petition with the superior court alleging one or more acts of family violence. A person who is not a minor may also seek relief on behalf of a minor by filing such a petition.
(b) Upon the filing of a verified petition in which the petitioner alleges with specific facts that probable cause exists to establish that family violence has occurred in the past and may occur in the future, the court may order such temporary relief ex parte as it deems necessary to protect the petitioner or a minor of the household from violence. If the court issues an ex parte order, a copy of the order shall be immediately furnished to the petitioner and such order shall remain in effect until the court issues an order dismissing such order or a hearing as set forth in subsection (c) of this Code section occurs, whichever occurs first.
(c) Within ten days of the filing of the petition under this article or as soon as practical thereafter, but not later than 30 days after the filing of the petition, a hearing shall be held at which the petitioner must prove the allegations of the petition by a preponderance of the evidence as in other civil cases. In the event a hearing cannot be scheduled within the county where the case is pending within the 30 day period the same shall be scheduled and heard within any other county of that circuit. If a hearing is not held within 30 days of the filing of the petition, the petition shall stand dismissed unless the parties otherwise agree.
(d) Family violence shelter or social service agency staff members designated by the court may explain to all victims not represented by counsel the procedures for filling out and filing all forms and pleadings necessary for the presentation of their petition to the court. The clerk of the court may provide forms for petitions and pleadings to victims of family violence and to any other person designated by the superior court pursuant to this Code section as authorized to advise victims on filling out and filing such petitions and pleadings. The clerk shall not be required to provide assistance to persons in completing such forms or in presenting their case to the court. Any assistance provided pursuant to this Code section shall be performed without cost to the petitioners. The performance of such assistance shall not constitute the practice of law as defined in Code Section 15-19-51.
(e) If the court finds a party is avoiding service to delay a hearing, the court may delay dismissal of the petition for an additional 30 days.