It has been several months since the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19 first surfaced in America and multiple states issued stay at home orders. While these lockdown measures were meant to protect people, they have endangered many victims of domestic violence by forcing them to shelter with their abuser. Fortunately, victims can petition the courts for a total protective order, and courts will still hold TPO hearings, despite being closed for most matters until June 12. If you are facing domestic violence, contact the Don Turner Legal Team to confidentially discuss your case.
Americans have been encouraged to practice various social distancing measures in order to halt the spread of COVID-19. This has included encouraging citizens to remain in their homes whenever possible. Sadly, this has made homes a more dangerous place for many victims of domestic abuse. The stress caused by the pandemic has increased tensions in abusive households. Stay at home orders have left victims with less privacy, making them reluctant to contact domestic abuse hotlines. Abusers may further discourage their victims seeking help through the abuse of technology.
Anxieties caused by COVID-19 have left many victims more willing to remain with their abuser than live in a shelter, where they and their children may be exposed to COVID-19. Many shelters are facing health and economic concerns that make it more difficult to take in victims. The pandemic is also a time of widespread unemployment and economic uncertainty for many American. If the abuser is the primary breadwinner, the victim might be more willing to tolerate their abuse than risk the financial consequences of leaving.
A TPO Can Help You
Fortunately, Georgia has a legal remedy for domestic abuse victims in the form of total protective orders (TPOs), otherwise known as restraining orders. Protective orders prohibit an abuser from harassing or harming their victim. They may also order the abuser to stay a certain distance from the victim, leave the residence they shared with the victim, and forbid them from harming, destroying, or disposing of pets or property that they shared with their victim.
After you file for a TPO, the court will grant you a temporary ex parte order if they believe your life if in immediate danger. This order is meant to protect you until your TPO hearing and will remain in effect for 30 days or until the date of said hearing. Because a protective order can be a matter of life or death for a domestic abuse victim, Georgia courts will conduct hearings for family violence TPOs even during the ongoing judicial state of emergency.
At the TPO hearing, you and your abuser will be allowed to present your side of the story. Afterward, the judge will decide whether you qualify for a long-term protective order. A long-term order will include the protections listed above and may also include additional provisions, such as ordering you and/or your abuser to attend court-mandated counseling or ordering your abuser to pay your attorney fees, should your request for a long-term hearing be granted.
A long-term protective order will last for up to one year, although the judge may extend it for up to three additional years. Should you wish for an extension of your TPO, you will need to petition the court for an additional hearing. You and your abuser will have a right to be present at this hearing.
Defending Yourself Against a TPO
Although TPOs are meant to protect domestic abuse victims, they can wreak havoc on the lives of those falsely accused of family violence. If a TPO has been filed against you, you need to act quickly by hiring an experienced attorney to represent you at your hearing. You have a limited number of days from the filing of the temporary ex parte order to the TPO hearing, and you need to make sure you have a good defense before then.
You should take the prospect of a long-term protective order seriously. If the judge rules in your accuser’s favor, you could be kicked out of your home and forbidden from contacting any children you may have had with said accuser for a year, if not longer. A long-term protective order will also show up on background checks and prevent you from purchasing firearms while it is in effect.
Note that you should avoid disobeying the temporary ex parte order while you wait for the TPO hearing. If you violate this order in any way, your accuser can bring that up during the hearing or even file a motion alleging a violation of the ex parte order. This can make it even harder for you to establish your case and defend against the request for a long-term protective order.
This is a dangerous time for many domestic abuse victims, but the courts may be able to offer you some relief. Contact the Don Turner Legal Team today if you have filed a petition for a protective order or have had one filed against you. And if you or a loved one is facing domestic violence, contact the Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-33-HAVEN (1.800.334.2836).