If you or a loved one fear the consequences of ending an abusive relationship, you should consider filing a restraining order, otherwise known as a total protective order (TPO). Whether you fear for your or your children’s safety, are in danger from a spouse or other family member, or believe you are the victim of unfair allegations, a protective order can help. Our experienced family law attorney can help you file a protective order and represent you at your TPO hearing.Family Violence Protective Orders
If someone living in your household harms, attempts to harm, or gives you reason to believe they will harm you and/or your minor children, you may be able to gain relief with the help of a family violence protective order. Filing a petition for a family violence protective order is free, and although you do not need an attorney, you should have a skilled family lawyer on your side who can help ensure your legal rights are protected, even if your abuser does not have legal counsel.
The court will grant you a temporary ex parte order after your petition is filed, should they believe that you are in immediate danger. This order is designed to protect a victim or victims while they await an official court hearing and remains in effect for 30 days or until the date of said hearing. An ex parte family violence order prohibits an alleged abuser from engaging in certain actions, such as harassing or harming their alleged victim. It may also order the alleged abuser to leave the residence they shared with their accuser, order them to maintain a certain number of yards away from said accuser, and forbid them from harming or disposing of shared property or pets.
After an ex parte order is granted, both parties will be required to attend a TPO hearing. This hearing allows the alleged abuser and their accuser to present evidence to the court and present their side of the story. The court will then decide whether or not a long-term family violence protective order is appropriate for the situation. A long-term family violence protective order will include the same provisions found in the ex parte order. It may also include provisions for court-mandated counseling and order the abuser to pay the attorney's fees.
A long-term family violence protective order typically lasts for one year. If you wish to extend your protective order, you will need to file a motion with the court for another hearing, which you and your alleged abuser have the right to be present at. The judge will then have the option of extending your protective order for up to three additional years.Stalking Protective Orders
If someone is stalking you, you may be able to obtain relief by obtaining a stalking protective order, regardless of your relationship to the other person. Stalking is defined under Georgia law as someone engaging in the following behaviors a) without the permission of the other party, b) for no legitimate purpose and c) with the intent of inflicting emotional distress on the other party by causing them to fear for their safety or the safety of their loved ones:
- Following the other party
- Contacting the other party in person, over the phone, or via electronic communication
- Placing the other party under surveillance
Note that there does not have to be a specific threat of death or bodily injury for an act to be considered stalking. As long as the alleged stalker's actions show a clear intent to inflict emotional distress and were done without the consent of their victim and for no other purpose outside of making them fear for their safety, then the act qualifies as stalking under Georgia law.
The procedure for obtaining a stalking protective order is similar to the procedure for obtaining a family violence protective order outlined above. Note that if the party stalking you is arrested for the act, you have a right to be notified when their bail hearings are scheduled and when they are released from custody. Be aware that an individual can also be accused of aggravated stalking, should they violate the terms of a TPO, which is considered a felony offense.