What is family violence?
Family violence is defined as the commission of any felony or the commission of offenses of battery, simple battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint or criminal trespass.
What groups of people are protected under family violence?
Georgia has a law protecting victims of family violence. The parties do not have to be married in order for a victim to ask the court for relief. However, the parties have to reside in the same household. The following groups may be provided relief from family violence:
- Past and present spouses
- Parents and children
- Stepparents and stepchildren
- Foster parents and foster children
- Other persons living or formerly living in the same household
- Persons that are parents of the same child
The only nonprotected groups are those who are dating or have dated, but have never lived together. However, the criminal statutes and a normal restraining order may be used.
Where do I file for protection against family violence?
The victim must file a petition seeking protection from further acts of family violence in the superior court. The petition will verify that the victim alleges that one or more acts of family violence has occurred in the past and are likely to occur in the future. If the victim is a minor, an adult must file the petition on his or her behalf. The petition is filed in the county in which the respondent resides. If the respondent lives out of state, then the petition is filed in the county where the incident occurred.
What happens after filing a petition?
The petitioner appears before the presiding judge, ex parte (without the other party present), and testifies as to what violence occurred. This appearance should follow closely to the act or threat of violence. The judge has the authority to enter an order providing any or all of the following relief:
- RESTRAIN. Restrain the other party from committing acts of family violence.
- POSSESSION. Grant the victim possession of the family residence and order the other party out of the house, or require the respondent to provide alternative housing for the victim and the children.
- CUSTODY. Award temporary custody and visitation rights.
- REMOVAL. Order the removal of the respondent from the household and/ or order assistance to the victim in returning to the household, either to stay at household or retrieve personal property pending the final hearing.
- SUPPORT. Child support and alimony may be ordered. Typically the judge does not order support until the second hearing where both parties are present. At that time the court may order payment through the Child Support Office, thereby ensuring collection and avoiding contact between the parties.
- PROPERTY. Division of personal property typically occurs at the second hearing.
- OTHER. Includes refraining from harassing or interfering with the other.
After the judge signs the order, the clerk of court schedules a date for the next hearing. The hearing should be within 10 days, but not longer than 30 days.
What happens at the final (second) hearing?
This is the respondent's opportunity to dispute the claims against him or her. At this hearing, the nature and history of the violence is presented by the victim, as well as any financial information as required by the courts when child support and/or alimony is an issue.
How long is the order valid?
After the order is signed, the petitioner should receive a certified copy. The sheriff's office keeps a copy on file. This order is valid for six months throughout the entire state and United States. Upon a request from the petitioner and a hearing, the court can review the case and extend the length of the protective order.
What happens if the order is violated?
Civil: The petitioner can file a contempt petition against the respondent, alleging the provision of the order that has been violated and the act that violates this provision.
Criminal: If the respondent is in violation of the order, then he or she can be charged with the appropriate local and state charge.
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