How to Get a Restraining Order in Georgia for Harassment
In situations involving domestic violence, one of the most important legal tools available to those who have been abused is the temporary restraining order (“TRO”). These orders are what is commonly thought of as a “restraining order”. By preventing contact between the abuser and the victim, temporary restraining orders serve to break the cycle of violence and prevent harassment outside of the home.
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What is a Family Violence Protective Order?
For anyone who has experienced physical abuse, intimidation, threats of violence or any other form of domestic violence that provides grounds for obtaining a temporary protective order (TPO), it is important to seek legal help right away. Understanding how to get a restraining order will give you the knowledge and power to keep you and your family safe. Georgia has a specialized TPO designed to protect those within certain relationships (i.e. past or present spouses, parents to the same child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children of persons lining or formerly living in the same household); this is a family violence protective order. There are special procedures for obtaining domestic abuse protective orders, and you may be able to obtain emergency relief the same day you file your petition with the court without the abuser being present in court.
Obtaining a Temporary Restraining Order or Protective Order in Georgia
The process of obtaining a temporary protective order is fairly straightforward, and several jurisdictions in Georgia (including Cobb County) provide free online resources to help victims of domestic violence file on their own TPO. However, while the process may be straightforward, due to the requirements that must be met, the time-sensitive nature of filing for a TPO, and the need to ensure that you obtain appropriate protection for your unique personal circumstances, it is in a domestic violence victim’s best interests to seek legal representation. An experienced domestic violence lawyer will also be able to advise you of any other steps you can take to protect yourself, your children and any other loved ones affected by the harassment or abuse.
The basic requirements for obtaining a temporary protective order include:
- Preparing a petition for a temporary protective order;
- Filing your petition in the appropriate Superior Court (this should be the court serving the jurisdiction in which the abuser resides); and,
- Demonstrating to the judge that you have been subjected to domestic violence and that there is probable cause to issue a TPO (the abuser does not need to be present).
What is the Difference Between a Temporary Protection Order and a Restraining Order?
The term temporary protection order (TPO) describes the procedure known as a restraining order in many states. In Georgia, this formal court order is also sometimes referred to as an ex parte order. It grants swift protection for the person who seeks it, along with his or her children.
In most cases, a TPO can be obtained within just 24 hours. It can be classified as a stalking or family violence matter, depending on the situation and the relationship of the alleged perpetrator to the petitioner.
The TPO provides extensive protection, but only on a short-term basis. For the order to be extended, a petition must be filed with the court. This is followed by a hearing, which, if successful, may lead to twelve months or even three years of sustained protection.
What Situations Warrant a Restraining Order in Georgia?
Restraining orders are available to Georgia residents who have suffered several types of abuse. Physical and sexual abuse, in particular, are grounds for restraining orders, as are threats to do harm. Stalking, psychological harm, and hiding assets as a form of punishment may also be responded to with restraining orders.
Examples of situations that might lead to a restraining order in Georgia include:
- A spouse repeatedly threatens to strike his or her partner.
- A coworker sexually assaults a fellow employee.
- A former romantic partner parks outside of the victim’s home for extended hours or calls the victim’s cell phone in the middle of the night.
- A co-parent screams and cusses at the other parent when discussing childcare concerns.
What Does a TPO or Long-term Restraining Order Guarantee?
Both TPO and long-lasting restraining orders can provide several assurances for victims of abuse. These include the following:
- Petitioners may receive temporary child custody, along with temporary child support payments.
- Petitioners can be granted possession of shared homes, with the abuser forced to leave.
- The abuser cannot disconnect home utilities or cancel the petitioner’s insurance policies.
- Abusers are ordered not to injure, harass, harm, or threaten petitioners or members of their household.
- Abusers cannot interfere with the victim’s transportation or communication.
If the abuser violates any orders granted by the court, the victim can ask for assistance from either the court or law enforcement. Those who violate orders may be found in civil or criminal contempt, both of which can lead to severe repercussions.
Long-Term Protection from Harassment and Abuse
Temporary protective orders generally last for 30 days. The judge will schedule another court date before your TPO expires, and this will be your opportunity to seek long-term protection from further harassment and abuse. During this court appearance, your spouse, domestic partner, or other cohabitant who is subject to the TPO will have the opportunity to appear and challenge your allegations. Whether it is abuse or harassment-based restraining order, it is best to be represented by an attorney to ensure that you have every opportunity to obtain the protection you need.
All forms of domestic violence are serious, and the law is designed to protect those who have been harassed and abused. If you would like to speak with an attorney, we encourage you to contact our firm promptly for a confidential consultation.
To speak with a domestic violence attorney at Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor, please call (678) 971-3413 or contact us online.