If the perpetrator/suspect/defendant resides within Fulton County Atlanta Victim Assistance can help you, file for a protective order. If you would like help please call 404.588.4740, or email us to schedule an appointment.
The protection order process is similar throughout Georgia, but the process may vary depending on your county.
What is a Temporary Protection Order?
A Temporary Protection Order is a written statement from a court that tells the abuser to stop the abuse or face serious legal consequences. It offers civil legal protection from domestic violence to both women and men victims.
How long do they last?
A Temporary Protection Order can be issued after a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to tell your sides of the story. Temporary Protection Orders last up to one year, but can be extended for up to three years, or permanently.
Am I eligible to get a Temporary Protection Order?
You are eligible to file for a Temporary Protection Order if you, or your 18 or under child, have experienced acts of violence from:
- Your husband or wife
- Your ex-husband or ex-wife
- Your parent, stepparent, or foster parent
- Your child, stepchild, or foster child
- Any person who lives in your household as if they were part of the family (for instance: your live-in boyfriend, the boyfriend or girlfriend of another family member, your roommate). The law protects you against these people even if they are no longer living with you.
- The mother or father of your baby, even if they have never lived with you or been married to you (4)
Note: If you are under 18 years old, you have to find someone who is 18 or older to file for you. Also, you can file for an order against someone who is a minor.
If someone other than a family or household member is hurting you, there are different laws designed to protect you. You may be eligible for a protective order under the Stalking Law.
See: What can I do if I’m not eligible for a Temporary Protection Order?
How can a Temporary Protection Order help me?
- Tell the abuser to leave you alone
- Give you possession of the house and force the abuser to leave (ask the court to have the sheriff send someone home with you to enforce this part of the order)
- Make the abuser give decent alternate housing for a spouse, former spouse, or parent and children
- Give you temporary custody of your children and award you temporary support payments from the abuser and set temporary visitation rights
- Order help getting personal property of the victim
- Order the abuser to go to counseling
- Lead to your abuser’s arrest if he breaks the order
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.
How much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?
There is no cost for filing for a Temporary Protection Order.
No, you do not need a lawyer to file for a Temporary Protection Order, but it may be better to have one.
If your abuser has a lawyer, you should try to get one too. Even if your abuser does not have a lawyer, it is recommended that you contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected.
In addition, the domestic violence organizations in your area and/or court staff may be able to answer some of your questions or help you fill out the necessary court forms. Court staff cannot give legal advice. You will find information on legal assistance and domestic violence organizations on the GA Links & Resources page. You will find contact information for courthouses on the GA Courthouse Locations & Info page.
What will I have to prove at the Temporary Protection Order Hearing?
As the petitioner asking for a Temporary Protection Order, you must:
- Prove that the respondent (your abuser) has committed acts of violence (as defined by the law).
- Convince a judge that you need protection and the specific things you asked for in your petition.
What should I do before the hearing to prepare my case?
Contact witnesses who saw the abuse or your injuries.
Anyone can be a witness – a friend, family member, children, emergency room nurse, doctor, stranger, law enforcement officer, etc. Some witnesses may not come to court unless they are given a subpoena. A subpoena is a document that orders someone to come and testify. Ask the Court clerk how to subpoena a witness.
Get evidence to help you prove your case. Evidence can include medical reports, pictures, torn or broken objects, 911 tapes, certified copies of the defendant’s criminal record, or anything else to help you convince the judge you have suffered acts of domestic violence and need certain relief and protection. Even if you have no physical evidence or witnesses, the judge will listen to your story.
Practice telling your story. You may want to make an outline or notes of the history of violence by your abuser. You may take notes to court with you to look at if you forget something, but if you read from them, the judge may order that your abuser be allowed to see them. Tell your story in your own words, but leave out details that have nothing to do with the violence or threats of violence. Also, rather than saying, “he or she hit me,” tell the judge how you were hit, where on your body you were hit, and how many times. Be specific.
You may want to mention:
- The last 2 incidents of violence
- The worst 2 incidents of violence
- Whether the respondent has a gun or other weapons
- Whether the respondent has threatened to physically hurt or kill you
What should I do on the day of the hearing?
- Be on time.
- Have your witnesses there and ready.
- If you have subpoenaed witnesses and they are not come, you should let the judge know.
- Dress neatly.
- Speak directly to the judge; he or she will understand if you feel nervous.
- Always address the judge as “Your Honor.”
- Be prepared to spend all day in court. (There may be hearings before yours.)
- If your abuser comes to court with a lawyer and you don’t have one, ask the judge for a “continuance” so you can look for a lawyer.
- Once your case is called, enter the courtroom and find a seat. It is your right to take another seat if the abuser sits next to you, and to receive help from court staff in keeping the abuser away from you.
- Stand when the judge enters and sit when the judge or bailiff asks you to.
- Relax and remain calm.
- Take deep breaths if you feel yourself getting tense. Never lose your temper in the courtroom.
- Always tell the truth.
- If you don’t understand a question, just say so.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say so. Never make up an answer.
What is the order of events in the courtroom?
1. At the hearing, everyone who will testify will swear or affirm to tell the truth.
2. Since you are the petitioner, you will tell your side of the story first.
3. The judge and your abuser may ask you questions. If you are scared to answer any of them, tell the judge.
4. When you are done, your witnesses may speak. You may ask them questions, and then the judge and your abuser will have a turn to ask them questions.
5. The respondent will tell his or her side. It may be very different from yours. The judge will ask questions, and you may also.
6. The judge will make a decision after hearing both sides and considering the evidence.
7. If the judge decides in your favor, the judge will sign your Family Violence Protection Order. There will be boxes checked or things written in by the judge that the respondent (your abuser) has been ordered to do. The judge can make the Family Violence Protection Order be effective for as long as 12 months. (Before the time is over, you may apply to the court to have your Order extended. You will have to go to a short hearing to tell a judge why you need it extended.)
8. If the respondent is present, he will sign and take home a copy of the Family Violence Protection Order.
9. You will be given a copy of the Temporary Protection Order. Review it carefully before you leave the courthouse. If you have ANY questions about it, be sure to ask the judge.
What should I do when I leave the courthouse?
- Review the order before you leave the courthouse. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to correct the order before you leave.
- Make several copies of the protective order as soon as possible.
- Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
- Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
- Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work.
- Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
- If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.
- You may wish to consider changing your locks and your phone number.
One week after court, call your local law enforcement offices to make sure they have received copies of the Temporary Protection Order from the clerk.
It is important to recognize the limitations of a Temporary Protection Order. You must be vigilant in enforcing the order’s provisions by reporting every violation to the police or the court.
Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving the order. Women can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school. Many batterers obey protective orders, but some do not and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe. Click on the following link for suggestions on Safety Planning. (You can access the safety planning information any time from the WomensLaw.org Home page.) Advocates at local resource centers can assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support.
What can I do if the abuser violates the order?
First call the Sheriff’s Office or police and report that you have a Temporary Protection Order, and that the abuser is still bothering you. Tell the police what happened. If the police refuse to arrest him, take the officer’s name and ask to speak to his superior.
Violation of a Temporary Protection Order can be a felony offense under the stalking law.
How do I change or extend my protection order?
Temporary Protection Orders can also be made permanent. You should see your shelter, victim advocate or a lawyer if you need further help.
If your abuser violates the order by not paying support for yourself or your minor children, do not call the police. You can file an action for contempt or garnishment with the court. An action for contempt is a legal procedure to get the court to make him obey the order. An action for garnishment asks the court to take money for support directly out of his/her paycheck.