Georgia courts provide protection to victims of domestic violence by issuing Temporary Protective Orders (“TPO”), commonly known to many as “restraining orders.” The procedure to obtain a TPO is a civil process that is available to past or present spouses, parents of the same child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children or other individuals who are presently living or formerly lived in the same household. TPOs provide victims immediate protection from abuse, harassment and/or stalking.
The victim can initiate the civil process of obtaining a TPO by filing a petition that describes in detail the specific acts of domestic violence. If the petitioner is able to prove that violence has occurred in the past and is likely to occur in the future, the court can issue an “ex parte” (one party only) TPO that expires after 30 days. The ex parte TPO may require the accused to vacate a place of residence if shared with the petitioner and remain a minimum distance away from the petitioner (and anyone else protected under the TPO, such as the petitioner’s children). Within the time period that the ex parte TPO is effective, the court will schedule a hearing to give the petitioner an opportunity to prove and the accused to defend the allegations. Once both parties have presented their cases, the court can dismiss the ex parte TPO or extend the TPO. Victims of stalking can obtain protection through a similar process.
When granting a TPO, courts also may determine on a temporary basis issues of child custody and visitation, child support, alimony and attorney’s fees. Once a victim obtains a TPO in one Georgia county, the TPO is effective in all Georgia counties.