The Georgia Family Violence Act is designed to protect family and household members from the violent acts of another family or household member. Family has a broad definition under the statute. Specific people who fall under this statute include:
- Current and former spouses.
- Parents who have a child in common whether or not the two parents were ever married or ever shared a household.
- Parents and their children.
- Stepparents and stepchildren.
- Foster parents and foster children.
- People who are currently sharing the same household or who shared the same household in the past.
These people are protected from harm that occurs to them due to any felony committed by the violent family or household member. According to the specific language of the statute, violent acts that will result in increased penalties if directed toward a family or household member include:
- All degrees of assault.
- All degrees of battery.
- Criminal damage to property.
- Unlawful restraint.
- Criminal trespass.
The process of protection from violence begins when one party petitions the court and asks for an order of protection from violent acts of the other party. The court may make a temporary order of protection without holding hearing. After a hearing is held, the temporary order will either be vacated or turned into a permanent order or an order lasting for a certain number of years.
Types of Protective Orders That are Available
In response to the petition for a protective order, the court may make any order that will serve the purpose of stopping the violence and protecting the victim from any future harm. Some of the most common orders are:
- Directing the abuser to stay a certain distance away from the petitioner and have no contact at all.
- Ordering the abuser to stay away from the residence and granting sole possession of it to the abuse victim.
- Requiring the abusing person to provide housing for the victim and the children.
- Awarding temporary custody of the minor children to the non-abusive parent.
- Providing a legal way for the victim to get any personal property.
- Ordering the abuser to refrain from harassing or interfering with the victim.
- Deciding which party will have to pay court costs and legal fees.
- Ordering any party who is involved to undergo psychiatric testing or counseling in an effort to prevent any further family violence.
A court’s order of protection will last for one year. The order may be extended or made a permanent court order as the circumstances require.
How Does an Order of Protection Actually “Protect” Victims?
When a person violates a protective order, he or she may be immediately arrested and charged with contempt of court as well as with the crime of violating a protective order. A sentence of up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000 may be imposed.
Although there is really nothing about a protective order that will stop a determined abuser from stalking or harassing. It does compel law enforcement to respond and arrest the perpetrator who is violating a protective order.
If you are a victim of family violence, you can find help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) where you will speak to a real person who can provide you guidance. Georgia has its own 24/7 hotline you can reach at 1-800-33-HAVEN or 1-800-334-2836. You do not have to be physically in Georgia in order to make that call. There are language interpreters for many different language available to speak with you.