Domestic Violence and
Domestic violence is a serious issue affecting many family law cases. Victims of domestic violence may find it more difficult to face their abuser in Court, whether they are involved in a divorce, custody, or other action. Having an attorney to help you navigate the Court process can alleviate some of the stress of having to litigate against an abuser.
Domestic violence is a pattern of one intimate partner maintaining power and control over the other partner through abusive behavior. Abusive behavior can vary and can include physical violence, threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, economic control, sexual coercion, isolation, and using the children among other things.
Legal Definition of Domestic Violence
Georgia law does not recognize all forms of domestic violence. This can make it particularly difficult for victims of less visible forms of domestic violence, such as emotional abuse, to litigate family law cases against their abuser since there are not the same legal protections available to them as there are for victims of more visible forms of domestic violence, such as physical abuse.
For the purposes of getting a Temporary Protective Order (TPO), Georgia law defines family violence as battery, simple battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, criminal trespass, or any felony, committed against a person by his or her past or present spouse, the other parent of the person’s child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children, or other persons living or formerly living in the same household.
Georgia also recognizes stalking as grounds for a Temporary Protective Order. Stalking is defined as following, placing under surveillance, or contacting a person without his or her consent for the purposes of harassment and intimidation. Contact is considered harassing and intimidating if it is a knowing and willful course of conduct which causes a person reasonable fear for his or her safety or his or her immediate family’s safety, and which serves no legitimate purpose. Unlike the definition of family violence, no particular relationship between the offender and victim is necessary.
Temporary Protective Orders
A Temporary Protective Order (TPO) lasts 12 months. Prior to the Court issuing a Temporary Protective Order, a victim can seek an Ex Parte Protective Order. Ex parte means that the Petitioner, the person filing the case, presents his or her case to the Judge without the other party present. The Ex Parte Order provides legal protection to the victim between the time the Respondent is served with the Ex Parte Protective Order and the hearing on the Temporary Protective Order, where the Respondent has a right to be present. Upon motion to the Court, a 12-Month Temporary Protective Order can be extended to Three Year Protective Order or Permanent Protective Order, though it is not as common for victims to pursue this step.
A Temporary Protective Order can offer significant legal protection to a victim. A Temporary Protective Order can order a Respondent to refrain from abusive acts, threats or harassment, order a Respondent to stay away from the Petitioner and not contact the Petitioner, grant possession and use of a residence to one party, award the return of personal property to either party, award custody and parenting time between the parties, order one party to pay child support and/or spousal support, award attorney’s fees and costs to either party, and order the Respondent to seek mental health treatment.
The Ruthenberg-Marshall Law Firm has substantial experience in handling domestic violence cases and a commitment to helping victims of domestic violence. Starting in law school, the firm spent five years volunteering for a domestic violence email helpline and continues to help victims of domestic violence who are seeking TPOs through Atlanta Volunteer Lawyer’s Foundation. The firm understands that domestic violence is often well hidden and that abusers frequently present a charming façade to the outside world, and the firm can help you navigate cases with these issues.
Whether you need help with a family law case where there is a history of domestic violence or in seeking a Temporary Protective Order, you can schedule a Legal Clarity Session with The Ruthenberg-Marshall Law Firm by calling 678-435-9069 or contacting us here.
Seeking Help for Domestic Violence if You are Unable to afford an Attorney
If you are a victim of domestic violence and cannot afford a lawyer, additional resources may be available to you. The following sites may provide useful information and may be able to connect you with free local resources. These sites are provided for informational purposes, and the inclusion of a site does not indicate an endorsement or guarantee regarding the site or its contents:
Womenslaw.org (national, with state-specific legal information and legal organizations): http://www.womenslaw.org/
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (national): http://ncadv.org/
Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence (Decatur, GA): http://www.wrcdv.org/
Atlanta Legal Aid Society (Atlanta, GA): https://www.atlantalegalaid.org/get-help/
The National Domestic Violence Hotline (national): 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
If you represent yourself and have concerns about your safety at Court, please alert a bailiff. A bailiff may also be able to escort you to your car while the other party is held in the courtroom to ensure the other party does not try to follow you. Most family law cases are referred to mediation. If there is a history of domestic violence, please let the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Office know in advance of your mediation if you are not comfortable mediating with your abuser so that they can mark your case is inappropriate for mediation.