Common questions about abuse and how to stop it

How is family violence defined? It is the commission of any felony or the commission of the offenses of battery, simple battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, or criminal trespass. It covers both physical and emotional abuse.

Do you have to be married to be considered a victim of family violence? Not in Georgia. You do have to live in the same house, though. All of the following can be considered victims:

  • Past and present spouses
  • Parents and children
  • Stepparents and stepchildren
  • Foster parents and foster children
  • People that are parents of the same child
  • Domestic partners

Can I get a temporary protective order to stop my spouse from harming my child? Yes. You can file for a TPO as a “next friend” to your child or on behalf of your child if your child is a minor.

What constitutes child abuse? Would spanking count? Not in most cases. According to Georgia law, child abuse is defined as physical injury or death inflicted by a parent or caretaker, neglect or exploitation by a parent or caretaker, sexual abuse of a child, or sexual exploitation of a child.

What is a “mandatory reporter” of child abuse? Georgia law has specified that certain individuals must report child abuse if they suspect it is occurring. They include:

  • Physicians licensed to practice medicine, interns, or residents
  • Hospital and healthcare personnel
  • Licensed psychologists
  • Nurses of all types
  • Professional counselors, social workers, or marriage and family therapists.
  • School teachers
  • School administrators and staff
  • Child welfare agency personnel
  • Child-counseling personnel
  • Child service organization personnel
  • Law enforcement personnel

But you don’t have to be on the list to help. If you suspect child abuse, call 1-855-GACHILD or contact your local police department.

Where do I file to get protection against family violence? You will need to file for a temporary protective order in Superior Court. The petition will state that the victim alleges that one or more acts of family violence have occurred in the past and will likely occur in the future. If the victim is a minor, an adult must file the petition on their behalf. The petition has to be filed in the county in which you live. If you live out-of-state then it will be filed where the incident occurred.

What is going to happen after I file the petition? You will need to present your testimony to the judge about the violence that occurred. The other party will not be present but there will be a second hearing where you will both be present. The judge has the power to:

  • Restrain the other party from committing acts of family violence.
  • Order the other party to stay a certain distance away from you.
  • Grant you possession of the family residence and order the other party out of the house, or require them to provide alternative housing for you and the children.
  • Award temporary custody and visitation rights.
  • Order child support and/or alimony, although this is sometimes done during the second hearing instead.
  • Order the division of property at a second hearing.

What happens during the second hearing? A second hearing will occur 10-30 days after the first hearing. The other party will be able to tell their side and try to refute the claims of abuse. The victim will provide evidence of a history of violence and any financial information the court may require for support and alimony issues.

How long does a protective order last once it has been issued? The order is valid for twelve months throughout Georgia and the United States. Upon a request from the petitioner and a hearing, the court can review the case and extend the length of the protective order.

What happens if a person subject to a restraining order doesn’t obey the order? They can face jail time, be forced to pay fines or reimburse expenses, or any other provision the court may order. They may also be charged with either misdemeanor Violation of a TPO or Aggravated Stalking, depending upon the facts of the case.  The defendant might even be jailed without bail until a hearing is scheduled before the judge.