Serving Clients in Fulton, Cobb, Fayette Counties & Surrounding Areas

Domestic violence: Civil or Criminal?

As one can imagine, the stress that tends to follow a divorce or some other type of family law matter can be crippling for a family. Increased tension in the household can lead to unpredictable behavior that sometimes becomes harassing, leads to stalking, or even turns violent.

Here, in Georgia, the courts deal with domestic violence in a number of ways. Victims of family violence can file with the Superior Court to seek protection in the form of a 12-Month Protective Order. Technically, family violence is defined as the commission of any felony or certain other misdemeanor criminal acts (assault, battery, stalking, criminal trespass, or criminal damage to property, etc.) between individuals who share some familial relationship. Recently, however, the Georgia legislature has expanded the definition of family violence to include the commission of certain crimes against another with whom the accused has been in a long-term, committed relationship. Most often, the courts deal with cases involving present or former spouses and domestic partners, as well as parents who have a child in common.

A victim of domestic violence usually starts the process by filing a petition requesting a court to enter a temporary protective order (TPO) ex parté, which means that the offending party is not present at the time the order is entered. Once the ex parté TPO is issued and lawfully served on the accused, the accused must comply with its terms typically for the sooner of 30 days or the entry of a final order at a later hearing date. Those terms may include “stay away” and “do not contact” provisions, the surrender of property, limited access to your children, and the imposition of financial obligations.

Generally, within 30 days of the entry of an ex parté TPO, the Court must have a hearing to give the alleged offending party the opportunity to defend against the allegations. The importance of this hearing cannot be underestimated. Come prepared and bring your lawyer. It is at this hearing that the Judge may decide whether to enter a Family Violence 12-Month Protective Order setting forth the terms of protection and potentially including provisions awarding the victim sole possession of the family residence, sole possession of vehicles, sole custody of children, and requiring the alleged offender to pay support and legal fees.

Since the family violence statute deals with acts that are criminal in nature, often related criminal charges are also filed. This means that the accused may be forced to defend against the same allegations in both civil and criminal proceedings. These charges can be serious and often carry enhanced sentencing guidelines. If found guilty in the criminal proceeding, the result could mean jail time, probation, required participation in domestic violence programs, and the imposition of fines.

Preparing for and handling a civil proceeding involving the request for a Judge to enter a Family Violence 12-Month Protective Order depends considerably on whether there are criminal charges pending for the felony or misdemeanor that underlies the civil petition. Since the civil Protective Order proceeding is generally before a court long before a trial concerning the underlying criminal charges, it is essential to carefully weigh the impact of testimony in the civil case on the criminal case.

Due to the serious impact that allegations of domestic violence could have on an individual and the wide range of consequences that may follow, these types of matters must be handled delicately. Here at KF Law, LLC we are experienced in navigating the complex process surrounding TPO and 12-Month Protective Orders, especially those issued during the pendency of a divorce. We work closely with our clients to help them understand how an ex-parté TPO or 12-Month Protective Order may affect their right to interact with their spouse or domestic partner, access the martial home, and exercise of parenting time with their own children.

If you or a member of your family has been the victim of a crime or has endured incessant harassment at the hands of a person with whom you been romantic, or at the hands of another member of your family or household, and you need the protection of the court, do not hesitate to contact KF Law, LLC immediately so we can help you seek the relief you need.

Likewise, if you have been accused of committing a crime against someone with whom you have been in a long-term romantic relationship, member of your family or household, or you have been served with a TPO and summons to appear in court, please contact us at KF Law, LLC immediately so we can make sure you are adequately heard and represented to help prevent the imposition of the grave consequences that may be administered in both the civil and criminal context.