Part II: How Does a Typical Temporary Protective Order Work in Georgia?

Part 2: Basic Procedure of Petitioner's Ex Parte Petition

As set forth in Part 1 of this four-part article, because cases involving Temporary Protective Orders (TPOs) in Georgia can have significant consequences for either party involved, each party – both the Petitioner and the Respondent -- should be familiar with the basic procedural mechanics of the TPO process.

Whether the TPO case is in Gwinnett County or elsewhere in metro Atlanta and Georgia, the core process is mostly the same and is governed statewide by O.C.G.A. § 19-13-1, et. seq. A TPO case begins with the party seeking a protective order (the Petitioner) making a trip to the county superior court where either the alleged offender resides or where the acts of family violence occurred. Although only a superior court has jurisdiction to entertain TPO cases, the task of dealing with TPO cases is often delegated to magistrate courts. [Note: in Gwinnett County, TPO cases are administered by the magistrate court and are actually handled at the court annex located within the detention center/jail).]

At the county court facility designated to handle TPO cases, the petitioner fills out several forms that are available at the court, including the actual petition for relief that lays out the grounds for either (or both) family violence or stalking. The petitioner will then go before a judge and give brief sworn testimony – without the other party present -- about the grounds he or she has alleged so that the judge can determine if a sufficient basis exists to issue an immediate order of protection. If the judge determines an immediate, temporary TPO is justified, the judge will then set the case for a formal court hearing to usually take place within 7 – 10 days. [In some counties with less judicial resources, it might take longer before a hearing takes place. Georgia law requires that the hearing take place within 30 days.]

Since this initial pre-hearing order involves only testimony from one of the two parties (which authorizes a court order in only limited instances), this initial pre-hearing order is called an 'ex parte order.'

If the ex parte order is issued, the opposite party (the Respondent) will need to be served with the order. Service of the ex parte order is accomplished through the county sheriff's office and usually happens very quickly. Once served, the respondent is bound by the terms of the ex parte TPO and may likely face serious criminal charges if he or she violates its terms. One of the most significant aspects of a TPO in Georgia covers family violence TPOs involving people residing in the same household. In these instances, the respondent will literally be removed from the house with the assistance of law enforcement after he or she is given 10-15 minutes to gather up their personal belongings.

A respondent's displacement from his or her residence by virtue of an ex parte family violence TPO -- which occurs without the respondent even having an opportunity to first confront or respond to the petitioner's claims made to the judge – will last at least until the formal court hearing. Additionally significant is the fact that the ex parte TPO will often prevent the respondent from having any contact with his or her own children until the matter can be heard in a formal hearing.

Since beginning my practice in Gwinnett County and around metro Atlanta in 1995, I have accumulated vast experience in handling TPO cases whether in representing the plaintiff (a.k.a. the "Petitioner") or the defendant (a.k.a. the "Respondent"). In earning its reputation for success in handling TPO cases in Gwinnett County and elsewhere in metro Atlanta and Georgia, Fox Firm, P.C. works hard for every single client to be prepared to prevail. If you are a party to a TPO case and find that the smartest way to deal with the question of a court order for protection is to hire the personal protection of a committed and experienced attorney, please contact Fox Firm, P.C. at dfox@foxfirmpc.com or call us at 770.277.4883.