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
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
firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 770.277.4883.