Relationships with others are critical for our survival and happiness. However, some relationships can end up toxic and destructive. Additionally, many individuals lack the skills needed to properly navigate the end of a relationship. Therefore, you may need a temporary protective order to protect yourself from a dangerous situation or you may need help defending against an incorrect or blatantly false temporary protective order. That’s where the experienced attorneys at Lankford & Moore Law come in. We can help you navigate the murky legal waters of temporary protective orders and get the best outcome for you.
Temporary Protective Order Basics
Georgia law provides two primary types of temporary protective orders: family violence and stalking. The family violence type of TPO can cover many different types of behavior (including stalking) when that behavior occurs between individuals that have a special type of relationship. Simplified, it requires a blood, marriage, or cohabitation relationship either presently or in the past. It also requires a showing of past violence (or similar behavior) and a likelihood of similar behavior in the future. This is the most common type of protective order.
The stalking version of temporary protective order can occur between any two people, even if they’ve never formally met. It requires a showing of past stalking and a likelihood of future stalking. Generally speaking, it requires behavior that is harassing or intimidating in nature.
Temporary protective orders are considered civil actions in Superior Court, even though they are often heard by magistrate judges. The person filing for the TPO is called the petitioner, and the person they are filing against is called the respondent. The respondent can counterclaim for their own protective order in some cases. Judges have great discretion on what they can order in a temporary protective order.
Consequences of a Temporary Protective Order
Legitimate temporary protective orders exist to protect someone from a harassing or dangerous individual. Because safety is at issue, this protection needs to be drastic. Therefore, temporary protective orders can have serious effects against the person the judge issues it against. By default, temporary protective orders last for twelve months. After that, they can be renewed for three years or permanently.
Temporary protective orders can have a wide range of directives. At a minimum, the order will require the respondent to stay away from the petitioner’s home and work as well as a set distance. It will also prohibit the possession of firearms or ammunition. The Court can order the respondent and the petitioner to make arrangements to exchange belongings, usually under the supervision of the local Sheriff. When the parties live together, the judge will almost always remove one of the parties from the residence. If the parties are married or have children, the judge usually issues a variety of other requirements similar to a temporary divorce hearing.
Outside of the order, there are many related consequences. For instance, temporary protective orders appear on your official GCIC record for all law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges to see. As with any other type of civil case, temporary protective order cases are public record. Therefore, any halfway decent background check will find the record. Employers are allowed to consider temporary protective orders in their hiring and firing decisions.
Violations of temporary protective orders are punished harshly. For technical violations, such as failure to return personal property, a contempt action can bring the case back in front of the Court. A party found in contempt may be given an opportunity to purge the contempt or can be taken to jail immediately until the contempt is purged. More serious violations, such as appearing at the petitioner’s home or work, almost always result in felony charges for aggravated stalking.
How Can I Improve My Chances of Success?
Judges like evidence. Text messages, recorded phone calls, photographs, and videos are commonly used to prove or disprove a petition for a temporary protective order. Of course, Georgia’s civil evidence rules apply to hearings on temporary protective orders. Everyone is held to the same standard as a lawyer in these hearings. Failing to properly introduce your evidence may mean the judge never gets to hear or see the most important parts of your case. An attorney can help determine which evidence is admissible and how to get a judge to consider it.
Your testimony may be the best proof of why you should win at a temporary protective order hearing. However, testifying without the guidance of a lawyer is at best dangerous and at worst downright devastating. Lawyers know how to ask proper questions and downplay the facts that work against you. Once your statement is made in open court, it can’t ever be taken back. If your temporary protective order hearing is related to a divorce or criminal charge, you can ruin three cases with a single word. A lawyer can help you be more mindful of your testimony or advise you to not testify at all.
Lankford & Moore Law can help with your temporary protective order. We have dealt with many protective orders in the context of divorce, child custody, and criminal charges. Whether you need to get a temporary protective order against someone or avoid the consequences of one filed against you, we can help. With our broad experience in these matters, we know how to navigate protective orders while protecting you.