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19-13-1. "Family Violence" defined.
As used in this article, the term "family violence" means the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between past or present spouses, persons who are parents of the same child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children, or other persons living or formerly living in the same household:
(1) Any felony; or
(2) Commission of offenses of battery, simple battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, or criminal trespass.
The term "family violence" shall not be deemed to include reasonable discipline administered by a parent to a child in the form of corporal punishment, restraint, or detention.
Local resource organizations which provide victims with information and legal assistance
There are three primary organizations in Gwinnett County which assist family violence victims with information and legal assistance. These three organizations are:
Partnership Against Domestic Violence
ATTN. Community Outreach
P.O. Box 170225
Atlanta, GA 30317
404.870.9600 (Administrative Office)
404.873.1766 V/TTY (Fulton Crisis Line)
770.963.9799 V/TTY (Gwinnett Crisis Line)
They have a wealth of information on their website, http://www.padv.org/index.htm.
If you are a victim of domestic violence and would like assistance ether completing this petition, having someone with you during your second family violence hearing, or accessing legal services, please contact the Legal Services Coordinator with Partnership Against Domestic Violence at the Crisis Line 770-963-9799 (Sé habla español).
Atlanta Legal Aid- Gwinnett Branch
180 Camden Hill Road, Suite A
Lawrenceville, GA 30046
This organization also has information on their website, which is http://www.atlantalegalaid.org.
They provide assistance through their Family Violence Project which provides free legal representation to victims of family violence in actions to obtain temporary protective orders. In addition to providing representation to victims of family violence, the Project also has a Pro Se Clinic, for persons they cannot represent. The Pro Se Clinic provides an attorney with whom victims can discuss their case and teaches victims how to prepare for the temporary protective order hearing.
To be eligible you must be a victim of recent violence or recently threatened with violence.
To apply for assistance, contact them at (678)376-9844. Due to limited resources, they may not be able to provide assistance to everyone who applies. Applications are accepted on a first come, first served basis, and therefore it is strongly recommended that you contact them within 24 hours of filing your petition for a protective order. All applications are subject to approval.
They may be unable to help victims who make a late application for services. Please contact them immediately.
- The Gwinnett Family Violence Task Force - affiliated with Partnership Against Domestic Violence.
The Gwinnett County Family Violence Task Force is made up of representatives from criminal justice, the courts, prosecution, law enforcement, parole, probation, faith, mental health, health care, education, social services, businesses, survivors, civic groups and other interested citizens. Their mission is to provide a coordinated response to meet the needs of persons affected by domestic violence which will promote effective intervention, enhance victim safety, and ensure offender accountability.
They have substantial information on their website located at: http://www.gwinnettfamilyviolence.org/index.html. This information includes issues about abuse, community assistance, community resources, protective orders, safety plans and news and events.
They may be contacted at:Gwinnett County Family Violence Task Force
P.O. Box 811
Lawrenceville , Georgia 30046-0811
Gwinnett County Bar Association
If you are not eligible for free legal services and you do not have an attorney, you may wish to review the names of local attorneys who are listed on the bar's referral website of http://www.gcba.org
Brief overview of the TPO process
Where to file: The Superior Court of the county where the defendant resides is the proper court to file all civil actions, petitions, and proceedings under the Family Violence Act, which includes Temporary Protective Orders, commonly called 'restraining orders.' For example, if the victim resides in Gwinnett County and all the violence was committed in Gwinnett County, but the defendant resides in DeKalb County, the civil, family violence petition would still be filed in DeKalb County. This is different from criminal actions which are criminally prosecuted in the county where the crime occurred. Since family violence petitions are civil actions, they come under the provisions of the Georgia Constitution which provides that civil actions shall be filed in the county where the defendant resides.
Forms: The necessary forms may be obtained from the Superior Court Clerk's Office, downloaded from this website, or prepared by an attorney. An attorney can fill out the forms for you. Family violence shelters or social service agency staff members designated by the court may explain to all victims not represented by counsel the procedures for filling out and filing all forms and pleadings necessary for the presentation of their petition to the court. The Clerk of the Court may provide forms for petitions and pleadings to victims of family violence. There is no cost to file a petition for relief under the Family Violence Act.
In Gwinnett County, the division of the Superior Court Clerk's office that handles Family Violence petitions is located at the
Gwinnett County Detention Center
Court Annex- 2nd Floor
2900 University Parkway
Lawrenceville, GA 30043
Who may file: Any person who is not a minor may seek relief under the Family Violence Act by filing, in the Superior Court Clerk's Office, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. a petition with the Superior Court alleging one or more acts of family violence. Any person who is not a minor may also seek relief on behalf of a minor by filing such a petition.
Essential Elements: There are certain essential threshold elements that the court will examine to immediately determine if the Petition will be processed. These include, but are not limited to:
- Is the defendant a resident of Gwinnett County, or a resident of another state under such circumstances that the action if properly filed within the Gwinnett Superior Court?
- Is there a family relationship between the parties as defined by statute, i.e. between past or present spouses, persons who are parents of the same child, parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, foster parents and foster children, or other persons living or formerly living in the same household?
- Is there probable cause to prove that there has been a recent act of family violence which is defined by statute to only these criminal acts, any felony; or (2) Commission of offenses of battery, simple battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, or criminal trespass?
- Is there sufficient evidence to show that it is reasonably likely that another act of family violence is likely to occur in the future?
Initial ex parte hearing: Upon filing a verified petition in which the petitioner alleges with specific facts that the essential elements are met and that probable cause exists to establish that family violence has occurred in the past and may occur in the future, the court may order such temporary relief ex parte (i.e. with only the petitioner present) as it deems necessary to protect the petitioner or a minor of the household from violence. If the court issues an ex parte order, a copy of the order shall be immediately furnished to the petitioner and a copy served upon the defendant by the sheriff's department.
Second hearing, 10-30 day hearing: Within ten days of the filing of the petition under this article or as soon as practical thereafter, but in no case later than 30 days after the filing of the petition, a hearing (where both petitioner and defendant may be present and heard) will be held at which the petitioner must prove the allegations of the petition by a preponderance of the evidence as in other civil cases. If a hearing is not held within 30 days, the petition shall stand dismissed unless the parties otherwise agree. Time is critical.
Protective Orders: A protective order may:
- Direct a party to refrain from such acts
- Grant to a spouse possession of the residence or household of the parties and exclude the other spouse from the residence or household.
- Require a party to provide suitable alternate housing for a spouse and his or her children
- Award temporary custody of minor children and establish temporary visitation rights
- Order the eviction of a party from the residence or household and order assistance to the victim in returning to it, or order assistance in retrieving personal property of the victim if the respondent's eviction has not been ordered
- Order either party to make payments for the support of a minor child as required by law
- Provide for possession of personal property of the parties
- Order a party to refrain from harassing or interfering with the other party
- Award costs and attorney's fees to either party
- Order either or all parties to receive appropriate psychiatric or psychological services as a further measure to prevent the recurrence of family violence
Protective Orders will remain in effect for no more than 12 months, except upon the motion of a petitioner and notice to the respondent and after a hearing, the court in its discretion may convert a protective order granted under this Code section to an order effective for not more than three years or to a permanent order.
The Protective Order is applicable and effective throughout the State of Georgia. It is the duty of every Superior Court and of every sheriff, every deputy sheriff, and every state, county, or municipal law enforcement officer within this state to enforce and carry out the terms of any valid protective order issued by any court under the provisions of this Code section.
Once you have obtained a Temporary Protective Order (TPO) under the Family Violence Act, the Sheriff's Department has the responsibility of executing the order by serving a copy of the order upon the respondent (person who is alleged to have committed the act of family violence). The efforts to locate the respondent will begin during the shift on which the order is received, and the Sheriff's Department will continue to attempt to serve the order until they are successful, or the time period for the order expires. If you have additional information that can assist the Sheriff's Department in locating the respondent, please contact us as soon as possible at (770) 822-3150. The deputies have the responsibility of serving the respondent (defendant) with a copy of the petition and the order.
IF DIRECTED BY THE ORDER, the Sheriff's Department will evict the respondent from the residence where you both are residing. Under the supervision of a deputy sheriff, the respondent is allowed to gather enough personal effects (i.e. clothing, toiletries, etc.) to sustain them until the hearing date whihc is set in your order. The date is normally within 10 days as prescribed by law. When the respondent is served at a location other than the place from which he or she is to be evicted, then arrangements will be made for a mutually convenient time for the Sheriff's Department and the respondent to retrieve the needed personal belongings. Call (770) 822-3150 to set up a date and time.
IF DIRECTED BY THE ORDER, the deputies may retrieve custody of children or certain belongings from the respondent and then turn them over to you, the petitioner.Once the order is served upon the respondent, a copy of that order will remain on file in the Sheriff’s Department as well as the Police Department. The existence of your order can be verified 24 hours a day during the time period your order is in effect (normally 12 months). If you are having the respondent evicted from the residence, it is important for you to verify with the Sheriff’s Department that the eviction has taken place BEFORE you return to the residence. This is for your safety. You may verify this information by contacting the Sheriff’s Department at (770) 822-3150. If the respondent has been evicted from the residence and later returns before the expiration of the TPO, you should first contact the Gwinnett County Police Department by dialing 911. Inform the operator that you have a TPO and that you need a police officer. There are more police officers than deputy sheriffs in Gwinnett County, and a police officer can usually respond to your call for assistance sooner. A deputy sheriff will also respond to your call if available and needed.
Child Support: PARTIES SEEKING TEMPORARY CHILD SUPPORT, DIVISION OF PROPERTY, ASSESSMENT OF DEBT, ETC. MUST COMPLETE MAG 60-42, CHILD SUPPORT COMPUTATION, AND MAG 60-44, DOMESTIC RELATIONS AFFIDAVIT FORMS PRIOR TO COURT DATE AND COMPLETE THE REQUIRED STATE FORMS.
If your family violence protective order is granted and you are seeking an award or a determination of child support, then you MUST complete form MAG 60-42, Child Support Computation, prior to your assigned court date. See the Clerk of Court for this form. If you are seeking a temporary division of property, vehicles, or debts, you MUST ALSO complete MAG 60-44, Domestic Relations Affidavit.
As of January 1, 2007, Child Support Computation REQUIRES the use of the internet and/or the use of an electronic worksheet downloaded to a computer. Computer access is available for free at any branch of the Gwinnett Library System or at the Gwinnett County Law Library, Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.
Parties and/or their lawyers should go to http://www.georgiacourts.org/csc to find the proper electronic worksheet. Parents should use The Guided Electronic Worksheet. Lawyers, mediators, and other professionals should use The Practitioner's Electronic Worksheet. Anyone can use The Downloadable Electronic Worksheet. Alternatively, go to http://www.services.georgia.gov/dhr/cspp/do/public/SupportCalc to find your proper electronic worksheet.
In any contested case, the parties shall submit to the Court their proposed findings regarding the gross incomes of the father and the mother, the presence or absence of special circumstances, and the amount of child support. This may be accomplished through the use of the form CHILD SUPPORT COMPUTATION, available from the Clerk of Court OR through the use of the appropriate electronic worksheet(s).
Victims of family violence may seek assistance on completing this form from the Legal Services Coordinator with Partnership Against Domestic Violence at pager 404-273-6035. Also, a representative of the Partnership Against Domestic Violence may be present at the court at the time of filing so please ask the clerk of court if a representative is immediately available to consult with you.