Can I get a TPO during the Statewide Judicial Emergency?

By Melanie Niblett

This post was written at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 30, 2020. We believe that it was accurate and up to date as of that time. However, because of the rapid, daily changes in the political, business, and legal climates, we cannot guarantee the post’s currentness.

As Georgia citizens are required to shelter-in-place and take necessary precautions to promote social distancing, experts are fearing an increase in domestic violence. With unemployment and added stress from the pandemic, more victims are trapped at home with their abusers, including children who may be exposed to domestic violence with the closing of schools.

Victims of domestic violence may not feel safe to stay at home, but fearful to leave during the pandemic. Fortunately, there are resources available. Victims can continue to file domestic abuse temporary protective orders and restraining orders during the Statewide Judicial Emergency. If feasible, courts are to remain open to address matters that fall into an essential function category. Matters necessary to protect the health, safety, and liberty of individuals are to be given priority during the pandemic. Other matters that fall into an essential function category is where an immediate liberty or safety concern is presently requiring the attention of the court as soon as the court is available. Not only would victims of domestic violence fall into the category of an immediate liberty or safety concern, but also those individuals that are at risk of becoming a victim of domestic violence. A Temporary Protective Order (TPO) is a court order to help victims of family violence obtain protection from the real or perceived threat of physical abuse, harassment, or from other harm. A TPO goes into effect immediately once the documentation has been served on the other party. A TPO generally forbids the other party from having any contact with the victim and staying a required distance away from the person protected. A TPO can include other directives including temporary child custody, child support, spousal support, and possession of the marital property. A TPO typically lasts two to three weeks pending a hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to learn more about the situation and determine if the order should be dropped or extended up to 12 months.

In addition to having the Courts as a resource for victims of domestic violence, some organizations are offering remote services such as counseling. The Haven House of McDonough is a domestic violence shelter and program serving victims of family violence in Henry, Jasper, Butts, and Lamar Counties. The Haven House’s 24-Hour Crisis Line is (770) 954-9229. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is also available to you or anyone you may know that is experiencing domestic violence. You can call 1-800-799-7233, log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522. Haven House advocates can assist with filing a TPO or a family law attorney at Smith, Welch, Webb & White, LLC can help.

We know that these are uncertain and scary times for many people. It is our hope that posts, like these, meant to inform, will help ease some of the stress. As always, please stay safe and let us know if we can help in any way.

We are making this post to inform as much as possible. It is not our intent to give legal advice or to create an attorney/client relationship. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney. If you have questions about your particular situation, please give us a call, send us an email, or request a video conference. We’ll be happy to assist.