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Domestic Violence and Divorce

Tonight's post was written by our Atlanta Divorce and Domestic Violence Attorney, Dina Khismatulina.

According to the Center for Disease Control's statistics, on average 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States. Twenty people per minute! Further, according to the American Psychological Association, on average three or more women are murdered in the United States every single day by their boyfriends or husbands.

Filing for divorce isn't the automatic answer. Filing for divorce often only escalates violence. Per the Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review, divorce actions were pending in 16% of the homicide cases in Georgia in 2013. Furthermore, domestic violence does not end immediately with separation. Over 70% of the women injured in domestic violence cases were injured after they separated from their abusers.

A Temporary Protective Order (TPO) is a unique tool that was designed to help domestic violence victims get immediate relief. Under O.C.G.A. § 19-13-1, "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.

Thus, O.C.G.A. § 19-13-1 is not limited only to spouses and not limited only to injuries to people.

Despite the common misconception, divorce and TPOs are two completely separate actions. You can file a TPO against your spouse without filing for a divorce and vice verse.

A TPO is unique because the relief could be ordered even without the respondent's presence in court (ex-parte).  When the petitioner files a verified petition which alleges specific facts to establish that family violence has occurred in the past and may occur in the future, the court may order such temporary relief as it deems necessary to protect the petitioner or a minor of the household from violence (O.C.G.A. § 19-13-1). The abuser/respondent isn't even present.

Usually, the court will hold a formal hearing within 10 to 30 days when both parties are present and the petitioner must prove the allegations of the petition.

The Superior Court of the county where the respondent resides will normally have jurisdiction over such proceeding, with certain exceptions (O.C.G.A. § 19-13-2). TPO forms differ from county to county in Georgia, so it is very important to have an experienced attorney help you file for a TPO in order not to omit any vital information. For example, not all counties have provisions that require the respondent to surrender existing firearms and ban purchasing new firearms. Strange, considering that firearms were the means of death in 76% of all recorded domestic violence abuse fatalities according to the Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review (2013).

This is all very depressing, I know.  But a practicing attorney who specializes in family law can help you not only to stay safe, but to resolve some urgent economic issues via TPO, for example, temporary child support, housing situation, and attorney's fees. It is imporant to know the risks because only then can you plan for them and avoid them.

Your life and lives of your children are too important - do not take chances by filing for a TPO without fully understanding its conditions and consequences. There is definitely a brighter future.  Just take the sure path.

Dina Khismatulina

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