February 13, 2012

Can I get a temporary protective order in Georgia against someone who does not live in Georgia?

A temporary protective order can be issued against someone who does not live in Georgia. O.C.G.A. §19-13-2 gives the superior courts of Georgia jurisdiction over a nonresident charged with a commission of an act of family violence. Georgia will only have jurisdiction over the nonresident if he or she, either in person or through an agent, commits a tortuous injury in Georgia caused by an act or omission outside Georgia and the nonresident does one of the following things:

• Regularly does or solicits business in Georgia; or
• Engages in any other persistent course of conduct in the state of Georgia; or
• Derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or from services rendered in Georgia.

However, if the act of family violence is the placing of harassing or intimidating telephone calls or text messages to a person in Georgia, this is not enough to give Georgia jurisdiction. The act of family violence is considered to have occurred in the State where the telephone call was placed or from where the text message was sent. If phone calls or text messages from someone out of State are the only acts of family violence, Georgia may not have jurisdiction over the Respondent.

By Emily Yu, Associate Attorney, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC

January 20, 2012

Custody awarded to father in Georgia divorce case despite evidence of alleged family violence

The Supreme Court of Georgia recently affirmed a divorce action where the husband was awarded primary physical custody of the children despite evidence of alleged family violence. Finklea v. Finklea, S11F1804 (2012). At the final hearing in that divorce case, the parties “each testified extensively about acts of family violence committed by the other spouse, which led to multiple police reports filed against each other.” Id. at 2. In its final judgment, the trial court said it was making its decision “[a]fter hearing testimony of the parties and considering all the evidence tendered at trial.” Id. Neither party asked for written findings of fact supporting the custody award. Id. The trial court ultimately awarded primary physical custody to the husband.

The wife appealed, alleging that “in awarding primary physical custody of the parties’ two children to Husband, the trial court abused its discretion in failing to cosider evidence of alleged family violence perpetrated by Husband against her." Id. at 1. The Supreme Court of Georgia disagreed, holding that, under the circumstances described above, the trial court did consider evidence of family violence presented at the final hearing. Id. at 3. In addition, the Court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s award of primary physical custody to the husband. The trial court exercised its discretion in awarding custody to one parent over the other and “[w]here there is any evidence to support the decision of the trial court, this Court cannot say there was an abuse of discretion.” Id. at 3, quoting Haskell v. Haskell, 286 Ga. 112, 112 (2009).

December 2, 2011

Am I a victim of domestic violence?

Domestic violence or domestic abuse can exist in a number of ways. Most often, people think of a woman who has been beaten by her husband or boyfriend as a victim of domestic violence. It is important to remember, however, that a woman can be the abuser and a man can be the victim. Domestic violence occurs in all types of couples – heterosexual, homosexual, transgender, etc. – across all races and at all income levels. The form of abuse can vary as well and includes physical abuse (punching, kicking, slapping and hair pulling), emotional or mental abuse (talking down to someone, isolating them from their families, and using scare tactics), spiritual abuse (not permitting someone to freely exercise their religion), or economic abuse (not providing someone the money they need or constantly keeping tabs of someone’s spending). Victims of domestic violence often experience a combination of these types of abuse.

If you feel that you have been in a family violence situation or are currently going through a family violence situation, you can and should consider speaking with an Atlanta divorce attorney and obtaining a temporary protective order.

By Emily Yu, Associate Attorney, Meriwether & Tharp LLC

October 10, 2011

Definition of family violence in Georgia

Atlanta family law attorneys are often asked about the definition of family violence, and whether they are a victim under the laws of Georgia. In Georgia, “family violence” is defined broadly. The legal definition includes an occurrence of a felony or commission of battery, simply battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, or criminal trespass. OCGA §19-13-1(1) and (2). The statute also provides for a wide range of “family” relationships that qualify, and includes “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.” Id. This definition of family violence extends to include roommates or previous roommates.

If you feel that you have been in a family violence situation or are currently going through a family violence situation, we highly recommend that you contact our Atlanta family law attorneys to discus obtaining a temporary protective order.


By Emily Yu, Associate Attorney, Meriwether & Tharp LLC

February 25, 2009

Atlanta Divorce Lawyers Guide to Divorce and Family Law Cases in Fulton County, Georgia: Guardian Ad Litem

Our final blog entry in our Atlanta Divorce Lawyers Guide to Divorce and Family Law Cases in Fulton County, Georgia is in regards to the Fulton County’s Guardian Ad Litem program. A Guardian Ad Litem is an attorney who has had at least 20 hours of specialized training for child welfare and custody issues. In cases involving contested child custody, modifications of custody, modification of visitation, allegations of child neglect or child abuse, the Court can assign a Guardian Ad Litem to more closely evaluate the situation and report back to the court its findings. The Court or the Guardian Ad Litem can order psychological evaluations and drug testing if applicable to help in making a custody determination.

The cost of a Guardian Ad Litem can be rather high for most divorces in Georgia. Litigants should be aware that Fulton County offers a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) at a reduced hourly rate.

January 18, 2009

Temporary Protective Orders and Domestic Violence in Georgia

The procedure for obtaining a temporary protective order for family violence is unique compared to other court filings. The victim must go to the Superior Court in the county in which the Defendant resides to file a Petition alleging specific acts of family violence, as defined in O.C.G.A. §19-13-1. If the presiding Judge finds that probable cause exists to establish that family violence has occurred in the past and may occur in the future, the Court may issue a temporary ex parte Order to protect the victim from further acts of violence by requiring the Defendant to stay away from the victim. The Order may also include provisions concerning who will live in the home, who will have custody of any children, who will pay the bills, and provisions for support. The Defendant will then be served with the ex parte Order.

Within the next 30 days, the Court will schedule a hearing which both parties will attend. At the hearing, the victim must prove his/her allegations by a preponderance of the evidence and the Defendant will have a chance to present his/her defense. The victim should bring all evidence to the hearing, such as pictures of bruises, scratches or other injuries, doctor’s reports, audio recordings, and damaged property. If the family violence is proven by a preponderance of the evidence, the Order may be extended for a longer period of time. Also, the Court can address any concerns not addressed in the initial temporary order at this time including child support, spousal support, custody and visitation.

January 16, 2009

What is considered family violence in Georgia?

Unfortunately, we often get calls from prospective clients who have been victims of domestic violence (aka family violence) or who want a protective order against a spouse or former spouse. This relief can often be obtained through the Superior Courts of the State of Georgia. According to O.C.G.A. §19-13-1, “family violence” means the occurrence of a felony or commission of battery, simple batter, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, or criminal trespass between past or present spouses, 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.

If you are have been the victim of family violence remember that there are resources available for victims of family violence. Also, when appropriate, you can and should consider obtaining a temporary protective order for your protection and the protection of your family.

December 12, 2008

Domestic Violence Resources in Georgia

When someone mentions the words “Domestic Violence”, some people may associate these words with physical abuse. Domestic violence, however, takes many shapes and forms and a person does not need to be physically abused to experience domestic violence. If your spouse verbally abuses you or he or she controls every facet of your life and he or she will not allow you to make any decisions on your own, then you may be a victim of domestic violence. Physical, verbal and mental abuse, however, are not the only forms of domestic violence. If you have been raped or have been stalked by another individual, you are also a victim of domestic violence. According to the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence website, if your spouse, threatens you, controls you, abuses you, or you fear for you or your children’s safety, then you may be a victim of domestic violence.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you have several options available to you. According to O.C.G.A. § 19-3-3, you can file a Petition seeking relief against family violence with the Court. If you need immediate assistance, however, then you can contact one of the family violence shelters in your area. You can find a list of these shelters on the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s website or here for a list of shelters.

Due to Georgia Law, these websites are very limited on the information that they provide for these shelters so you will only find a telephone number or a Post Office Box. According to O.C.G.A. § 19-13-23, it is a misdemeanor to provide the address of a family violence shelter unless a client gives the address to his or her attorney or the family violence authorizes the address to be published.