What should I know about domestic violence?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
Read this in: Spanish / Español

Domestic violence

Domestic violence laws in Georgia


What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence can be broadly defined as abuse that occurs between family members or unmarried partners who you are in a relationship with now or have been in the past 12 months. It is also known as family violence. It involves one person in the relationship using abuse to intimidate and control the other person. 

Domestic violence as defined in Georgia law occurs 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.
  • a person if one of you is currently pregnant by the other. 

Reasonable discipline of children is not considered family violence.  The relationship does not have to be a sexual relationship to constitute domestic violence. 

The abuse may be:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Psychological
  • Sexual
  • Economic

The legal definition of domestic violence covers physical abuse like:

  • hitting, 
  • shoving, 
  • choking/strangulation, 
  • restraining, 
  • threats of violence, 
  • sexual conduct without consent, 
  • child cruelty, 
  • stalking, and 
  • many other state crimes to person or property. 

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What is emotional and psychological abuse?

Here are examples of emotional and psychological abuse:

  • Threats of physical violence
  • Humiliation and intimidation
  • Insults
  • Blaming for everything
  • Isolations - Actively creating emotional, psychological, and physical distance from family and friends

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What is stalking?

Stalking and cyberstalking are activities that put the victim in reasonable fear. These activities are also recognized as forms of domestic violence.

Stalking is a pattern of behavior that causes a reasonable person to fear for their safety or the safety of their family. The law defines stalking as following, placing under surveillance, or contacting another person without their consent and causing them emotional distress.

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What can a Protective Order do?

A Protective Order requires the person who abused or stalked you not to abuse, stalk, contact you, or come within a certain distance of where you are, including work and school. It can require the person to leave your home. It can also give you custody of your children, child support, temporary use of property and many other things.  It can order the person who abused or stalked you to receive treatments to prevent them from doing this again.  A protective order normally lasts 12 months. 

Can the Protective Order last longer than 12 months?

Yes. If you file a Motion before your Protective Order ends, the Court, after a hearing with you and the person who abused or stalked you, may give you a Three Year or Permanent Order.

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What can I do if I am being abused?

The first thing you should do is make a safety plan. This is a plan to help you prepare to get out of an abusive relationship and stay safe. The National Domestic Violence Hotline Path to Safety can help you formulate a plan.

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What can I do legally if I am being abused or stalked?

In Superior Court, you can apply for a Protective Order. In Magistrate Court, you can apply for a criminal warrant or a good behavior bond. You can also call the police, 911 for any urgent threat of harm.

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How do I apply for a Protective Order?

You have to fill out a petition stating what happened and what you want the court to do about what happened.

  • You can get the petition online, in the Clerk's Office or from the "Forms and Tools" tab of this website.
  • You can file these by yourself, but if you need help filling out the petition, someone in the clerk's office, a domestic violence shelter advocate, or victim/witness advocate should be able to help you.  This is a civil process and is free.   

You then file the petition in the Clerk's Office of the Superior Court in the county where the person who abused or stalked you lives.

  • After you file the petition, you will see a judge who may give you an immediate Temporary or “Ex Parte” Protective Order and schedule a follow up hearing.
  • The hearing will take place within 30 days of the date that you filed your petition.
  • At the hearing both you and the person who abused or stalked you will tell the judge, and answer questions about what happened.
  • After the judge hears from both of you, the judge will decide whether to give you a Temporary Protective Order for up to 12 months.
What happens if the person who abused or stalked me does not obey the Order?

Call the police if it feels safe to do so. The person can be held in contempt of court. They can also be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor or felony.

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More info


  • Dating Violence Ex Parte Protective Order Form
  • Dating Violence 12 Month Protective Order Form
  • Petition for Dating Violence Temporary Protective Order Form.
  • If you need family violence and protective order forms, visit the Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority website. 
  • Visit the Southern Judicial Circuit website for self-help forms that may be used. 
  • Visit the Fulton County Court website for forms to use in family law proceedings in the Superior Court of Fulton County.
  • If you wish to represent yourself in a family law case in the Superior Court of Clayton County, visit our resource and the court law library.
  • If you need an interpreter in court, please use this petition form
  • Use this parenting plan to set out the details of how the parents will share the parenting responsibilities after a divorce or separation.



  • Read our brochure on how to break free from domestic violence.  
  • Read here how to make a safety plan. 
  • View Mass Legal Rights document that explores additional questions behind domestic violence. 
  • Read the American Bar Association’s brochure on domestic violence and safety for your children.


Last Review and Update: May 31, 2023
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