The Superior Court’s Domestic Violence Division adjudicates civil and criminal domestic violence matters, including Civil Protection Order (CPO) cases. A person can file a petition for a CPO against someone who has committed or threatened to commit an “intrafamily offense,” sexual assault, sexual abuse, or sex or labor trafficking against them.
An “intrafamily offense” is defined as:
- an act punishable as a criminal offense that is
- committed or threatened to be committed by an offender upon an intimate partner, a family member, or a household member (all defined by statue).
A CPO is intended to protect someone from harm or threat of harm. The person seeking protection is the Petitioner. The person against whom the petition is filed is the Respondent.
The court can enter a Temporary Protective Order (TPO) ex parte for an initial period not to exceed 14 days if it finds that the safety or welfare of a family member is immediately endangered by the respondent. A hearing is held on the TPO request on the same day it is filed, or on the next business day if the petition is filed after 3 p.m.
The CPO hearing date is set at the time of filing the petition, usually two weeks out from the filing date. As a result of pandemic reforms, most hearings on the calendar are remote, in which the parties appear by video or telephone. However, in some instances, the court may order one or both parties to appear in person should the hearing be continued.
A CPO can be entered for a period up to two years and be modified or extended upon motion and for good cause shown. CPOs usually include a provision directing the respondent to refrain from committing or threatening to commit criminal offenses such as assaulting, harassing, or physically abusing the petitioner and others specified in the order. The order may also include a “stay away” provision (from a person, home, workplace, school, etc.) and/or a “no-contact” provision. Temporary custody (or visitation) of children, as well as child support, also can be awarded. Other forms of relief are available, as well.
CPOs frequently are settled by the entry of a consent order “without admissions,” meaning the respondent consents to the entry of a negotiated CPO without admitting that an intrafamily offense was committed.
The Court hosts two Domestic Violence Intake Centers (DVIC) – one on site in the Moultrie Courthouse and one in SE DC at the Big Chair. The DVICs are “one-stop” locations where survivors can get help drafting and filing a petition, meet with an attorney, and meet with an advocate who can help with safety planning, finding emergency shelter, and accessing other services and resources.