Family violence is terribly stressful. It's stressful, for starters, simply because it's happening within a family, where people are supposed to love and care for each other.
Family violence is also stressful because it's dangerous. We're not talking here about an ordinary marital argument. Domestic abuse, assault and other violent behaviors can inflict severe physical and emotional harm on family members. In extreme cases, the consequences may even be fatal.
So if you are experiencing family violence in Georgia, or know someone who is, it's important to become informed about what the law does and does not allow.
Civil v. Criminal
The first thing to realize is that there is a basic distinction between civil law and criminal law. In domestic cases, the same conduct can involve both civil and criminal consequences.
For example, if one spouse threatens to attack the other, one possible consequence is a criminal charge of assault. But regardless of whether a prosecutor chooses to pursue such a charge, there are also possible civil consequences. A spouse who has received such a threat can seek a civil protective order, no matter what happens in the criminal justice system concerning the same conduct.
A protective order, also sometimes called a restraining order, is a court order directing someone to have no contact, or only contact under specified conditions, with the person who obtains the order.
Sometimes there are local rules involved in obtaining such order. For example, if you live in the Atlanta area, an Atlanta divorce attorney can take appropriate action in light of local procedures there.
It should be noted, too, that if a protective order is granted, there could be criminal consequences for someone who violates it.
The relationship between the civil and criminal systems also works the other way. If someone is convicted of a criminal offense, that offense may result in consequences on the civil side, for example in divorce cases where courts must make decisions about issues like child custody.
What is Family Violence?
Family violence, as Georgia law defines it, involves harm or the threat of harm. It can range from hitting, slapping or kicking to rape, unwanted touching, unlawful restraint and other prohibited acts. These acts include not only physical actions, such as stalking, but also verbal threats.
Spouse-on-spouse abuse is one form of domestic violence. Child abuse is another. Although Georgia law allows a parent to use "reasonable discipline" against a child, certain forms of spanking or paddling can potentially qualify as family violence - and therefore be grounds for a protective order prohibiting their use.
Responding to these kinds of challenges within a family is always a sensitive matter. As you deal with your emotions and try to make decisions, remember that an experienced Atlanta family law attorney can play an important role in helping you understand your legal options.