The Safe Families Office is located in the Fulton County Courthouse. It’s Georgia’s very first lawyer-staffed, courthouse-based resource for victims of intimate partner abuse.
AVLF provides consultation services for survivors to get information about their legal options and referrals for other appropriate assistance. Each appointment also includes safety planning advice and focuses on respecting the survivor’s opinions and goals. If filing a civil temporary protective order is appropriate and desired, we offer assistance with completing the legal documents.
Children face terrible conflict when those who care for them are abused, even if they are not the subjects of direct violent attacks. It is especially stressful when the batterer is another parent or parental figure.
In response, AVLF’s Domestic Violence Project established the Safe Families Office (SFO), the only lawyer-staffed, Courthouse-based resource for victims in Georgia. Through the provision of legal assistance, and ancillary services that seek to improve survivor’s quality of life, the SFO and its network make the justice system easier to understand and less intimidating. Lawyers, paralegals and law students trained by AVLF in the law and psychology of domestic violence now meet more than 2,200 visitors to the SFO every year, and offer them legal consultation, advice, direction, and when necessary direct representation in their effort to secure Protective Orders, the highest protection offered by the law for the victim and her family.
Our society encourages victims of intimate partner, elder and child abuse to address the violence through the courts, certainly a worthy goal in a civilized community. But these families can face a number of different, difficult challenges when trying to access and navigate the legal process, including insufficient knowledge about the justice system, inadequate education to take advantage of the court’s power, financial constraints, emotional and psychological barriers and the fear of future violence that may occur if the abuser becomes aware that the victim has tried to take legal action.
Battered and frightened mothers and children come to the SFO sometimes with only terrible fear and the desperate desire for help: 80% of the SFO’s visitors leave the same day with a Protective Order, and 100% of visitors depart with the power of knowing their legal options. Having access to legal counsel, safety planning and quality, life-affirming conflict management assistance offers real hope for rebuilding healthy, positive lives.