Domestic Violence Injunctions
By definition within the Florida Statutes, any individual who has been a victim of domestic violence or has reasonable cause to believe he or she is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of any act of domestic violence may file a Petition for Protection Against Domestic Violence (also called a Domestic Violence Injunction or a restraining order).
A Petition for Protection Against Domestic Violence may be filed by a family member or a household member of the person that committed the violence. While it may sound simple, the legal definitions of a “family member” or “household member”, and even “domestic violence” are technical. It is advisable to contact an experienced family law attorney that handles domestic violence injunctions to see if you are eligible for a Domestic Violence Injunction or if you should seek a different type of injunction or restraining order.
The person that files for an injunction, whether it’s a Domestic Violence Injunction or another type of injunction or restraining order, is called the Petitioner. The person that the injunction is against is called the Respondent. After the petition for the injunction is filed by the Petitioner, it is reviewed by a judge to determine whether or not on the face of the document, it states allegations sufficient to enter an “ex parte” injunction. If the Judge grants the petition, a return hearing is scheduled within 14 days of the date the temporary injunction is entered for a fully hearing on the evidence. If the Judge denies the “ex parte” petition, a hearing can still be set by the Judge to determine whether or not an injunction should be entered but only after a full hearing on the allegations.
There are many factors the law allows the judge to consider in determining whether or not to grant an injunction. More importantly, there are many things the judge should know that are difficult to present in court due to the laws of evidence. Because of this, you need an attorney that is not only experienced in handling domestic violence injunctions, but also has extensive trial experience in order to present the relevant facts to the judge consistent with Florida statutes and the laws of evidence. Linda I. Braithwaite is an experienced trial attorney and has handled many of these type of cases during her career as a family law attorney.
The judge has very broad discretion in deciding what sanctions to include in the injunction. The injunction can grant 100% timesharing to the Petitioner, award child support, award the Petitioner exclusive use of the house, prohibit the Respondent from coming into contact with the Petitioner, his/her place of employment, residence, cars or the child(ren)’s school. The judge can also order the Respondent to participate in anger management and domestic violence programs at his/her own cost. A Respondent with a domestic violence injunction will also have to relinquish possession of any weapons.
Because of the type of relief that a judge can order with an injunction, domestic violence injunctions are often filed frivolously to obtain custody, child support and sole use of the house. A domestic violence injunction can be extremely damaging in a divorce or parenting case. If you are the victim of a frivolous injunction, you need to contact an experienced lawyer to ensure you are properly defended in court.
Violation of Injunctions
The court may enforce a violation of an injunction for protection against domestic violence through civil or criminal contempt proceedings. The judge can order fines as well as other sanctions, and the state attorney’s office may prosecute a violation as a first degree misdemeanor.
In the event a domestic violence injunction has been violated, the Petitioner must contact law enforcement and file an affidavit in support of the violation in order to proceed with the violation.
Extending a Domestic Violence Injunction
It’s important to note that in order to extend a domestic violence injunction, the Petitioner must file for an extension before the injunction expires. If the Petitioner waits until the injunction expires or dismisses the injunction, the injunction cannot be extended. Further, in order to extend the injunction, the Petitioner must show that violations have occurred or that the Petitioner continues to have a reasonable fear that violence will occur if the injunction is dismissed.