Restraining Orders (Injunctions)

What is an injunction?

An injunction is generally defined as a court order which requires a person to do something, or which prohibits a person from doing something. In the context of domestic relations, an injunction is often used to prohibit contact between individuals. This page focuses on issues related to injunctions for protection against domestic violence.

Who can get a domestic violence injunction?

Florida law allows any family or household member to seek a domestic violence injunction against any other family or household member. “Family or household member” is a term specifically defined by Florida law, and it covers not only spouses and former spouses, but many other domestic relationships as well.

What are the legal reasons for a court to issue a domestic violence injunction?

A court may issue a domestic violence injunction to protect someone who (1) is the victim of domestic violence, or (2) has reasonable cause to believe that he or she is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of any act of domestic violence.

How do you apply for a domestic violence injunction?

The Clerk of the Circuit Court in your county provides forms for petitioners seeking domestic violence injunctions. The Clerk will also, upon request, provide assistance with completion of the forms. The completed form, or petition, must be formally sworn to by the petitioner. The petition must include the specific facts and circumstances upon which the request for a domestic violence injunction is based. Where appropriate, the petition should also include other relevant information, such as whether the petitioner is seeking exclusive use of a shared home, or whether there are issues related to child custody or visitation.

Will I have to pay a filing fee to seek a domestic violence injunction?

No. Filing fees for domestic violence injunctions are prohibited by law.

What happens when a petition for a domestic violence injunction is filed?

A judge will review the petition. If the judge determines that “an immediate and present danger of domestic violence exists,” the judge may issue a temporary injunction without giving the respondent (the party against whom the injunction is sought) an opportunity to respond. This is called an ex parte injunction, and it is valid for no more than 15 days. If the judge issues an ex parte injunction, a formal hearing will be set within 15 days to determine if a “final” domestic violence injunction should be issued.

If the judge does not issue an ex parte injunction, the court will set a hearing on the petition “at the earliest possible time” to determine if a “final” domestic violence injunction should be issued.

Will I have to testify in court to obtain a domestic violence injunction?

If the respondent objects to issuance of the injunction, you will likely have to testify at a court hearing to explain why you need an injunction. This is true even though you included the same allegations or facts in the sworn petition you filed seeking the injunction. If you testify, you may also be asked questions by the respondent’s attorney, and by the judge.

Can I present other evidence at the hearing?

Yes. Subject to the Florida Evidence Code, you may present relevant testimony from other witnesses, and any other evidence relevant to your case.

Can a lawyer assist me in obtaining a domestic violence injunction?

Yes. Although you are not required to have a lawyer in order to seek a domestic violence injunction, you have the right to have a lawyer assist you. A lawyer knowledgeable in the law and procedure of domestic violence injunctions may be able to provide valuable assistance, including appearing on your behalf at any court hearing in your case. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Kevin C. Maxwell and Associates haveĀ  experience in domestic violence injunction cases, and we stand ready to assist you.

If the judge denies my petition for a domestic violence injunction, will I ever be able to ask for one again?

Yes. You may at any time file a new petition for a domestic violence injunction, provided that the facts and circumstances in the petition are different from those in the petition previously denied by the judge.

What happens if the judge grants my petition for a domestic violence injunction?

The judge will issue a formal court order, often called a “final judgment for protection against domestic violence.” That order can include many things, including:

  • a requirement that the respondent have no contact of any kind with you;
  • a requirement that the respondent stay a certain distance away from you at all times;
  • a requirement that certain property, including a shared home, be distributed or used in certain ways;
  • a requirement that the parties comply with specific orders as to child custody, support, and visitation;
  • a requirement that the respondent complete a state-certified Batterer’s Intervention Program;
  • any other legal requirement related to your case.

All parties present in court will be given copies of the final order. A copy of the final judgment will be formally served on the respondent, usually by a sheriff’s deputy.

How long will my injunction last?

The final judgment, or injunction, will be effective for as long as the judge orders it. The judge may choose to put a definite time limitation on it (for example, one year), or the judge may order that the injunction remains in effect until further order of the court.

May an injunction be modified after it is issued?

Yes. Either party may petition the court for modification of the injunction at any time. The court may require a hearing on the request for modification.

What happens if the respondent violates the injunction?

Respondents who violate a domestic violence injunction may be held in criminal contempt of court, which is punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 months and 29 days in jail. Additionally, many violations of a domestic violence injunction constitute a separate and distinct criminal offense. Depending on the number and type of violations, these criminal offenses may be misdemeanors (punishable by up to 1 year in jail) or felonies (punishable by up to 5 years in prison).

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