Protection Against Violence in Florida

Boca Raton Family Law Attorney – Domestic Violence

There are several domestic violence statutes in Florida. Domestic violence generally comes into play between the husband and wife, and you unfortunately, but frequently see a domestic violence case pending with a divorce case. Residents in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and throughout South Florida need to be aware of how the law applies in these cases.

Florida Domestic Violence – Family/Household Members

Florida statute 741 covers acts of domestic violence between family or household members.

Family or household members are defined as spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently living together as if a family or who have lived together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child together regardless of whether or not they’ve been married or lived together.

Unlike a divorce case, there is no residency requirement in order to file an action for protection against domestic violence. Additionally you have your choice of options as to where you would like to file. You can file it in the County where you live, in the County where the other party lives, or in the County where the acts of domestic violence current period.

In addition to meeting one of the relationship requirements as noted above, you also have to be either a victim of domestic violence or in imminent danger of becoming a victim. Domestic violence is not limited to being physically assaulted. Domestic violence includes sexual assaults, sexual battery, stalking, cyber stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any other criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death to one family or household member by another family or household member.

In determining whether you, as the petitioner, are in imminent danger of becoming a victim of domestic violence, the court will consider the following circumstances in making this determination:

  • The history between you and the respondent, including a history of threats of harassment, stalking and physical abuse.
  • Whether the respondent has attempted to harm you, as a petitioner, or family members or individuals closely associated with you.
  • Whether the respondent has threatened to conceal, kidnap or harm your child or children
  • Whether the respondent has used, or has threatened to use, against you any weapons such as guns and knives
  • Whether the respondent has intentionally injured or killed a family pet
  • Whether the respondent has physically restrained you from leaving the home or calling law enforcement
  • Whether the respondent has a criminal history involving violence
  • The existence of a verifiable order of protection issued previously or from another jurisdiction
  • Whether the respondent has destroyed any personal property, including but not limiting limited to telephones or other equipment in the home
  • Whether the respondent has engaged in any other behavior or conduct that leads you to have reasonable cause to believe that you are in imminent danger.
South Florida Domestic Violence – The Protection Process

So what do you do if you feel that you need protection under this statute? The first thing you want to do is go to the courthouse that is closest to you. Each courthouse has their own domestic violence unit. Stop at the information desk in the lobby and ask for assistance in locating the domestic violence unit.

Once at the courthouse you would complete the paperwork necessary to apply for an ex parte emergency temporary injunction. You do not have to worry about creating complicated legal petitions or paperwork. The court will provide you with standardized forms. All you need to do is fill in the information that is requested on the form, and answer everything truthfully and honestly. After completing your paperwork you will be sworn by the clerk to verify that all the information you have included in your petition is true and correct.

After your paperwork has been completed the court will submit your petition to a judge for review. If a judge determines that you have been a victim of violence or are imminent danger of becoming a victim, based upon the allegations you have made in your petition, the judge will grant your petition for an ex parte temporary injunction. This injunction will be served by the Sheriff on the respondent named in the petition. Included in the injunction will be a court case that both you and the respondent will be required to attend, which must occur within 15 days from the date the judge signed the temporary injunction.

You must show up at the scheduled court date in order to avoid a dismissal of your temporary injunction. It the respondent, after having been properly served with notice of the proceeding, fails to appear in court, the permanent injunction will be granted. If both of you show up in court, and the respondent is challenging the allegations in your petition, the court will conduct an evidentiary hearing, listen to all the witnesses involved, and make a ruling as to whether or not a permanent injunction is in order and justified.

Repeat Violence, Stalking, and Other Florida Domestic Violence Issues

There are also other statutes available to victims of varying types of violence. For example, there is a statute that you can file under if you are the victim of repeat violence. This particular statute requires two incidents of violence or stalking committed by the respondent, which have been directed against you, as the petitioner or members of your immediate family. An important aspect of this statute is that one of the two incidents of violence or stalking must have occurred within 6 months from the date of filing your petition.

You also have a right to obtain a temporary injunction, if there is an immediate and present danger of violence. The court will not take any testimony at this point in time, but will make its determination solely upon the sworn allegations in the petition.

Once again just like in the domestic violence statute, the court will schedule a hearing within 15 days from the date that the court issues a temporary injunction.

Florida also has a statute that affords a person protection against stalking. Stalking is defined as conduct by a person who willfully, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person. The court may also grant a temporary injunction for protection against stalking, just as it does under the other protection statutes noted.

There is also another statute that would you protection from dating violence. In order to qualify protection particular statute there must have been violence between individuals who have or have had a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. The existence of such a relationship shall be determined by the court based upon consideration of various factors, including the following:

  • A dating relationship must have existed
  • The nature of the relationship must of been characterized by the expectation of affection or sexual involvement between the parties, and
  • The frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship must have included that the persons have been involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship. Obviously this statute does not apply to those involved in a casual, short-term relationship.

There is one final statute for protection available to those who are victims of sexual violence. The statute states that only one incident of sexual battery or a lewd or lascivious act committed upon or in the presence of a person younger than 16 years of age is required.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney

For help understanding your rights and navigating these legal issues, contact a South Florida family law attorney today. For those in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, other nearby communities, feel free to reach out to experienced attorney Alan Burton today for compassionate, understanding, aggressive advocacy. You can reach us at 954-229-1660 or my cell at 954-295-9222.