Being served with a domestic violence restraining order can feel a bit like being found guilty before proven innocent, flipping “innocent till proven guilty” on its head.
Restraining orders – variously known as no contact, stay away, protective, or injunctive orders, depending on the type of case and its context (criminal and/or family) – set in motion a chain of events over which you have little control, at least in the beginning of the case.
Without having had the opportunity to defend yourself and tell your side of the story, a restraining order assumes that you pose a risk of harm to another person, be it a spouse, a partner, and/or children.
Low evidence threshold
Sometimes there is clear evidence of risk of harm – an open or prior criminal case of assault and physical injury, for example. But there’s a low evidence threshold, especially in cases involving allegations of domestic violence. In other words, the judge may issue a restraining order based on nothing more than the word of a spouse alleging emotional abuse or the word of a police officer who broke up a heated argument.
Domestic violence restraining orders generally come with several conditions attached, like staying out of your own home, and not directly communicating with your spouse or partner. This includes simple text messages and DMs on social media. You are also ordered to provide (or continue to provide) financial support for children.
Consequences for violation
Violating a restraining order (like going home for a clean shirt without court approval) is generally a misdemeanor charge, with escalating consequences depending on the situation – all before the case has been settled out of court or “adjudicated,” meaning decided or resolved by the judge.
It almost goes without saying that a restraining order in Florida is a black mark on your record. In family law matters involving separation or divorce, restraining orders generally sway the outcome in child visitation and parenting plans, who wins primary vs. secondary custody, spousal support (a.k.a. alimony), child support, and the division of assets and property. Even outside of separation or divorce, being served with a domestic violence restraining order can have significant consequences, affecting the future of both your work and home life.