Sometimes domestic or interpersonal stress and conflict come up during the holiday season. In serious situations, people can fear for their safety or that of their children and other loved ones. Obviously, concerns over an unwelcome visit from a potentially dangerous nonfamily member at a Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year or other holiday gathering cast a pall over the occasion.
At our Fort Lauderdale law firm, we represent people who seek orders for protection, known as restraining orders, from Florida courts to keep people who are likely to harm or create fear of harm away from potential victims. This can come up in a variety of relationships, including:
- Unmarried current and former girlfriends or boyfriends
- Unmarried parents of children
- Household members
- Former spouses
- People in dating relationships
Types of protective orders in Florida
Three Florida statutes provide for protective orders, also called injunctions for protection:
- Domestic violence injunctions: This covers people who now or previously lived together as either family or household members, or two parents who share a child, whether they have ever lived together. The eligible person can file a petition for an injunction for protection if he or she was the victim of domestic violence or has reasonable belief of imminent danger of domestic violence.
- Repeat, dating or sexual violence injunctions: These injunctions protect people who have been the victims of these kinds of violence or who fear they are in imminent danger of such violence. The parent or guardian of a minor in the same situation may also seek an injunction.
- Stalking: The victim of stalking or cyberstalking (or the parent of a minor victim) may seek a protective injunction.
Broadly and with some exceptions, when someone files a petition for a protective injunction in Florida, the court can order a temporary order of protection, usually for 15 days, until a full hearing can be held on the request. After hearing the evidence, the court may order a permanent injunction protecting the victim or potential victim, subject to later modification or termination. Depending on the type of injunction and circumstances, the court may also issue appropriate custody, visitation and child support changes to keep children safe.
The court may order the respondent (person at whom the restraining order is directed) not to commit violence or stalk, not to have contact, to leave a shared home, to get treatment or counseling, to enter batterers’ intervention program, to give up a firearm and more, depending on the circumstances.
Florida law also contains significant penalties for violation of these protective orders, depending on the situation, including potential criminal liability, contempt of court and changes in child custody orders.
Of course, anyone in imminent danger of harm should contact law enforcement for protection and anyone injured seek medical attention. Hopefully, it will not come to this, but a person in Florida in the circumstances these injunctions for protection are designed to remedy should seek immediate legal advice from a lawyer.
In addition, anyone who finds themselves at the receiving end of a petition for a protective order should speak with an attorney about how to respond.