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Know the Laws: Florida

UPDATED April 12, 2017

Injunctions for Protection Against Domestic Violence

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An injunction for protection against domestic violence is a civil order that provides protection from abuse by a family or household member.

Basic info

back to topWhat is the legal definition of domestic violence in Florida?

This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting an injunction for protection against domestic violence.

Domestic violence means any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.*  If you are the victim of domestic violence or if you have reasonable cause to believe that you are in immediate danger of becoming the victim of any act of domestic violence, you can apply for an injunction against domestic violence.**  

* Fla. Stat. § 741.28(2)
** Fla. Stat. § 741.30(1)(a)

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back to topHow will the judge decide if I am “in immediate danger of becoming a victim of domestic violence?”

Even if you have not been physically battered, you can still qualify for an injunction if the judge believes you are in immediate danger of becoming a victim of domestic violence.  When deciding this, the judge will look at the following factors:

  1. The history between you and the respondent, including threats, harassment, stalking, and physical abuse;
  2. If the respondent has attempted to harm you or family members or individuals closely associated with you;
  3. If the respondent has threatened to conceal, kidnap, or harm your child;
  4. If the respondent has intentionally injured or killed a family pet;
  5. If the respondent has used, or has threatened to use, any weapons such as guns or knives against you;
  6. If the respondent has physically restrained you from leaving the home or calling law enforcement;
  7. If the respondent has a criminal history involving violence or the threat of violence;
  8. If there was a prior order of protection issued against the respondent;
  9. If the respondent has destroyed personal property of yours (e.g., telephone, clothing, or other items belonging to you);
  10. Whether the respondent has behaved in any other way that leads you to reasonably believe that you are in immediate danger of becoming a victim of domestic violence.*
* Fla. Stat. § 741.30(6)(b)

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back to topWhat types of injunctions for protection against domestic violence are there? How long do they last?

In Florida, when you file a petition for protection against domestic violence, the court automatically will consider giving you two types of injunctions: a temporary injunction and a final injunction for protection against domestic violence.

Temporary (ex parte) Injunctions
The temporary or ex parte injunction is a court order designed to provide you and your family members with immediate protection from the abuser. As soon as you file your petition for protection against domestic violence, the clerk will give your petition to the judge. If the judge decides that there is an immediate and present danger of domestic violence, the judge will grant the temporary injunction.* You will not have to testify and the abuser does not need to be present. The judge will make the decision based only on the information in your petition** so it is important to take the time to carefully fill out the petition. For more information on how to fill out the petition, please see Steps for obtaining an injunction for protection against domestic violence.

The temporary injunction takes effect as soon as the abuser is served with (formally given) a copy of the order. This is called giving the abuser notice or having the abuser served with process. 

The temporary injunction stays in effect for a certain number of days, but won't last longer than 15 days (unless the judge  grants a continuance of the hearing for "good cause" shown by either party.)  Before the fixed time period ends, there will be a full hearing to decide whether to give you a final injunction.  The date for the full hearing will be set at the same time the judge makes the decision about the temporary injunction.  The temporary injunction will last until the full hearing takes place.***   Even if the judge denies you a temporary injunction, it does not necessarily mean you will be denied a final injunction.  If the judge believes that there is no immediate and present danger of domestic violence, the judge is still supposed to set a hearing date for a final injunction where you will have a chance to better present your case.**  However, be sure to ask the judge for a hearing – sometimes judges don’t automatically set a hearing date.

Final Injunctions
At the full hearing, the judge will decide whether to give you a final injunction. The final injunction will last longer than 15 days and may provide you with more protections than the temporary injunction did.  The final injunction may have a set period of time that it will be in effect (for example, one year) or it may not have an expiration date.  If there is no expiration date, either you or the abuser can file in court to modify (change) or dissolve (end) the injunction at any time and the judge will decide whether or not to grant the relief requested.****

Note: If you are not eligible for an injunction for protection against domestic violence, you may be eligible for a different type of injunction against violence. Please see: If I am not eligible to get an injunction for protection against domestic violence, is there some other Injunction that I can get for protection against violence?

* Fla. Stat. § 741.30(5)(a)
** Fla. Stat. § 741.30 (5)(b)
*** Fla. Stat. § 741.30(5)(c)
**** Fla. Stat. § 741.30 (6)(c)

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back to topHow can an injunction for protection against domestic violence help me?

An injunction for protection against domestic violence can:

  • order the abuser to stay away from your home, your work, etc.;*
  • order the abuser to not contact you, directly or through a third party;*
  • order the abuser to stop abusing you;
  • tell the abuser to leave you alone;
  • order the abuser to leave the home you share with him/her;
  • give you temporary custody (known as 100% of the time-sharing in a temporary parenting plan) and limit or prohibit the abuser from time-sharing (visitation) of your children or have those visits supervised by a third party;**
  • give you temporary child support or spousal support;**
  • order the abuser to go to treatment, counseling, or a batterers' intervention program, which the abuser has to pay for;
  • refer you to a certified domestic violence center, which you can contact if you choose; and
  • order anything else that  the judge believes is necessary for your protection or the protection of your children.***

A judge will decide which of the above will be included in the order.

Note: All final injunctions (not temporary ex parte injunctions) will state that it is illegal for the respondent (abuser) to have a gun or ammunition in his/her possession.****

* Fla.Stat. § 741.31(4)(a)(2),(5)
** Fla. Stat. § 741.30(3)(k), (5)(a)(3), (6)(a)(3)
*** Fla .Stat. § 741.30(6)(a)
**** Fla. Stat. § 741.30(6)(g)

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back to topWhere can I file for an injunction for protection against domestic violence?

You can file for an injunction for protection against domestic violence in the circuit where you live permanently or temporarily, where the abuser lives, or where the abuse occurred.*

However, if you have left the home and want to keep the address where you are staying confidential, filing in that county would likely not be a good idea since it would alert the abuser to the fact that you are living in that county.

* Fla. Stat. § 741.30

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Who can get an injunction for protection against domestic violence

back to topAm I eligible to obtain an injunction for protection against domestic violence?

Injunctions for protection against domestic violence protect you against family or household members. You can file a petition for an injunction for protection against domestic violence if the abuser is:

  • Your current or former husband or wife.
  • Any person related to you by blood or marriage (such as your aunt, cousin or brother-in-law).
  • Any person who lives or has lived with you, as if they were part of the family. The law protects you against these people even if they are no longer living with you.
  • Someone you have a child in common with, even if you have never lived together and never married that person.*

To read about what qualifies as domestic violence for the purpose of getting an injunction, go to What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Florida?

If you are a minor, you may need a parent or legal guardian to file for an injunction on your behalf.**  You may want to contact a domestic violence program for more information about how to get an injunction if you are a minor.  Go to FL State and Local Programs to find a program near you.

Note: If someone other than one of these people is hurting you, there are other petitions that you may be eligible to file for protection against violence. See If I am not eligible to get an injunction for protection against domestic violence, is there some other injunction that I can get for protection against violence?

* Fla. Stat. § 741.28(3)
** Fla. Stat. § 784.046(2)

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back to topCan I get an injunction for protection against domestic violence against my same-sex partner?

In Florida, you may apply for an injunction against domestic violence against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Am I eligible to obtain an injunction for protection against domestic violence?  You must also be the victim of an act of domestic violence, which is explained here What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Florida?

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back to topCan a minor file for an injunction for protection against domestic violence?

If you are a minor, you may need a parent or legal guardian to file for an injunction on your behalf.*  You may want to contact a domestic violence program for more information about how to get an injunction if you are a minor. Go to FL State and Local Programs to find a program near you.

* Fla. Stat. § 784.046(2)

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back to topIs there a minimum amount of time that I must live in Florida before I can file for an injunction?

No, there is no minimum requirement of residency for you to meet before you file a petition for an injunction for protection against domestic violence in Florida. You also have the option of filing the petition in the county where the respondent lives, or where the domestic violence occurred instead of in the county where you currently live.*  This might be the best option for you if you have moved to a new county and the abuser does not know what county you are living in.

* Fla. Stat. § 741.30(1)(j)

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back to topHow much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?

There is no fee for filing a petition for an injunction for protection against domestic violence.* 

You can represent yourself throughout the process of seeking an injunction for protection against domestic violence.**  When you represent yourself, it is called going to court "pro se."  Many people have been successful in getting injunctions when they have gone pro se, however, in many situations it would be to your advantage to have an attorney to help you through this process. (This is especially true if the abuser has an attorney or child custody issues are involved.) If you cannot afford an attorney, one of the legal services providers listed on our FL Finding a Lawyer page may be able to assist you.

If you do not want to or cannot hire an attorney, you might want to think about finding an advocate who can help you go through the process of obtaining an injunction. Having another person give you support through this process can be a tremendous help.  You will find someone who can help and who knows the system by contacting a local domestic violence organization in your area on our FL State and Local Programs page.

* Fla. Stat. § 741.30(2)(a)
** Fla. Stat. § 741.30(1)(f)

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back to topIf I am not eligible to get an injunction for protection against domestic violence, is there some other injunction that I can get for protection against violence?

Yes.  If you do not qualify for an injunction for protection against domestic violence, you might qualify for one of these other types of injunctions:

1. Injunction Against Repeat Violence. You may file for an injunction against repeat violence against anyone who has committed at least two acts of violence or stalking against you or a member of your immediate family (your child, your parents, or a sister or brother) and one of those two acts of violence has occurred within the last six months.

2. Injunction Against Dating Violence. You may file for an injunction against dating violence if you have been abused or reasonably believe you are in immediate danger of becoming the victim of abuse by someone you have or had a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature within the past six months. Dating violence does not include violence in a casual acquaintanceship or violence between individuals who have only socialized in a business or social context.

3. Injunction Against Sexual Violence. You may file for an injunction against sexual violence if you are a victim of sexual violence, as it is defined in the Florida statutes. To be eligible to file a petition for an injunction against sexual violence, you must have reported the incident of violence to the police or other law enforcement agency and be cooperating in any criminal proceeding against the abuser if criminal charges are brought against him. There are many difference sexual crimes that could qualify you for this injunction.  If you are unsure if your situation would qualify, the law enforcement agency to which you report the incident of violence can help you understand whether an act of sexual violence, as defined in the law, has been committed.

You also may file any of these petitions on behalf of any minor child (under 18) who is living at home and who is the victim of the violence for which protection is sought.*

The clerk of the circuit court will provide you with forms and instructions for filing any of these petitions. The clerk also will assist you in filling out the forms. You can also visit our FL Download Court Forms page for links to online forms.

The process will be similar to the process described above in Steps for obtaining an injunction for protection against domestic violence.

* Fla. Stat. § 784.046

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Steps for getting an injunction for protection against domestic violence

back to topStep 1: Go to the courthouse and get the necessary forms.

To get an injunction, you must file your petition for an injunction for protection against domestic violence with the clerk of the circuit court. The clerk is the court official who keeps court records and files. You can file in the county where:

  • you currently live (even if you have only been living there for 1 day);
  • the abuser lives; or
  • the domestic violence occurred.*

To find the location of the circuit courthouse where the clerk's office is located, go to our FL Courthouse Locations page or look in the county government section/page in the telephone directory or on your county's website.

The clerk of the circuit court will give you the forms you need and instructions for filing a "Petition for an Injunction for Protection against Domestic Violence." The petition will be your formal request for an injunction. There is no fee to file for an injunction.**

You will also find links to online forms at our FL Download Court Forms page. This petition and other court papers may refer to the abuser as the "respondent" and to you as the "petitioner".

Also, you can get help through one of the domestic violence organizations listed on our FL State and Local Programs page.

Note: You will need to have some form of identification (a driver's license or a picture I.D.) to file a petition.

* Fla. Stat. § 741.30(1)(j)
** Fla. Stat. § 741.30(2)(a)

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back to topStep 2: Fill out the forms.

Carefully fill out the petition. If you need help filling out the forms, ask a domestic violence advocate to help you. You can reach an advocate in the county where you are filing by dialing the Florida Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119 ext 2. You can also go to our FL State and Local Programs page.  The forms you fill out will be used by the judge to determine why you need protection and what kind of protection you need.

If the paperwork asks for your address and you are afraid that giving your address will put you in danger, tell the clerk. S/he will help you fill out a form to ask the court to allow you to keep your address a secret.

You will likely have to give the following information when you apply for an injunction:

  1. The abuser’s current address and last known place of employment
  2. The abuser’s date of birth and a physical description of him
  3. Any aliases (other names) that he uses
  4. If you are or were married to the abuser, when and where you were married, divorced, or separated
  5. A list of any other current court cases involving you and the abuser and
  6. A list of any other times you applied for an injunction against the abuser and what happened in those cases.*
The form will ask you to give a detailed description of the facts and circumstances about the family violence and your reasons for seeking protection.

Read the petition carefully and ask questions if you don't understand something. Describe in detail how your abuser injured or threatened you. Explain when and where the abuse or threats occurred. Write about the most recent incident of violence, using descriptive language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, choking, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Be specific. Include details and dates, if possible.

Do not sign the form until you have shown it to a clerk. The form may have to be signed in front of a notary public, clerk or a judge at the courthouse.

* Fla. Stat. § 741.30(3)(b)

 

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back to topStep 3: A judge will review your petition.

After you finish filling out your petition, give it to the clerk of court. The clerk will immediately take the petition to the judge.  The judge will review the petition promptly and will issue a temporary ex parte injunction if s/he finds that there is an immediate threat of violence to either you or a family member.  The judge will decide whether to issue the temporary injunction based on the facts included in your petition, so you should be sure to include any details in your petition that show you are in immediate danger.  The temporary injunction will be effective for no more than 15 days.

Before you can get a long term, final injunction, you will have to have a full court hearing where the abuser has the opportunity to be present.  The judge will give you a date for the full hearing the same time s/he decides whether to give you a temporary injunction. The full hearing will be scheduled for a time before the temporary injunction expires.

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back to topStep 4: Service of process

If you receive a temporary ex-parte injunction, it will not take effect until the papers have been served on (given to) the abuser. The clerk of court will give all of the necessary paperwork to the sheriff or another law enforcement officer who will deliver ("serve") the papers to the abuser as soon as possible.*  If the abuser lives with you, you may ask the court to have a law enforcement officer go home with you to help enforce the temporary injunction. This means that if the temporary injunction requires the abuser to move out of the house, the law enforcement officer will make him leave.**  Tell the clerk that you want help to enforce the injunction and ask for help in your petition.  To find contact information for your local sheriff, go to our FL Sheriff Departments page.

The abuser will also receive papers telling him/her when the hearing for the final injunction will take place.  A judge cannot give you a final injunction at the hearing unless the abuser has been served.  It does not matter if the abuser actually shows up at the hearing or not; it only matters that s/he received notice of the hearing date.

* Fla. Stat. § 741.30(8)(a)(1)
** Fla. Stat. § 741.30(8)(a)(2)

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back to topStep 5: The hearing

When you are requesting an injunction for protection, you must prove that the abuser has committed an act of domestic violence (as defined by the law) against you and/or your children or that you are in immediate danger of becoming a victim of domestic violence.*

You are required to go to the court hearing. If you find out you absolutely cannot attend, you must contact the court clerk immediately and ask how you can get a "continuance" for a later court date.  However, continuances are normally not granted.  If the petitioner does not show up, generally the temporary injunction will be dismissed.

At the hearing, you will be asked to testify in court about the abuse and harassment you have experienced. The abuser will also be allowed to be present evidence and testify in the hearing. See the Preparing Your Case section under the Preparing for Court tab at the top of this page for ways you can show the judge that you were abused.

If the abuser does not show up, the court may issue a "default judgment" and you may receive a final injunction against the respondent without him/her being there.  If not, a date for another court hearing may be set.  If another hearing date is set and the judge does not extend the temporary injunction order, you should request that s/he do so before leaving the courtroom.

* Fla. Stat. § 741.30(6)(a)

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After the hearing

back to topWhat should I do when I leave the courtroom?

Review the injunction before you leave the courthouse.  If something is wrong or missing, you might be able to present your concerns to the judge at that time.  If you notice an error after you leave the courtroom or the courthouse, you may want to file legal papers called a “motion for clarification.” You may want to consult with an attorney for help with this.

  • The clerk of court will give you at least two certified copies of the order.  You may want to make several more copies of the injunction as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the injunction with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the injunction at your work place, at your home, at the children's school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
  • Give a copy of the injunction to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks and your phone number if permitted by law.
  • Be aware of your safety while leaving the courthouse.  If you are concerned that the abuser may try to approach you, contact a court officer to see if you can be accompanied to your car.
Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving the injunction.  People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school.  Many abusers obey injunctions, but some do not and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  View our Staying Safe page for some suggestions.  Advocates at local resource centers can assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support. For a list of domestic violence centers, see our FL State and Local Programs page.

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back to topWhat can I do if the judge doesn't give me an injunction?

You can try to talk to a domestic violence advocate to find out what the problem was. It might just be something wrong in the paperwork. If possible, ask the clerk if you can correct the problem and re-submit the petition. If the judge found that you did not have any allegations of domestic violence (according to its legal definition), you can always reapply if another incident happens.

If you didn’t already have a lawyer, it may be necessary at this point to contact a lawyer to get specific advice on your situation. You will find contact information for legal assistance on the FL Finding a Lawyer page of this website.

You may want to view our Staying Safe page as well, for other ways you can increase your safety.

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back to topWhat can I do if the abuser violates the injunction?

You can call the police right away. Tell the police that you have an injunction for protection against domestic violence. Make sure you have a copy of the injunction to show the police when they arrive. When the police arrive, you can tell them what happened and that you want the abuser to be arrested. Violation of an injunction can be a misdemeanor in the first degree or a felony of the third degree if it is violated three or more times against the same victim.*

If the injunction is violated but the abuser is not arrested, you can report the violation to the clerk's office in the circuit court in the county where the violation occurred, which may be a different courthouse than the one that gave you the injunction. The clerk will help you take the appropriate steps to file a violation petition to enforce your injunction. Your affidavit (sworn statement) will then be sent to law enforcement and the state attorney for further action.**  

The civil court judge can also hold the abuser in contempt of court.  Even if there is ultimately no criminal prosecution for the violation, the civil court judge can order that the abuser go to batterers’ treatment program and you can be awarded money damages for an injury or loss that you suffer as a result of the violation (including your attorney’s fees and court costs).**  For a list of courthouses, go to FL Courthouse Locations.

* Fla. Stat. § 741.31(4)(a),(c)
** Fla. Stat. §§ 741.31(5),(6); 741.30(9)(a)

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back to topIs my injunction still valid if I move?

Your final injunction and temporary ex parte injunction are good where ever you go in Florida. 

Additionally, the federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order (like an injunction for protection), it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. Territories and tribal lands.* Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders. Because a temporary ex parte injunction is given based only on your information and the abuser did not have an opportunity to be heard, there may be limitations on the enforcement of a temporary ex parte injunction in another state.

If you are moving out of state, you may want to call a domestic violence organization or the State Coalition in the state where you are going to find out how that state treats out-of-state orders.

Remember to take a certified copy of your injunction with you when you move.

If you are moving to a new state, you may also call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111 x 2 ) for information on enforcing your order there.

* 18 U.S.C. § 2265

 

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back to topWhat if the abuser is in the military?

Civil protective orders are supposed to be enforceable by military officials on military installations.  Please see our Military Protective Orders page for more information.

 

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back to topHow do I change the injunction?

If you want to change your injunction, you must go back to circuit court and ask the clerk for the forms to amend (change) your injunction. You may have to have another hearing in court. 

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back to topMy order is going to expire soon. Can I extend it?

If your injunction for protection against domestic violence is soon going to expire, you can ask the court for an extension of the order before it expires.  You would file your motion for an extension in the circuit court clerk’s office.  You will probably have to fill out a petition similar to the one you filled out for the original order.  Each time you ask for an extension, it can be extended up to one year.  The judge has broad discretion when deciding whether to grant an extension after considering the circumstances of why you want it.  You do NOT have to allege new incidents of violence* but you should be prepared to explain why you still need protection.

* See Fla. Stat. § 741.30(6)(c)

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back to topWhat can I do to be safe besides getting an injunction?

You may be able to file criminal charges against the abuser, depending on the circumstances.  You can do this by going to the police station.  Be aware, however, that if you later decide not to pursue your complaint, the state of Florida will not necessarily drop the criminal charges.  Unlike an injunction, which is considered a private matter, a criminal charge is considered a public offense.  The state may decide to prosecute the accused abuser even if you are no longer interested in taking action.

Whether or not you decide to get an injunction, you should consider making a plan for your safety.  See our Staying Safe page for more information.

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