What 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 is when the abuser committed any of these acts against a family or household member:
- aggravated assault;
- aggravated battery;
- sexual assault;
- sexual battery;
- stalking or aggravated stalking, which includes harassment and cyberstalking;
- false imprisonment; or
- any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.1
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.2
1 Fla. Stat. § 741.28(2)
2 Fla. Stat. § 741.30(1)(a)
How 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:
- The history between you and the respondent, including threats, harassment, stalking, and physical abuse;
- If the respondent has attempted to harm you or family members or individuals closely associated with you;
- If the respondent has threatened to conceal, kidnap, or harm your child;
- If the respondent has intentionally injured or killed a family pet;
- If the respondent has used, or has threatened to use, any weapons such as guns or knives against you;
- If the respondent has physically restrained you from leaving the home or calling law enforcement;
- If the respondent has a criminal history involving violence or the threat of violence;
- If there was a prior order of protection issued against the respondent;
- If the respondent has destroyed personal property of yours (e.g., telephone, clothing, or other items belonging to you);
- 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.1
1 Fla. Stat. § 741.30(6)(b)
What 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.1 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 petition2 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.3 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.2 However, be sure to ask the judge for a hearing – sometimes judges don’t automatically set a hearing date.
At the full hearing, the judge will decide whether to give you a final injunction. The final injunction 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.4
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?
1 Fla. Stat. § 741.30(5)(a)
2 Fla. Stat. § 741.30(5)(b)
3 Fla. Stat. § 741.30(5)(c)
4 Fla. Stat. § 741.30(6)(c)
What protections can I get in an injunction for protection against domestic violence?
In a temporary, ex parte injunction for protection against domestic violence, the judge can:
- order the abuser to stop abusing you;
- exclude the abuser from your home or give you temporary, exclusive use of the home that you share together;
- give you a temporary parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule, which can give you up to 100 percent of the time-sharing;
- give you temporary, exclusive possession, or control of an animal that belongs to you, the abuser, or a child living with either of you. In addition, the judge can order that the abuser temporarily cannot have any contact with the animal nor take, give away, hide, or harm the animal.1
A final injunction for protection against domestic violence can:
- give you all of the protections listed in numbers 1 - 4 above;2 and
- order the following additional things:
- 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;3
- give you temporary child support or spousal support;4
- 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.5
A judge will decide which of the above will be included in the order. It’s possible to get attorney’s fees awarded against either party if the judge believes that there is “clear and convincing evidence” that s/he knowingly made a false statement or allegation with regard to an important (“material”) matter that could affect the course or outcome of the proceeding.6
Note: All final injunctions will state that it is illegal for the respondent to have a gun or ammunition in his/her possession.7
1 Fla .Stat. § 741.30(5)(a)
2 Fla .Stat. § 741.30(6)(a)(1)-(3), (6)(a)(7)
3 Fla. Stat. § 741.31(4)(a)(2), (4)(a)(5)
4 Fla .Stat. § 741.30(6)(a)(4)
5 Fla .Stat. § 741.30(6)(a)(5),(6)(a)(6), (6)(a)(8),
6 Fla .Stat. §§ 57.105(7); 837.011(3)
7 Fla. Stat. § 741.30(6)(g)
Where 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.1
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.
1 Fla. Stat. § 741.30
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.