What is an injunction for protection against domestic violence?
An injunction for protection against domestic violence (sometimes called an injunction or a restraining order) is a court document that orders the abuser to stop doing certain acts (such as abusing you, contacting you or coming near you) and makes the abuser do other acts (such as leaving your home, and paying you temporary child support). It can also give you certain rights (such as temporary custody of your children). If you have an injunction, and the abuser violates it, the police may arrest him/her for the violation.1 See What can I do if the abuser violates the injunction? for more information. For a complete list of what protections an injunction can offer, go to How can an injunction for protection against domestic violence help me?
1 Fla. Stat. § 741.30
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 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.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?
An injunction for protection against domestic violence can:
- order the abuser to stay away from your home, your work, etc.;1
- order the abuser to not contact you, directly or through a third party;1
- 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;2
- give you temporary child support or spousal support;2
- 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.3
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.4
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.5
1 Fla. Stat. § 741.31(4)(a)(2),(5)
2 Fla. Stat. § 741.30(3)(k), (5)(a)(3), (6)(a)(3)
3 Fla .Stat. § 741.30(6)(a)
4 Fla .Stat. §§ 57.105(8); 837.011(3)
5 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