Step 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.1
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.2
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 Advocates and Shelters page.
Note: You will need to have some form of identification (a driver’s license or a picture I.D.) to file a petition.
1 Fla. Stat. § 741.30(1)(k)
2 Fla. Stat. § 741.30(2)(a)
Step 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 Advocates and Shelters 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:
- The abuser’s current address and last known place of employment
- The abuser’s date of birth and a physical description of him
- Any aliases (other names) that he uses
- If you are or were married to the abuser, when and where you were married, divorced, or separated
- A list of any other current court cases involving you and the abuser and
- A list of any other times you applied for an injunction against the abuser and what happened in those cases.1
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.
1 Fla. Stat. § 741.30(3)(b)
Step 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.
Step 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.1 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.2 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.
1 Fla. Stat. § 741.30(8)(a)(1)
2 Fla. Stat. § 741.30(8)(a)(2)
You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?
Step 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.1
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 At the Hearing section under the Preparing for Court tab at the top of this page for ways you can show the judge that you were abused. You can learn more about the court system in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section.
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.
1 Fla. Stat. § 741.30(6)(a)