• DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Areas of Legal Practice: Joseph J. Pappacoda
The Florida Statutes relating to Domestic Violence are broken down into several sub-categories including: Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence, Repeat Violence, and Dating Violence. These laws are designed to protect a victim (a Petitioner) from another person (a Respondent) who has already caused you harm, and who may continue to cause you harm in the future. The harm caused falls under the term “violence”, which is interpreted broadly to include violence of any type, physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, stalking, harassment, or criminal activity in which you are a victim of another.
It does not matter whether you and the person you seek protection from are married, so long as the technical requirements and prerequisites of the Domestic Violence Statutes are satisfied in your initial pleadings with the court. If you feel that you are the victim of domestic violence, you are encouraged to first call the police to report your abuse, by calling “911," and then to seek assistance from an attorney, the Domestic Violence Circuit Court Clerk, or another person who can knowledgeably assist you with preparation of the particular forms that need to be filed with the Domestic Violence Court.
There are no Circuit Court Clerk filing fees associated with a Petition For Injunction Against Domestic Violence, and the inclusive forms necessary are available free to the public at www.flcourts.org; see Forms 12.980 (a) through (u), which can be downloaded to your computer and printed out for completion. You must pick the particular type of form that best suits the facts of your particular relationship with the assailant because there are several to pick from.
There are instructions at the beginning of each form that must be read thoroughly so as to ensure that you have the correct form for completion. You must only complete the Petition For Temporary Injunction Form and bring it with you to the Domestic Violence Circuit Court Clerk at your local County Courthouse in Florida. The Clerk will assist you with any ancillary forms that are required for intake of your case.
Once the Petition For Temporary Injunction is accepted by the Clerk, a case number will be issued, and a case file will be opened. In most instances, your case file will be forwarded to a Domestic Violence Judge that day for a ruling on your Petition. The Clerk will instruct you when to return to the Clerk’s Office to pick up your copy of the judge’s ruling which is normally the same day that you filed the Petition, unless you file the form late in the day, or before a weekend and Holiday.
The judge can either: Grant your Petition, thereafter issuing a Temporary Restraining Order for which you will be given a court date for hearing, Deny your Temporary Restraining Order for a variety of reasons, mostly associated with the technical prerequisites of the statutes that you did not comply with in your filing, or Grant a hearing on the Petition For Temporary Restraining Order itself, which means that the judge wants to hear more from you before Granting or Denying the Petition.
When the judge grants your Petition For Temporary Injunction, an Order For Temporary Injunction is issued by the Court to the person you have identified as the assailant involved in the domestic violence. That person is called the “Respondent” in your case. The Order is normally served by your County’s Sheriff Department within 24 to 48 hours when the Respondent can be located without difficulty. You may be able to assist the Sheriff’s Department in that process, which may include calling the Sheriff when that person is in your presence, or when you know that person will be in your presence at a predetermined date and time. Your local police department can also serve your copy of the Temporary Injunction, in the event you have an emergency situation.
Once the Respondent is served with the Temporary Injunction For Protection Against Domestic Violence they are prohibited from physically being in your vicinity, and prohibited from any further contact with you, directly or indirectly, until after the hearing date, which is noted on the paperwork delivered to them by the Sheriff. If the Respondent violates the Temporary Injunction in any way, they may be arrested for violation of that injunction.
If the Respondent violates the Injunction before the hearing date, by contacting you directly or indirectly, you are encouraged to call the police, by calling 911, and requesting assistance related to the violation. When you call the police, you should tell the dispatch officer that you are in possession of a Temporary Injunction that you will hand to the police when they arrive. You will receive a hearing date from the Domestic Violence judge that you must attend, related to your allegations of domestic violence by the Respondent. If you do not attend the hearing without advance authorization from the court to reschedule the hearing, your Temporary Injunction will likely be dismissed by the court.
At the final hearing of your Petition, you can present evidence to the court in such forms as your own testimony, testimony from other witnesses that you bring with you to the hearing, papers, letters, emails, or other written documentation, photos, phone messages, text messages, audiotape recordings, or any other tangible evidence in your possession that will help you prove the allegations of domestic violence that you enumerated in your original Petition filed with the court. If the Respondent admits to the violations, you may not need to use your evidence of abuse to win the case.
You have the right to cross examine the Respondent in the courtroom, and the Respondent has the right to ask you questions as well. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge may: Grant a Permanent Injunction For Protection Against Domestic Violence, which can be for a period of years, and is renewable by you upon your Motion with the court, Deny the permanent injunction because the judge has deemed that you did not prove your case; or Grant some other equitable remedy.
In the event the Respondent does not appear at the final hearing after being served with the notice to appear, and without authorization to reschedule the hearing date from the court, you will win your case without a hearing, and a Permanent Injunction will be issued by the court. You are advised to seek the advice of an attorney to vastly improve the chances of your success at a final hearing, especially in situations where the Respondent has hired an attorney who will appear in court.
Many petitions are dismissed after hearing simply because Petitioner’s do not understand the nuances of the domestic violence laws, the rules of evidence, or because they become flustered in court to the extent that their evidence is not presented in a cohesive manner. Having your own attorney in court with you for a final hearing on your Petition For Injunction Against Domestic Violence improves your overall chances of success.
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