Courthouses in the State of Florida will have some set up for victim services. Palm Beach County’s victim services unit is very well staffed and very helpful to persons seeking protection. You do not need a lawyer to assist you in this process. The system is set up so that legitimate victims can obtain help and protection free of charge.
The system is often abused by parents seeking to obtain a tactical advantage in divorce and custody disputes and sometimes even as a vengeful action over a break up etc.
If you find yourself served with a petition, it is highly advisable to seek an immediate consult with a lawyer. You have very little notice of the hearing (15 days) and if granted, may have serious detrimental consequences if the court does not receive all the evidence in your defense. Restraining Orders are very difficult to get dismissed and restrict the Respondent (the served party) from carrying a weapon, even if the person has a concealed weapons permit. It also gives the Petitioner power to say you violated the order, even for what you might think is benign contact, such as a birthday card. If you have an Order against you, do not attempt to contact the victim in any way. If you are charged criminally with domestic violence as well, you may have a separate criminal order of no contact. In this case you may need a criminal attorney if you do not qualify for the Public Defender and you do not want to represent yourself.
I always say, don’t confuse your google search with my law degree. This stuff is very complicated and may have serious long term consequences.
The following information is from the Palm Beach County Clerk of Court’s Website: https://www.mypalmbeachclerk.com/court-services/unified-family-court/domestic-violence
What is a Domestic Violence Injunction?
A petition for domestic violence injunction – sometimes called a restraining order– can be filed by anyone who is the victim of any act of domestic violence (including repeat violence, dating violence and sexual violence) or has reasonable cause to believe he or she is in imminent danger of becoming the victim of any act of domestic violence. Florida Statutes outline what a petitioner may seek protection from in various types of petitions:
- Domestic violence involving spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are or have lived together as a family, or persons who have a child in common. For persons who have a child in common, the family or household members must be currently residing together or have in the past.
- Dating violence is between individuals who have or have had a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.
- Repeat violence involves incidents on two separate occasions, one of which must have occurred within the past six months.
- Sexual violence involves any incident of sexual battery, lewd or lascivious acts committed on or in the presence of a person younger than 16, luring or enticing a child, sexual performance by a child, or any other forcible felony wherein a sexual act is committed or attempted.
- Stalking is the repeated following, harassment, or cyberstalking of one person by another. Cyberstalk means to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.
I need to get an Injunction (restraining order). What do I do?
If you believe you need an injunction, an attorney is not required. You are always free to retain an attorney to provide you additional assistance with the procedure. The Court cannot provide legal advice. However, to inform petitioners about the injunction process, the Office of State Courts has created a brochure for petitioners that discusses many important issues.
Additionally, the Office of Court Improvement has produced two videos that discuss the injunction process and what to expect at a domestic violence injunction hearing. These videos can provide additional information about what to expect while involved in the domestic violence process.
You can go to any of the courthouse locations to file the Petition for Injunction. In addition, the Victim Services Offices are available to assist victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, homicide and other violent crimes through crisis response, advocacy, therapy and community awareness. They will help with referrals to social service agencies in the community, safety planning, and procedural information about the court process. View a list of locations.
Reminder: At the time of filing, you will be asked for identification; so be sure to have your driver’s license or other type of identification with you.
There are procedures in place to make it possible to obtain an injunction in Palm Beach County 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Do I need to pay any fees for filing for an Injunction (restraining order)?
No. The Clerk does not require any filing fees for petitions for injunction.
Where can I get the domestic violence forms?
The Office of State Courts Administrator has forms that pertain to petitioners and respondents. The forms may be accessed on the Florida Supreme Court Self-Help forms site. Please note that, if you know which domestic violence form you are required to fill out, the form may be filled out using the Office of Court Improvement’s new fillable forms process. This process will allow you to enter your information and print out a completed document to bring to the clerk’s office in your jurisdiction. The Office of Court Improvement does not record or save any of the information inputted into the form.
How does the injunction process work?
The injunction process begins when you file for an injunction at one of the locations listed above. The staff will help you complete all the necessary paperwork, which is taken to a judge to review. If the judge decides the sworn allegations contained in the paperwork meet the requirements of Florida law for the issuance of an injunction, the judge will enter a Temporary Injunction, which will be valid for 15 days. A hearing will be set within 15 days, and the Sheriff’s Office will attempt to personally serve the person who the injunction is filed against (the respondent) with the injunction paperwork.
The Temporary Injunction can require the respondent to have no contact with the person filing the injunction (the petitioner), stay away from the petitioner’s home and workplace, vacate a shared residence, award temporary custody of minor children and require the surrender of firearms. The Respondent must be served before these protections go into effect.
At the court hearing, if the Respondent has been served, the judge will decide whether to grant a Permanent Injunction after taking testimony from the parties and witnesses, and considering any evidence which is presented. If a Permanent Injunction is granted, it will be effective until it is changed or ended by the judge at either party’s request, after notice and hearing, or until a specific date set by the judge (i.e., 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, etc.). The Permanent Injunction can require the respondent to have no contact with the petitioner, stay away from the petitioner’s home and workplace, award custody, visitation, child and spousal support, and require the surrender of firearms. The Permanent Injunction can also order the respondent to attend a batterers’ intervention program and victims and children can be referred to support groups and counseling programs.
How long does an injunction last?
The length of an injunction varies from case to case. Make sure to read your injunction (temporary or final) order carefully and understand what is says. You may request an extension of the injunction by filing a motion for extension, before your injunction has expired.
What if the person I filed the injunction against (the respondent) does not follow the court order (Injunction Order)?
If the respondent does not follow the court order (Injunction Order), call 911 (the police) to report the violation and ask for their immediate assistance. You may also go to any courthouse locations and file an Injunction Violation Affidavit.
What is a violation of an injunction?
If the respondent (the person the injunction was filed against)
Refuses to vacate and/or stay away from a dwelling;.
Goes to the petitioner and/or any named family or household member;
Commits an act of domestic violence against the petitioner;
Commits any other violation through an intentional unlawful threat, word, or act of violence to the petitioner;
Refuses to dispose/surrender of any firearms;
Contacts the petitioner directly or indirectly, if was ordered not to.
How can I get an injunction dismissed or dropped?
If you are the Petitioner and you do not appear for the final hearing after a temporary injunction has been issued, the Petition will be dismissed and final injunction will not be issued. As the Petitioner, you may voluntarily dismiss the petition. If you are the Respondent, you will have the opportunity to present your side at the hearing. If a final injunction has been issued, Petitioner or Respondent may move to dissolve an injunction at any time. You can go to any of the courthouse locations to get more information.
What if I have a problem with my hearing date?
If you have a scheduling conflict and will not be able to attend your court hearing, you need to file an appropriate motion. You can go to any of the courthouse locations to get more information. Include your case number, date of hearing, and your contact information (unless it is confidential) on your motion.
How can I change/modify custody, visitation, and/or child support provisions of the injunction order?
If circumstances have changed since you got your injunction and you would like the judge to consider changing any of the conditions of the injunction, such as custody, visitation, and/or child support, you need to file an appropriate motion. You can go to any of the courthouse locations to get more information. Include your case number, date of hearing, and your contact information (unless it is confidential) on your motion.
Where can I get information about my domestic violence-related criminal case?
You can get information about your domestic violence-related criminal case by calling Domestic Violence Case Management Unit at (561) 355-6316. You can also call the State Attorney’s Office (DOVE Unit) at 355-7433.
I just got served a notice of an injunction and hearing. What do I do?
If you have been served with a notice of an injunction hearing, please contact an attorney, or the clerk’s office in your jurisdiction. The Court cannot provide legal advice. However, to inform respondents (people who have received a notice of injunction hearing) about the injunction process, the Office of Court Improvement has created a brochure for respondents that discusses many important issues. Additionally, the Office of Court Improvement has produced two videos that discuss the injunction process and what to expect at a domestic violence injunction hearing. These videos can provide additional information about what to expect while involved in the domestic violence process.
If you are a victim of domestic violence you can apply to the Court for a Petition for Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence. The forms is located at flcourts.org.
Some persons may qualify for assistance from legal aid. Palm Beach County has a well-run Legal Aid Program. You may wish to consult with their office if you are without funds to handle a family law matter and there is domestic violence occurring. If your petition for injunction for protection gets granted, and you qualify for assistance you may be eligible for their help. The website is:
Another great resource for domestic violence shelters is the YWCA of Palm Beach County. https://ywcapbc.org/what-we-do/empowering-women/domestic-violence.html
This organization has a National presence as well for those of your outside of Palm Beach County.