All restraining orders are intended to protect abuse victims, but not all orders to protect abuse victims are called restraining orders; orders of protection in Florida are termed injunctions. You can apply for different types of injunctions in Florida, depending on the circumstances of the case. You should file for an injunction in the county where you live, the county where the abuser lives or in the place where the abuse occurred. If you live in the Fort Lauderdale area, get injunctions for protection at the Broward County Central Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale.
Broward County Domestic Violence Court
The Seventeenth Judicial Circuit of Florida created specialized domestic violence divisions to deal exclusively with family violence issues. The criminal domestic violence courts hear felony and misdemeanor cases stemming from family violence matters. The civil domestic violence courts are a section of the family court. They are the Broward County courts that hear petitions for the establishment of injunctions for protection against domestic violence, repeat violence, dating violence, sexual violence and stalking. The division judges are located on the 10th floor of the west wing of the main courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. File the petition for an injunction with the court clerk at the main Broward Courthouse in room 2140 or at the West Satellite Courthouse.
What Is an Injunction in Florida?
An injunction is sometimes referred to as a restraining order and basically does the same thing. It is a legal document issued by the court that stops a person from coming within a certain distance from you. This protection is usually used in domestic violence cases, but it can also be used to combat dating violence and other types of sexual violence. It is intended to protect the victim of the abuse and keep her safe in the future.
Types of Injunctions in Florida
Injunctions for protection in Florida are products of state, not local, laws. This means that no matter which county you live in or which courthouse you use to file for an injunction, you will find the same types of injunctions available. The primary types of injunctions are:
Injunctions for protection against violence are intended to stop violence or abuse from a family member or someone who lives in your household. You can file a petition for this type of injunction if your abuser is a current or former spouse; any blood relative; any relative by marriage; any person who lives with you or has lived with you as if they were part of the family; and anyone you have a child with. There is no fee at all to file for a domestic violence injunction in Florida. And you don't need an attorney to file the paperwork, but it does help to have an advocate from a domestic violence assistance program to talk you through the process.
You can file for an injunction against repeat violence if someone has been violent toward you, or stalked you or someone in your family at least two times. One of the acts must have been in the last six months.
Injunctions against dating violence protect you if you have been abused by someone you were in a continuing and significant romantic relationship with during the past six months. You can also get this type of injunction if you reasonably believe that you may become a victim of this type of abuse.
If you are a victim of sexual violence and have reported the incident to the police, you can file for an injunction against sexual violence. A variety of sexual crimes qualify you for this injunction. If you aren't certain if you qualify, talk to the law enforcement agency where you reported the violence for information.
For an injunction for protection against stalking/cyberstalking, you don't need to have any particular relationship with the abuser. You can get an injunction against anyone who intentionally, maliciously and repeatedly follows, harasses or cyberstalks you. Cyberstalking is defined as commiting a series of acts that communicate words, images or language through the internet directed at you that causes you substantial emotional distress.
Seeking an Injunction in Florida
In Florida, anyone can file for an injunction. You don't have to be living with the abuser or married to him. If someone is abusing you, stalking or harassing you, a Florida injunction is likely available t0 help protect you. Note that the injunction process will be slightly different depending on the specifics of your relationship with the abuser and whether you are married to him. However, the basic procedure is the same in all counties and courts in Florida, including Broward County. You need to go to a court in the area where you are currently living or to the place where your abuser lives or even to the place where the abuse occurred.
If you live in Broward County, you can visit the Judicial Complex West Building Domestic Violence Division at 201 SE 6th Street, 2nd floor, Room 02140 in Fort Lauderdale. Or you can go to the West Regional Courthouse at 100 N. Pine Island Road, Room 180 in Plantation, Florida. Note that if you need to file a document after 2 p.m., you must do so at the Broward County Central Courthouse.
The Domestic Violence Unit at the Broward County court will give you the correct forms for the type of injunction you are seeking.They will also help you fill out the legal papers. After you fill them out, the clerk presents the paperwork to the judge who must review it and decide whether to approve or deny a temporary injunction. All that the court will have before it to make this decision is your forms, so you want to be sure t0 complete them thoroughly and in detail. Make it clear that you have experienced abuse; detail the abuse, including dates if possible; and explain in your paperwork why you are in danger of future abuse. The court recommends that you arrive as early as possible since the injunction process can take longer than you might think.
Assuming that your facts persuade the court that you are a victim of domestic violence or risk such violence, it will issue a temporary injunction, ordering the abuser to stay away from you. If the abuser lives with you, the order can also order him to move out. If the temporary injunction includes this provision, then a law enforcement officer will go home with you and make sure that person leaves the house.
The temporary injunction is in effect for 15 days. During this period, the court sets a hearing date for a final injunction. Notice is given to the other person of the time and place of the final hearing.
Final Injunction Hearing
The court schedules a hearing to give all sides an opportunity to appear and be heard. Based on the facts presented here, the judge decides whether or not a full injunction is granted and also decides the terms of the injunction if one is granted. If granted, a permanent injunction can remain valid forever or until the court is given a good reason to change the terms of the injunction or to remove it entirely.
You need to prepare carefully for the hearing. Ask people who have witnessed the abuse to come to the hearing and give testimony. Submit any photographs, police reports or medical reports you have that substantiate your claims. The court may ask you how long you want the injunction to last and what terms you want included, so be prepared to answer these questions. If the court rules in your favor, your injunction will last for the period you requested.