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Wearing a Mask Will Not Protect You from Domestic Violence – But an Injunction for Protection Can

News | Comments Off on Wearing a Mask Will Not Protect You from Domestic Violence – But an Injunction for Protection Can

As Covid-19 spread across the globe, causing most of the world to essentially shut down, we saw many things increase – the demand for toilet paper, the delivery time of Amazon Prime orders, the amount of the labor force working from home, and the appreciation for those healthcare workers once taken for granted that put their lives on the line to treat the ill. But unfortunately, as we all began to isolate ourselves and stay at home in hopes of stopping the spread of the virus, the world started to see another increase – an increase in domestic violence cases.
With the increased number of people in the house under terrible stress about their health, finances, childcare, and uncertainty, the volatility at home is rapidly rising and abusers have more opportunities to unleash violence. Abuse between intimate partners, especially domestic violence, impacts as many as 1 in 3 women or 1 in 4 men in the United States alone, and it often goes unreported. And while in the past many who have suffered abuse have been afraid to leave their partners for fear of what their abuser may do, the pandemic created even more fear with concerns about contracting the virus or spreading it to family and friends who would normally offer help and a safe place to escape.
But now the world is beginning to slowly reopen and many are finding the courage to report the domestic violence they have suffered and seek help. There are many services and resources available to survivors of domestic violence, including options through legal avenues. One such option is seeking an injunction for protection against your abuser.
What is an Injunction for protection?
An injunction for protection, sometimes called a “restraining order”, is a court order that orders a person not to have any contact with the person requesting the order. Contact would include by phone, social media, in-person, or through a third party. There are four kinds of civil injunction petitions that can be filed: domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence, and repeat violence. Each type has different requirements depending on the events that occurred and the relationship you had with the abuser.
What are the benefits of having an Injunction for protection?
An injunction for protection will legally prevent an abuser from committing any further acts of violence against you, including threatening you or stalking you. Depending on the situation, an injunction may:
• Restrain the respondent from going to, in or within 500 feet of your residence, place of employment, place of school, or places you and your family frequent
• Restrain the respondent from going within 100 feet of your vehicle
• Provide no contact between the you and the abuser, in any manner – this includes through phone, text, social media, or third parties
• Require the abuser to attend counseling, treatment, or a batterer’s intervention program
• Require the abuser not to possess a firearm or to surrender any firearms to law enforcement
• Provide you with temporary exclusive use of the home
• Provide temporary custody of the children and potentially temporary child support

What is the process for an injunction for protection and how long will the process take?
The first step in the injunction for protection process is filling out the correct paperwork and filing it with the court. The Florida Supreme Court has created standard forms in simple language for filing a petition for an injunction for protection. You can get these from your county’s Clerk of Court website or by going in person to your courthouse. Also note there are no fees to file a petition for an injunction for protection.
Once you file the petition, a judge will usually review it within 1-2 days and if the facts contained in the petition meet the necessary legal standards, the judge will sign an immediate temporary injunction for protection. The temporary injunction will last either until a full hearing can be held or 15 days. The court may extend the temporary injunction beyond the 15-day period for good reason, including, but not limited to, if the court is unable to obtain service on the alleged abuser.
Many are concerned their abuser will know they filed the petition before they receive the order, however Florida has put in place a procedure that ensures the alleged abuser will not receive notice that an injunction petition has been filed until the temporary injunction is personally served on the alleged abuser by the sheriff. And if a judge does not feel there were enough facts in the petition to meet the necessary legal standard and does not grant the temporary injunction, you have the option when filing the petition to choose to not set a hearing as a way to prevent your abuser from being served with the paperwork.
If a temporary injunction is granted, it will contain the date of the hearing that you will need to attend and will be expected to testify about the facts in the petition. The alleged abuser will also have the opportunity to appear at this hearing and give his/her own testimony. Many are concerned about seeing their abuser at the hearing, but know that the courts have procedures in place to keep you distanced and protected from the alleged abuser as well as law enforcement officers for your and the court’s protection.
At the hearing, the judge will hear the testimony and view the evidence and then decide whether to issue a final injunction for protection. The final injunction may have a set period of time that it will be in effect (for example, one year) or it may be indefinite and not have an expiration date. If you receive a final injunction for protection, always make sure you keep copies with you wherever you go – in your car, home, purse, backpack, etc.
Are there any services to help with the Injunction for protection process?
The process of getting an injunction for protection can be intimidating. You need transportation to the courthouse to complete the petition. Filling out the petition can be overwhelming, and it can be downright scary to attend the court hearing. Thankfully, there are resources available to help. Serene Harbor has staff to help with transportation to the courthouse and victim advocates that can go with you to fill out the petition for an injunction for protection. While these victim advocates are not able to provide legal advice, they can help you through the process and can attend the court hearing with you. Florida has even created a law that allows the victim advocate to sit next to you when you appear in front of the judge.
Domestic violence is a serious issue and one that is growing by the second. If you or a loved one needs help, know that you are not alone and we are here to help. Serene Harbor has programs in place designed to assist those who seek legal services or police protection due to domestic violence. For more information, call the HELPLINE at 321-726-8282 and ask for a legal advocate.   (Written by Wendy Fisher, Esq, attorney and board member of Serene Harbor)

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