Protecting Yourself from Domestic Violence
One of the benefits that drive most people to seek relationships is the knowledge that one’s partner will support and protect them when necessary. A person does not go into a relationship assuming a partner will consciously seek to harm him/her and jeopardize their safety, but that is the daily reality of victims of domestic violence. Not knowing when and if an emotional or physical attack will take place robs the victim of the security and stability most people take for granted. Trying to get away from these toxic relationships is extremely difficult, as the abuser is likely to block attempts to leave and seek to punish the victim by inflicting more, and often severe, abuse. Often, domestic violence victims must engage in subterfuge to escape the abuse with the help of family and friends. Further, there are legal resources a person can use to keep the abuser away so the victim has an opportunity to re-establish his/her life. But, one area of the legal system that could offer more support to victims occurs in the courtroom. No accommodations are offered to domestic violence victims testifying against their abusers in court. Testifying is, by nature, a stressful experience, and a victim confronting someone who deliberately sought to hurt him/her may be terrified. Despite this issue, victims of domestic violence should still seek protective orders to protect themselves and their children from further abuse. Evidence of domestic violence makes a big difference in divorce settlements, and protective orders make it easier to prove this abuse occurred.
Obtaining a Protective Order
Anyone who was a previous victim of domestic violence or is in impending fear of becoming a victim has the right to petition a court for an injunction for protection against domestic violence. In order for an act to qualify as domestic violence, it must occur between individuals living in the same household, but it is not required they be related by blood or marriage – living together as a family is enough. Domestic violence can take many forms and includes any of the following acts:
- Sexual assault;
- False imprisonment; or
- Any other act that causes harm.
In addition, threats of violence towards children or family pets are also considered domestic violence incidents.
Note that a person does not need to be currently living with the abuser to seek a protective order, but the law does require the parties lived together at some point.
How a Protective Order Works
If a judge determines the petitioner experienced domestic violence in the past, or is in danger of experiencing it in the immediate future, the court has the authority to order the abuser to stay away. The extent of the court’s ability to restrain the abuser’s actions depends on whether a hearing was held where the accused abuser had an opportunity to refute the petitioner’s claims. If there has not been a hearing, the court can issue a temporary order that prohibits the abuser from further acts of violence, gives the victim sole temporary rights to the family home, and sets up a temporary parenting plan that gives the victim 100 percent of the parenting time. If a hearing was held, the court can make the order final and add further protective measures, including:
- child support from the abuser;
- the abuser’s attendance at a batterer’s intervention program, counseling or treatment; or
- refer the victim to a domestic violence center.
Protective orders are enforceable in every Florida county, and law enforcement has authorization to enforce the terms of a protective order by arresting the abuser if violation occurs. These orders remain in force until a date set by the court, but either party can request a modification or revocation at any time.
Hire an Attorney
Dealing with domestic violence is an overwhelming situation that should not be faced alone. Contact a family law attorney who can increase your chances of quickly getting a protective order to protect yourself and your family. Family law attorney Joyce A. Julian, P.A. understands the devastating consequences of these situations, and will work to get you the protection you need. Contact the office for a free consultation.