An ex-husband’s behavior may have risen to the level of annoyance or general harassment, but not domestic violence, according to a Florida appeals court. The court ruled against the ex-wife’s injunction for protection because her evidence failed to prove that the husband’s past conduct amounted to an intentionally unwelcome touching or that the ex-husband’s ongoing conduct demonstrated a risk of imminent future violence.
In October 2012, a woman sought an injunction for protection from her ex-husband. The wife, who had filed for divorce four months earlier, asserted that the husband had once grabbed her arms and made unwanted sexual advances. According to the wife, this incident resulted in bruises on her arms. She also alleged that she felt threatened by the husband’s constant barrage of text messages that she continued to receive on a regular basis and by an encounter with the husband at a beach.
The trial court granted the injunction, but the 4th District Court of Appeal reversed that ruling and ordered the injunction vacated. The court explained that two possible bases exist under Florida law for issuing an injunction for protection: (1) proof of actual past domestic violence, or (2) a reasonable belief of impending future domestic violence.
The wife’s evidence of past domestic violence fell short because the sole incident she cited was one occasion where the husband grabbed her and bruised her arms while trying to initiate sex. This wasn’t enough for an injunction, the court explained, because the grabbing was a form of affectionate “horseplay,” the husband stopped once he realized the advance was unwanted, and the couple was still married when the event occurred. Further weakening the wife’s case were the facts that she waited five months to file the injunction request and her admission that she may have bruised her arms moving boxes.
The wife’s evidence of a potential threat of future violence also failed. The court pointed out that that the wife admitted initiating the beach encounter and that the pair’s conversation there was friendly. Additionally, the husband’s text messages merely invited the wife to dinner or on trips, and were only a few per day. The court explained that general harassment was insufficient to trigger an injunction, and the husband’s actions were not enough to prove that the wife was in imminent danger.
Injunctions for protection require some clear evidence of past violence or threat of imminent future violence. Had the husband bruised the wife’s arms by grabbing her in a rage, or threatened to harm her if she did not accept his dinner or travel invitations, then the injunction likely would have been warranted.
Injunctions for protection can be essential tools for protecting potential victims of domestic violence. In some cases, though, a spouse seeks an injunction when one is not proper. Whether you are seeking an injunction, or facing a petition for an injunction, prompt action in retaining legal counsel is extremely beneficial. To discuss how an injunction may protect you and your family, or how to defend yourself against an unwarranted injunction petition, contact the South Florida family law attorneys of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. They have considerable experience helping Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade families, and can offer you timely, sensitive, careful advice, and determined representation in domestic violence matters.
Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Florida Congresswoman Proposes Legislation to Protect Rape Victims in Child Custody Cases, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Sept. 4, 2013
Domestic Violence in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, June 20, 2013