One of the more stressful experiences you can face is the fear that you may be in imminent danger of becoming a victim of domestic violence. Florida law allows courts to issue injunctions of protection against domestic violence to offer a degree of protection to victims. In order to qualify for an injunction, however, an alleged victim has to show that their relationship with their alleged abuser meets the statutory requirements, and the alleged abuser’s acts also satisfy the law’s standards. In the recent case of one Southwest Florida woman, the alleged acts of her ex-girlfriend were too infrequent and took place too far into the past to justify issuing an injunction, according to the Second District Court of Appeal.
The case involved the sometimes turbulent dating relationship of two Florida women. Back in 2012, while the women were still dating, the older of the two allegedly threw a drink at her girlfriend, in addition to punching her in the face. The older girlfriend also, after the breakup, allegedly made many attempts at contact through Facebook and by telephone. In exactly none of these attempted contacts did the older woman communicate any type of threat. However, the younger woman still sought an injunction of protection against domestic violence. The younger woman argued that, in light of her job as a traffic aide, she was at risk of harm from her ex-girlfriend.
The trial court agreed and issued the injunction. The woman subject to the injunction appealed, and she won her appeal.
In Florida, there are many different types of people who can seek and obtain an injunction of protection against domestic violence. Certainly, spouses, ex-spouses, dating partners who live together, and ex-dating partners who formerly lived together (including both opposite-sex and same-sex couples) can seek out this type of court-ordered protection. However, if the alleged abuser is related to you by blood or marriage (such as an aunt, uncle, cousin, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law), you can also petition for an injunction. Additionally, if the alleged abuser is the father or mother of your child, you can petition, even if you two were never married and never even lived together.
This qualification requirement appeared, to the Court of Appeal, to be a possible problem in this woman’s case. The woman seeking the injunction never alleged that she and her ex-girlfriend ever lived together as part of the same household, as the Florida Statutes require. However, since the older partner never raised this argument in her defense, the appeals court couldn’t overturn the injunction on that basis.
In addition to showing that you and your alleged abuser have (or had) the required relationship necessary to allow you to seek an injunction, there are also certain types of proof you must show in order to qualify legally for the issuance of an injunction. There generally must be a pattern of harm or threats, and the pattern must have taken place recently. Many courts have refused (and appeals courts have overturned) protective injunctions because “an isolated incident of domestic violence that occurred years before a petition for injunction is filed will not usually support the issuance of an injunction in the absence of additional current allegations.”
It is important to note the conditional language that the court used, including words like “usually.” Note that the court said “will not usually support” but not “cannot ever support.” Each case is unique, which is why it is important to talk to experienced counsel before you simply assume a judge wouldn’t give you an injunction.
In this woman’s case, though, her evidence was just too sparse. She had one thrown drink and one punch from more than three years before she filed for an injunction; in other words, she had an “isolated incident of domestic violence that occurred years before.” Her assertion that her ex-girlfriend might harm her while she was at work was “too vague to provide competent substantial evidence of a reasonably objective fear.”
When you believe that you may become a victim of domestic violence, an injunction of protection can be extraordinarily helpful. On the other hand, an unfounded injunction entered against you can be extremely harmful for both your personal life and your professional life. The South Florida domestic violence attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have handled many of these cases, on behalf of both those seeking injunctions and those defending against them. For reliable representation, contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
What You Need to Prove to the Judge to Obtain a Domestic Violence Injunction in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 18, 2016
South Florida Woman’s Evidence of Stalking, Choking Was Enough to Warrant Protective Injunction She Sought, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Aug. 25, 2016