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Articles Posted in Domestic Violence

Most “pet parents” understand that their dog, cat or other animal isn’t mere “property” but, rather, is a beloved member of the family. A person’s bond with their pet may be on a par with the bond they feel for their closest human loved ones. That love does, however, have a potential drawback for one group of people, which is people in abusive relationships. A victim of abuse may forego or delay leaving an abusive situation out of fear for the well-being, or the very life, of their beloved “fur babies.” A new law in Florida, however, has provided these people and their pets an added degree of protection through the system of injunctions for protection against domestic violence. If you are encountering abuse, don’t delay in reaching out to a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney for options to protect your legal interests and your personal safety.

In late June, Governor DeSantis signed into law a bill that amends the Florida statute governing domestic violence injunctions. The new law expands the legal authority granted to judges in domestic violence injunction cases. Specifically, the bill added a new section to the statute, which says that a person who petitions successfully for a domestic violence injunction may potentially receive, in addition to temporary exclusive use of the couple’s home and 100% timesharing of the couple’s children, the “temporary exclusive care, possession, or control of an animal that is owned, possessed, harbored, kept, or held by the petitioner, the respondent, or a minor child residing in the residence or household of the petitioner or respondent.”

The court may also order the alleged abuser to have no contact with the animal. The law carves out exclusions for animals that are owned “primarily for a bona fide agricultural purpose” and for a service animal if the alleged abuser is the service animal’s handler. In other words, even if you provide the necessary proof to get a domestic violence injunction, you cannot, for example, take your sight-impaired abuser’s service dog or remove livestock from your abuser’s farm.

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Though most of Florida has begun reopening and the shelter-in-place period passed, things are not as they were before. The impacts of the pandemic have been wide-ranging, but have been keenly felt by victims of domestic abuse. For many, the shelter-in-place period may have added additional stress and increased the frequency and/or severity of the abuse while, at the same time, taken away opportunities (like school or work) to reach out for help. Despite these extraordinary conditions, it is essential to recognize that the courts and law offices are still open and that, if you need help, help is available to you. A skilled South Florida family law attorney can be your vital lifeline to the courts and protective orders, along with other resources to enhance your safety.

Sources across the state and the country have been trying to get the word out: just because the number of domestic violence calls during the shelter-in-place period didn’t go up (or in some places went down,) that isn’t necessarily a cause for celebration. Research shows that introducing the conditions we’ve just experienced tends to increase incidents of domestic violence. You have an added element of financial insecurity for many families. You have many primary earners who have lost their jobs. You also have families confined at home together for extended periods, including wage-earners who are used to working outside the home and for whom remaining at home for weeks on end is completely outside their established routines. All of this is a recipe for increased domestic violence.

ABC News reported that authorities in California were greatly concerned by the low number of domestic violence calls during the “lockdown” period, fearing that the low number meant that a vast number of victims were suffering violence but unable to seek help. Closer to home, the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office in Tampa launched the “We Are Open” campaign to encourage victims to reach out. Much like the California authorities, authorities in Tampa feared that victims were still suffering violence, probably at increased rates, but were fearful to ask for help, WMNF reported. Victims may have encountered many problems, including an inability to secure a private place to make contact, a fear of the effects of the virus if they left their home, or a fear (often falsely instilled by their abusers) that they would be arrested by the police if they left their homes during the shelter-in-place period.

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Injunctions for protection against domestic violence are very important things that can have major impacts on your life. That’s true whether you’re the alleged abuser or the victim. As the victim, denial of an injunction can place you is serious, perhaps even life-threatening danger. As an alleged abuser, an injunction can lead to you losing your job, losing future job opportunities for which you apply, denial of housing and surrender of your firearms. That’s why, whichever position you’re in, it is always worth your while to hire an experienced Fort Lauderdale domestic violence attorney.

If the alleged abuser does not participate in his case, that can be a huge disadvantage for him and advantage for the alleged victim. For example, there’s the case of A.B., the wife of M.W., who filed a request for an injunction for protection against domestic violence in Broward County. According to the wife’s court documents, the husband had committed multiple acts of domestic violence, including a 2016 choking incident to which the police responded, as well as an April 2018 incident in which the husband allegedly told the wife that he “should put bullets in her head.”

The appeals court determined that this was enough evidence. If the wife had presented only an isolated incident that occurred years earlier, Florida law would have required denial of the injunction based on insufficient proof. However, A.B. had “several previous violent acts” committed by M.W. that had occurred over the years, including incidents that were quite recent.

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In a 1980s film, the movie’s protagonist (played by Tom Cruise) opines that “everything ends badly… otherwise it wouldn’t end.” While that isn’t always true with marriages, an unfortunately large number do end in bitterness and acrimony. If you find yourself in the aftermath of a bitter divorce, you may find yourself defending against a large number of legal actions launched by your ex who is trying to game the legal system. If that happens to you, it is well worth your while to retain the services of a skilled Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney. Your ex may be using (or abusing) the legal system, and your skilled attorney can help you use the system’s rules to overcome this onslaught through proper defense strategies, legal filing techniques and arguments.

J.J. was a Tampa Bay area man facing this type of situation in his case. He and his ex-wife, B.J., had a son together. The couple’s divorce and all other family law –related cases were litigated in Pasco County, just to the northwest of Tampa. In late December 2018, a judge in Pasco County rejected the mother’s request for an injunction against domestic violence on behalf of the couple’s child. In rejecting that petition, the judge declared the mother was not a credible witness and “was using the litigation as a weapon against her ex-husband.”

Just three days later, the mother was back in court… only this time she was in Tampa (Hillsborough County.) Once again, she sought an injunction against domestic violence on behalf of the couple’s child. The father fought back procedurally, asking the court in Hillsborough County to transfer the case to Pasco County.

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One recent Southwest Florida case included a “de facto” domestic violence injunction, and served as a reminder to anyone going through a divorce, especially a hotly contested one, that things can always take unexpected turns. You can’t always expect the unexpected, but you can prepare for it and safeguard yourself from an unexpected and potentially damaging twist in your divorce case by having a knowledgeable Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney on your side from the start.

Do you know what a “de facto domestic violence injunction” is? Probably not, as almost no one outside a certain set of lawyers would even be loosely familiar with the phrase. It’s very important to know that, if a court that was deciding your divorce case issued such a de facto domestic violence injunction, it would be just as serious as a “regular” domestic violence injunction.

So, what exactly does a de facto domestic violence injunction look like? In that extremely contentious case from Collier County, it involved a divorce judgment that, in Paragraph 19, said that “the Husband shall not come on or about the Wife’s place of employment. The Husband shall not come on or about the Wife’s residence, unless he has been specifically invited by the Wife, in writing, and for the sole purpose of delivering the children into her care. The Husband shall not come within 100 feet of the Wife’s motor vehicle.”

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Sometimes, you may see a family law-themed courtroom show on TV (such as Divorce Court or others,) where the spouses spend the entire episode angrily arguing with each other and complaining about one another, leaving the judge spending more time being a referee between the bickering spouses than being a judge of the facts and the law. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen only on TV.

Highly contentious family law cases, whether between two parents, two ex-spouses or two ex-partners are a reality of family law litigation. An extremely emotional and contentious case is one circumstance where it definitely pays to have a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side. Your attorney can help guide you, calm you and protect your rights.

Take, as an example, a recent case from the Tampa area. R.L. and L.D. were former dating partners and she was in court seeking an injunction against dating violence. During the relationship, the man, L.D., had allegedly yanked R.L.’s arm and flung her across a room. A few months later, he allegedly chased her car on foot while cursing at her. According to R.L., L.D. had a long history of violence against women.

There are injunctions that protect against spousal violence and there are injunctions that protect against dating violence. However, you may wonder, “What if my attacker/stalker is someone with whom I had a relationship but, we were never married and we never really ‘dated,’ so to speak? Am I out of luck when it comes to getting this kind of protection?” The answer, fortunately, is “no.” These injunctions can apply to a variety of people and relationships, so if you’re being threatened, never assume that you can’t get protection; always talk to an experienced South Florida family law attorney first.

A case originating from the Tallahassee area gives a good illustration of how many different relationships can be the subject of an injunction against dating violence. T.S. and L.T. were a couple who met via the Internet site Craigslist. Based upon the description contained in the First District Court of Appeal’s opinion, this pair appeared to have what many might call a “friends with benefits” relationship. According to the man, the pair never actually went out anywhere together. Instead, over the four-year span of their on-again-off-again relationship, they got together mostly for sex. If one person began dating someone else, they’d cease their relationship, and then resume their couplings once that outside dating situation ended.

When the woman finally broke up for the last time, the man allegedly contacted her on social media, called her, texted her and “left unpleasant voice messages.” The man also once showed up at the woman’s home without warning and refused to leave until she told him she would call the police if he didn’t go.

Occasionally, this blog discusses the benefits of pursuing your case with an experienced attorney as opposed to “going it alone.” When someone opts to go it alone, they are almost always harming their case. Sometimes, those mistakes cost the litigant money. Other times, though, the stakes are much, much higher, such as in the case of domestic violence injunctions. If find yourself in the position of needing to pursue a protective injunction, or to defend against one, the stakes are about as high as they can be. You may be fearful that you cannot afford to hire an attorney. However, in reality, you cannot afford to go through the process without one. Your helpful South Florida family law attorney may be able to provide you with more solutions or options than you thought available, potentially making the cost more manageable, or even potentially nothing at all.

A recent case is a very clear cautionary tale. T.L., the plaintiff in the case, was the mother of a pre-teen daughter. T.L. and her daughter lived in Miami but, when the girl was 9, she spent a period of time in Palm Beach County with a paternal aunt and uncle due to Hurricane Irma. During that stay, the uncle alleged committed a sexual assault on the girl.

Based on that alleged incident, the mother went to court seeking an injunction for protection against sexual violence. The mother handled the case on her own. At the hearing, the girl did not testify; the mother was the only witness. A portion of the mother’s testimony focused on things that the daughter had told her about the incident.

Sometimes, people do bad things. When they do, they should face the legal consequences that come with the decisions made. However, sometimes that bad thing was an aberration or the wrongdoer made subsequent changes and improvements in his life. When circumstances change in your life, just as you deserved to face punishment for your wrong act, you should also be entitled to the benefits that the law allows as a result of those changes. This is true for a variety of people, including those who have had permanent domestic violence injunctions entered against them.

A permanent domestic violence injunction can have many impacts. For one, it generally means you’re forbidden from owning or possessing a gun. It also can have a variety of restrictions that can directly or indirectly limit your employment options. With that in mind, if you have an existing permanent injunction but the circumstances underlying that injunction no longer exist, getting that injunction dissolved may still be challenging. Be sure to talk to an experienced South Florida family law attorney about your options so that you can take the next step in moving forward with your life.

K.T.’s case was an example of someone in that situation. K.T. was a man going through a problematic marital breakup in the spring of 2011. That June, his wife sought a domestic violence injunction, alleging that the husband “pulled out a gun, trapped her in the garage, and threatened to shoot her in front of their nine-month-old daughter.” The husband was also charged criminally for the incident.

If someone in your life decides to go to court and seek a domestic violence injunction against you, you have many options. Depending on the circumstances, you might think that the easiest and best option is just to ignore it. That is, in the vast majority of circumstances, the worst plan of action you can have. Simply ignoring the case, refusing to litigate, and allowing the injunction to be entered can have massive detrimental effects on your life.Having a current domestic violence injunction against you can cause many problems. It generally will prevent you from possessing any firearms and possessing any ammunition. You can’t get a concealed weapon license if you have a current domestic violence injunction against you. The injunction may also negatively affect where you live, may cause you to be excluded from consideration for certain jobs (or even fired from the job you currently have), and may negatively affect your timesharing with your children. That’s why it’s almost never a good idea to turn your back on these cases. Instead, retain the services of a skilled South Florida domestic violence attorney and contest your case.

A recent case from near Clearwater serves as an example of how the process works and how a successful defense works. K.D., the wife, filed a request in circuit court asking for an injunction for protection against domestic violence against her husband, J.D. While the wife initially won and received the injunction from the trial court judge, the husband was ultimately successful on appeal. He achieved ultimate success because Florida has several things that a person seeking a domestic violence injunction must show, and the case K.D. made did not meet all of those requirements imposed by Florida law.

The wife alleged that the husband drank to excess and was prone to temper outbursts. She asserted two occasions on which he grabbed her so hard he bruised her arms. One of those was in 1998, and the other was in 2011.

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