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.
L.D. had differing testimony about the chase incident. He asserted that R.L. was upset he’d resumed a relationship with his ex-wife and that he only chased her to reprimand her for speeding in an area where children were nearby and for discussing his sex life in front of one of his children.
The ex-partners’ mutual hostility continued into the courtroom. The judge frequently had to warn the parties not to interrupt and talk over each other, not to interrupt or talk over the judge, not to blurt out inadmissible evidence, and generally to refrain from “unruly and disrespectful conduct.”
Eventually, though, the trial judge became exasperated and abruptly decided, “That’s enough, that’s enough, that’s enough, that’s enough. You — obviously you all need an injunction to stay apart.” With that, she granted the woman’s request.
Although the appeals court’s opinion doesn’t specify, the opinion seems to read as if neither party had an attorney in the trial court. The man did have a lawyer when he pursued an appeal, which he won. There was, undeniably, a mountain of evidence that the relationship between these two former partners had become highly toxic. The appeals court judges went so far as to say that “We sympathize with the trial judge, who demonstrated extraordinary patience with both parties, and we wholeheartedly agree that the parties need to stay away from each other.”
But that display of toxicity is not enough to trigger an injunction against dating violence. Repeatedly calling someone names or swearing at someone isn’t, in and of itself, proof. A partner’s past history of violence isn’t proof when the evidence supporting it is inadmissible hearsay.
Each of these people probably could have benefited from having counsel earlier in the process. An experienced, professional attorney can help keep his/her client’s emotions in check. Your attorney can also help you identify what, of the proof you want to present to judge, qualifies as admissible evidence under the law, and what is actually inadmissible.
For a partner who’s seeking an injunction, a knowledgeable attorney can help in various ways. If your case is based, in whole or in part, on inadmissible evidence like hearsay, your attorney can help you discard it and instead use the sort of admissible proof you need to succeed. If there simply isn’t enough evidence to warrant an injunction against dating violence, your attorney can help you investigate other possible legal solutions.
Injunctions against dating violence are serious matters with serious consequences, whether you are the person seeking protection or you are the defendant. Treat them with that level of seriousness. Retain an experienced attorney to give your case the representation it deserves. The skilled South Florida domestic violence attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have been providing useful advice and advocacy for many years in protective injunction and many other family law cases. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.