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How to File a Restraining Order in Florida
If you are being threatened or physically or sexually abused, you might decide that it’s time to get a divorce. It’s important to understand that you have the right to be protected from continued abuse.
In Florida, you may file what is known as an “injunction,” which is an important step towards preventing someone from harming you. An injunction is another name for a restraining order, and it prohibits the person who is bothering you from getting too close to you, your house, your place of employment, or your children. It also forbids them from committing any further acts of violence.
Florida recognizes five types of restraining orders. The types depend on the threat being made and the relationship between you and the person you are seeking relief from. Note that there are specific requirements and steps you must follow to obtain the injunction.
Types of Injunctions for Protection in Florida
Now, it’s important to select the right type of injunction for your particular case. Failure to do so could result in the injunction being thrown out.
Domestic Violence Injunction
The first type is a Domestic Violence injunction. This is for violence or stalking, where the abuser is a:
Current or prior roommate, or
Parent of your child.
If your abuser doesn’t fall under one of these categories, another restraining order might be more appropriate.
Stalking Violence Injunction
Next, there is the Stalking Violence injunction. This injunction applies where someone repeatedly follows you or harasses you. The actions are done for no legitimate purpose and it leads to you suffering substantial emotional distress. The stalking could be done either in person or online, known as “cyberstalking.”
Repeat Violence Injunction
In cases where there are two or more acts of violence or stalking within the last six months, the Repeat Violence injunction would apply. This is typically used when the domestic violence injunction is not applicable. An example would be if the perpetrator was a neighbor or coworker.
Sexual Violence Injunction
If you have been the victim of sexual battery, you may be able to file for a Sexual Violence injunction. This type of injunction applies in cases involving lewd acts committed in the presence of someone under 16, as well as cases involving forcible sexual acts. To qualify, you must have reported the alleged incident to law enforcement, or the abuser must have been sentenced to prison, and he or she is about to be released.
Dating Violence Injunction
Finally, there is the Dating Violence Injunction. This injunction applies to situations where there has been violence or stalking between individuals that have been either dating within the past six months or had an expectation of being sexually involved.
Filing the Injunction
To obtain an injunction for protection from harassment or abuse, you must file a court document known as a “petition” in the county where you currently live. If you live in Orlando, you would file the petition at the Orange County Courthouse.
Note that you must fill out the correct petition for the type of injunction you would like to receive. For your convenience, each form is available on the court’s website. The petition needs to include your contact information and the contact information of the perpetrator, referred to in the petition as the “respondent.” It will also ask you to provide details about the recent incidents of violence or stalking, and you will submit any documentation you have, such as a police report.
Once the petition is complete, you can file it either in person or online through the Florida Courts e-Filing Portal. The court will provide a copy of the petition and notice of the hearing to the Sheriff. The Sheriff will then personally deliver the document to the perpetrator. This is known as service of process. Keep in mind that if the subject of the injunction lives outside the county where you filed, you will need to contact the Sheriff in that county and coordinate service.
After the Paperwork is Filed
After your paperwork is filed, the court will schedule a hearing. This is typically done very quickly. In most cases, it will occur the same day if you file before 2 pm, or the afternoon of the next day if you file after 2 pm. For this reason, it’s important to have your evidence ready when you file.
At the initial hearing, the judge will rule on whether or not to grant a temporary injunction. Note that this can be granted without the perpetrator’s presence. But, the court will only do so if the judge determines that you will suffer irreparable harm by waiting.
The temporary injunction will only last 15 days. The court will then schedule another hearing to decide on a more long term injunction. The perpetrator’s presence is necessary at this hearing. They’ll be given an opportunity to tell his or her side of the story.
Note that the court may decide not to grant a temporary injunction. Instead, they could have you wait 15 days for the full hearing, or completely reject your petition outright without an additional hearing.
After the Injunction is Granted
If the court grants your injunction, you have legal recourse if the respondent violates the terms. However, you must first call the police to report the violation. You may then file a petition for Violation of Injunction with the same court that issued the original order. Note that violating an injunction is considered a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida. It is punishable by up to $1000 in fines and one year in county jail.