Florida courts have special rules that can be used to help keep victims of domestic violence safe. These are called orders of protection or restraining orders. They can be filed in Family Court (or Supreme Court as part of a divorce case) or Criminal Court. The two types of orders are very different from one another, and a criminal case can have a very different effect on family court proceedings such as custody or visitation matters.
A restraining or protective order can prevent someone from stalking, harassing, threatening or assaulting another person. It can also keep them away from the victim’s home, work or school. The person who is the subject of the order must have a specific relationship to the victim. This can include a current or former spouse, intimate partner or child’s parent, sibling, boyfriend or girlfriend or someone related by blood or marriage. It can even include a short-term boyfriend or girlfriend who has been abusive. It cannot, however, include a neighbor, coworker or near stranger.
In a Family Court case, the judge can issue a temporary order of protection during the arraignment phase or later in the course of the case. This order will be in place until the judge resolves the case either by trial or as a result of a plea or sentencing deal in criminal court. A judge can also issue a permanent order of protection in a criminal or Family Court case, or both. In these cases the judge will make a finding that domestic violence has occurred and that a full or limited order of protection is appropriate.
If an ex-spouse has a history of abuse, the judge can include an order limiting contact with children in the final judgment. This can mean supervised visits and even the requirement that custody exchanges take place at the police station. The order can also be a condition of the spouse’s continued access to marital assets.
A person who violates an order of protection can be charged with criminal contempt of court. This is a very serious offense and could impact their custody or visitation rights. Depending on the level of violation, a conviction can be punished by up to two years in jail. For these reasons, it is always important for people who need protection to talk to an experienced attorney about their situation before going to Family Court or Criminal Court. An attorney can draft a petition that will increase the likelihood that the judge will grant the request and issue an order of protection. They can also assist with the other aspects of their case that may be impacted by an order of protection such as custody or visitation. A lawyer can help clients understand how an order of protection impacts their other family law matters and create a plan that is most likely to keep them safe. Contact a Miami-Dade County family attorneys to discuss your situation with an experienced lawyer.