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A Guide to Restraining Orders in Florida

State laws are in place to protect those most vulnerable to harm and abuse. A restraining order, a.k.a. an injunction, in Florida is a legal tool that individuals can utilize for protection against another individual. The laws governing restraining orders in Florida are detailed and complex. It is, therefore, extremely important to understand how a restraining order in Florida may be obtained, the effect of such an order, and the penalties for violating its terms.

The information included in this guide provides answers to common questions about restraining order procedures and requirements.

Understanding Restraining Orders

It is necessary to answer certain questions to understand a restraining order in Florida, such as:

  • What does a restraining order do?
  • How do you get a restraining order?
  • How long does it take to get a restraining order?

The following explanations will help to determine the next steps for those who fear they are in danger of harm.

What Does a Restraining Order Do?

A restraining order, called by the Florida courts as an “injunction for protection,” is a court order that restricts the ability of the respondent to contact the protected individual. These injunctions are critical in safeguarding individuals from physical, psychological, and emotional harm.

The person who files for the restraining order in Florida is called the “petitioner,” and the person who receives the order is called the “respondent.”

Typical restrictions included in this court order include:

  • Mandating that the respondent cannot go to the petitioner’s home;
  • Mandating that the respondent cannot go to the petitioner's place of work;
  • Mandating that the respondent cannot go to areas the petitioner frequents, such as a school, religious institution, or a family member’s home;
  • Mandating that the respondent cannot contact the petitioner by phone or electronic communications, such as email, text, or social media, even by way of a third party;
  • Mandating that the respondent cannot possess a firearm or ammunition.

Restraining order protections include the following:

  • Requiring physical distance to prevent harm and abuse;
  • Legal barriers for contact to prevent harassment, coercion, intimidation, and verbal threats;
  • Short-term protections for imminently dangerous situations;
  • Long-term protections (as applicable) for extended or permanent legal protections against physical violence, psychological abuse, and emotional abuse.

Additional orders that may be included are requiring the respondent to attend counseling, treatment, or a batterer's intervention program and requiring the respondent to surrender firearms to law enforcement or not to possess a firearm.

There are various types of restraining orders in Florida, each of which requires different sets of circumstances.

Grounds for a Restraining Order

Police apprehending someone for violent behavior

A person must have sufficient grounds for a restraining order against an individual. Domestic violence is the most common reason to apply for an injunction for protection, but other injunctions are available to those seeking legal protection from real or potential harm.

Dating violence is another circumstance under which a court can issue a protective order. Like domestic violence, dating violence can include physical harm, psychological abuse, and emotional abuse.

Sexual violence would also be grounds for a restraining order. While sexual assault or battery can be a component or charge within a domestic violence case, sexual violence injunctions are separate restraining orders.

The state also recognizes the danger of stalking, which includes harassment and cyberstalking, and provides stalking injunctions for those at risk of harm.

Repeat violence, a separate type of violence from domestic violence defined by the state, is also grounds for a restraining order in Florida.

Important note for those with children at risk: while sexual violence, stalking, and repeat violence restraining orders can be applied for on an individual basis, they can also be applied for if you are the parent or legal guardian of a minor living at home who is a victim, seeking the order on their behalf.

Acquiring a Restraining Order in Florida

The State of Florida has specific requirements and procedures for acquiring a restraining order in Florida. Resources, including legal assistance, can be essential to getting one approved.

After determining which type of restraining order is appropriate, an individual or their legal representative may gather as much evidence and information as possible to meet the legal requirements for each type of restraining order.

Restraining Order Requirements

Each type of injunction has nuanced requirements which must be met in order to secure the court order.

Domestic Violence: The first requirement concerns the relationship between the petitioner and the respondent. The petitioner must either live with or have previously lived with the respondent in a family relationship. This may include spouses, former spouses, and intimate partners. Intimate partners must live or have lived together in the past but are not married, parents, children, or otherwise related by blood or marriage. This requirement is also met if the petitioner and respondent have a child in common. The second requirement is a documented history of domestic violence, such as police reports, medical records, photos, videos, communications, and/or live testimony of witnesses.

Repeat Violence: In order to obtain this type of injunction, the applicant must be a victim of repeat violence by the respondent. The definition of repeat violence under Florida law is that there must be at least two incidents of violence or stalking, at least one of which occurred during the previous six months. Or, as mentioned above, an adult who is the parent or legal guardian of a child living at home can apply for a restraining order on the child’s behalf.

Sexual Violence: Victims of sexual violence may also be eligible for a restraining order. Or, as mentioned above, an adult who is the parent or legal guardian of a child living at home can apply for the restraining order on their behalf.

Dating Violence: The first requirement concerns the relationship between the petitioner and the respondent. To qualify, the petitioner needs to be in a continuing and significant relationship of an intimate or romantic nature with the respondent (or was in this relationship with the respondent within the past six months). The petitioner must also have reasonable cause to believe they are in immediate danger of another act of violence.

Stalking: Victims of stalking may be eligible to obtain an injunction. Or, as mentioned above, an adult who is the parent or legal guardian of a child living at home can apply for the restraining order on their behalf.

How Do You Get a Restraining Order?

The first step is determining the particular type of restraining order in Florida you need. Then, you may obtain the necessary forms from the county courthouse or their website. The forms must be filled out comprehensively. After all forms are complete, they must be filed with the Clerk of Courts in your county.

Person getting a restraining order with a lawyer

After the initial order is approved, the judge will set a date for the hearing within 15 days. At this hearing, both sides may present arguments, and the judge will decide whether or not to approve a permanent injunction. The court requires the petitioner to be present at the hearing, or the case may be dismissed.

It is highly recommended to retain an attorney for the hearing. In the court hearing, evidence will be presented, and witnesses and/or expert witnesses may be questioned. It is common for the respondent to be cross-examined. The case should be presented accordingly to prove the need for a long-term/permanent injunction, as necessary, in front of the judge. Once the judge makes the decision, it is final.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Restraining Order?

Once the forms are gathered, completed, and filed the temporary or emergency injunctions are typically decided very quickly, often in a matter of hours. An attorney who is highly skilled in this process can help speed up the process of filing the injunction paperwork and gaining approval from the court.

Cost and Enforcement of a Restraining Order

The State of Florida has attempted to make the process of obtaining a protective injunction as accessible as possible. There is no cost for a person to file a restraining order in Florida. If you and the respondent are present in the state, there is also no Sheriff’s fee for enforcement.

Cost of a Restraining Order

Potential expenses may be incurred with filing and maintaining a restraining order. If a Sheriff’s service is needed outside of Florida, i.e., if the respondent resides in another state, the sheriff in the county where the other person resides should have the necessary information regarding fees and service procedures. Other potential costs can include legal fees if working with an attorney. This applies to both petitioners and respondents.

The benefits of having an attorney can often outweigh the costs associated with a restraining order (for petitioners and respondents). Knowledge and skill in this area of the law are highly valuable, with attorneys helping to ensure safety and leading as advocates for their client’s rights.

Penalties for Violation of a Restraining Order

The legal consequences faced by those who violate the terms of a restraining order in Florida are serious. These consequences can affect not only the respondent’s freedom but also their financial stability and future, including:

Navigating the Complexities of Restraining Orders

The legal process involved with restraining orders is complex. Ensuring you are getting the correct type of order, obtaining the proper forms, and correctly completing the necessary forms can be a complicated endeavor. Additionally, all hearings relating to the restraining order are a crucial component of the legal process.

Navigating these challenges successfully requires knowledge of the legal requirements, strong organizational and communication skills, and attention to detail.

The Role of a Lawyer in Securing a Restraining Order

A lawyer can assist with the restraining order process, from filing to representation in court. An attorney can prepare each step, including preparing forms, preparing a convincing case for the hearing, and acting as a strong advocate in presenting the case in front of the judge.

Local Resources and Support Services

People working at a domestic violence hotline

Florida has multiple types of support services to assist victims. These resources help save and change lives, protecting survivors and their children.

Florida even has a domestic violence hotline at 1-800-500-1119 to assist with emergency services and safety planning assistance. They can also provide information and/or referrals for those in danger of dating violence, repeated violence, sexual violence, and stalking. Survivors can also access advocates who tailor safety plans and provide advocacy and counseling services.

Domestic violence centers are across the state to provide emergency shelter, which can be found through the hotline or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233(SAFE).

Local resources in Pinellas County also include Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA) at 727-895-4912 and The Haven Domestic Violence Center at 727-442-4128.

The Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC) assists people dealing with stalking.

Contacting an Attorney for Restraining Orders in St. Petersburg

Considering the potential consequences, it is extremely important to understand all aspects of restraining orders in Florida.

If you or someone you know needs or is dealing with a restraining order, seeking professional help is critical to a better future.

The Denson Firm has experience in this area and can help. Contact us for a free consultation with a risk protection order lawyer today.

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