Domestic violence is a criminal offense. However, since it involves a family and children, it may also have ramifications within Family Law. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship used by one party to gain or maintain control over another. Domestic violence occurs regardless of the gender, age, race, sexual orientation, or education of the parties involved. Previously referred to as wife or spousal abuse, domestic abuse now recognizes that victims include children, unmarried partners, cohabitants, and other family members in addition to spouses. According to some estimates, over 100,000 domestic violence cases happen each year in Florida. But these are only the number of reported cases. Unfortunately, many more incidents go unreported every year.
Section 741.28 of Florida Statutes defines domestic violence as any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.
The mentioned section also defines family or household members. It comprises spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons residing or have resided together as if a family, and parents with a child in common. Except for persons who have a child in common, the family or household members must be currently residing or have resided together in the same single dwelling unit.
Domestic violence takes many forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, economic, and psychological abuse.
Physical abuse may or may not result in external wounds or bruises. Some most common forms of physical abuse are hitting, slapping, and grabbing. Sexual abuse involves coercing another into performing sexual acts. It can also consist in treating another in a sexually humiliating way. On the other hand, emotional abuse is a pattern of criticism and belittling. Emotional abuse has the aim of diminishing the self-esteem of another person. Economic abuse involves withholding money or resources from another person. Making another person financially dependent on the abuser is also a form of economic violence. Finally, psychological abuse consists in intimidating another in various ways. For example, the abuser often threatens the victim with taking their children. Sometimes, the threat aims at telling others information that would cause embarrassment or humiliation.
Abuse includes both stalking and cyberstalking. It also includes harmful and manipulative or controlling acts such as preventing a person from seeing a doctor, forcing them to use drugs or alcohol, preventing them from accessing their financial assets or keeping them from attending work or school.
Under Florida law, a prosecutor pursues a domestic violence case against the perpetrator for criminal offense charges, such as assault or battery. If the charges are proven, the perpetrator faces a sentence of imprisonment of up to fifteen years. The length of incarceration depends on the gravity of the offense.
On the other hand, if you have experienced domestic violence, Florida family law provides legal instruments to protect the victims of domestic violence. These legal tools, issued by the Family court, are called restraining orders or injunctions.
In general, restraining orders forbid the abuser from contacting or engaging with the person affected by domestic violence.
A Domestic Violence Restraining Order is an order issued by a court after the hearing before a judge. It applies to a domestic violence perpetrator. The victim must show that it has a reasonable fear for their safety. Otherwise, the court will not issue an order. The effects of restraining orders depend on the pattern of abuse. For example, a restraining order requires the abuser to move out of the victim’s home. Or it can prohibit them from contacting a victim via telephone, mail, or email. Sometimes, restraining orders mandate a perpetrator to keep a certain amount of distance from the victim. That may include staying away from the victim’s home, place of work, or school. In more extreme cases, the court can deny the perpetrator of domestic violence from possessing a firearm.
Apart from Domestic Violence Restraining Order, a Family court in Florida can also issue a Temporary Restraining Order. The court issues such temporary orders before the parties have had the opportunity for a formal hearing before a judge. It has a temporary effect.
When the harm from domestic violence is imminent, the police can issue an Emergency Protective Order. It aims at preventing injuries from happening when the affected person cannot petition a court right away or when the court is not in session. In general, Emergency Protective Order expires after five days.
To get a domestic violence injunction, a victim must file a petition at a local family court. Any person targeted by repeated abusive behavior in an intimate relationship can file for a restraining order. Even minors can file a domestic violence injunction, provided they are older than 12 years.
Proving domestic violence claims can be complicated, especially in the case of emotional, psychological, and other forms of non-physical abuse. When filing for an injunction, a victim must provide specific facts. Bruce Childers is an experienced family attorney who can advise you on the necessary steps in filing a domestic violence injunction in Florida.
Conversely, some people face false accusations of domestic violence. There are cases when alleged victims knowingly file injunctions against other people for various reasons. Instead of ignoring a petition for a restraining order, each falsely accused person should take such accusations seriously. Providing sufficient and appropriate evidence is crucial. As a domestic violence attorney, Bruce Childers has the necessary knowledge and experience in defending against false injunctions.