When you seek a protective order against domestic violence in Florida, you might think that it’s all over from here. You’re serious about leaving your spouse or dating partner and are taking the necessary steps to protect yourself and your children from his or her abuse by going to court for a domestic violence injunction, which will prevent him or her from contacting you. Although domestic abuse victims deserve a fresh start without their abusers, the idea that an abuser will no longer be a part of your life because you sought a restraining order against them is far from reality.
Victims of domestic violence are likely to continue seeing their abusers through the court system. Whether you seek an order of protection, divorce, or child custody, or if there is a criminal case against your abuser, resolving these issues can require you to face your ex-partner much more often than you’d like. Here are some tips for mitigating the impact of future encounters with an abuser in court.
Familiarize Yourself with the Courthouse Before Your Hearing
In Florida, you may seek one of five types of protective orders. When you seek a domestic violence injunction, you must file a Petition for Protection Against Domestic Violence with the County Clerk’s Domestic Violence Department. At first, the judge will grant a temporary injunction for protection. The court will notify your abuser (called the “Respondent”) that the injunction has been filed before it goes into effect. He or she will have an opportunity to challenge the order at a domestic violence injunction hearing, during which the judge will decide whether to grant a permanent injunction.
Before attending this hearing, be sure to locate the courthouse and familiarize yourself with accessibility and parking. Learn how to get to and from the courthouse so you don’t get lost on the way there and scope out parking. You may want to park in a populated area to avoid the chance of being confronted by the Respondent in an isolated spot. Consider asking a friend to borrow their car so your abuser doesn’t look for you before or after the hearing.
Request an Escort to and From Your Vehicle
If you fear for your safety, take someone you can rely on with you to the hearing. They can walk you to and from the courthouse and keep you company during the hearing so that the Respondent cannot take advantage of a situation in which you are alone to intimidate or threaten you. You may also call ahead of time to request a police officer to escort you to and from the courthouse after you arrive. You may also be able to connect with a local domestic violence advocate to accompany you. When the hearing is over, seek company in getting to your vehicle safely.
Arrive at the Courthouse Earlier than You Need To
There are several reasons why it’s important to arrive at the hearing as early as possible. While it’s suggested you arrive 15 minutes early, you should be there even earlier — the Respondent might get there 15 minutes early, so you will want to get there before he or she does.
Showing up before the Respondent will help you avoid him or her on your way in. Also, showing up early will have a positive influence on the judge’s perception of you and your case. You will also want to avoid — or have time for — any unexpected traffic jams that may occur en route to the courthouse. You should take as much time as you think you will need to avoid being late; if you arrive late, the judge may dismiss your case.
Leave Your Kids at Home
Whenever possible, it’s important to protect your children from your ex-partner. If they have witnessed abuse, or show signs of stress regarding the Respondent, it can psychologically harm them to continue to be exposed to that environment. Leave them at home with someone you can count on or take them to a relative’s or friend’s residence before the date of the hearing.
Avoid Communicating with the Respondent
Speaking with the Respondent to your petition can cause unnecessary stress. Do not allow him or her to approach you at any time before, during, or after the hearing. Do not put yourself in a situation where they may try to persuade you to drop the injunction or change your mind about pursuing legal action against them. Do not change your testimony. This can cause the court to look negatively upon you and your case and can call into question your ability to make sound decisions. You may also ask a bailiff to keep the Respondent away from you in the courtroom.
Domestic Violence Suspects Have the Right to Challenge Domestic Abuse Injunctions in Palm Beach County
There are two sides to every story, and everyone deserves to have their voice heard. In Palm Beach County, you will not have much time to respond to a petition for injunction for protection against domestic violence. Even though being named in an order of protection is not a crime in and of itself, it can still negatively affect several aspects of your life. Additionally, it could hurt your chances of a positive outcome if you are later tried for domestic violence in criminal court.
With the help of a domestic violence defense lawyer, it may be possible to present the judge with sound reasoning as to why you should not be named in the injunction. Additionally, the sooner you get an attorney involved, the less opportunity you have to be charged with a misdemeanor for violating any of the terms in the order.
Call Attorney Brian Gabriel at 561-622-5575 or complete a contact form for quality counsel regarding restraining orders in Palm Beach County.