Filing for a restraining order (injunction for protection) in Duval County was designed to be a straightforward process that does not require the assistance of an attorney. Injunctions for protection, commonly referred to as restraining orders are legal devices that can ultimately involve jail to protect individuals who have been victims of violence or are fearful of becoming a victim. Injunctions are issued when the court agrees that the person seeking the injunction is a victim of violence or reasonably believes he/she is in imminent danger of becoming a victim of violence. The court then restrains the other party from coming into contact with the victim and/or coming near the victim.
In order to gain access to these protections you must go down to the courthouse and file a Petition for Injunction. The paperwork for the petition is fairly straightforward and in most cases does not require the assistance of an attorney. Staff at the courthouse can assist with completing the Petition for Injunction. The process is relatively ease so that people who cannot afford to hire an attorney can still seek protection from violence. That said, many people seeking an injunction do hire a family law attorney to assist them, either with the hearing on the Petition for Injunction or for a divorce case that is also needed.
There are four types of injunctions/restraining orders in Florida, issued for: domestic violence; dating violence; sexual violence; and repeat violence.
You will need to select which of these applies to you and complete the petition that applies to your situation.
· A domestic violence petition is used when you and the respondent have been living together as a family, whether married or not, or lived together as a family in the past, and/or if you have a child or children together.
· A dating violence petition is for those who have been dating but have not lived together within the last 6 months.
· A sexual violence petition is used for those who have been a victim of sexual assault or abuse (you are not required to file criminal charges).
· A repeat violence petition is for any of the other types of stalking or violence between friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc. In order for it to be considered repeat violence, there must be at least two incidents within the last six months.
The petition requires information like petitioner (you), the respondent (the individual you want restrained), addresses, place of employment, children’s names (if applicable), and a description of the respondent so that police may find him or her. There will also be a paragraph detailing the reasons why you are seeking the petition. It must be detailed, contain the nature of the relationship between you and the individual, and the date or dates of the incident(s). You must be as detailed as possible when explaining the situation because a judge will review the petition and decide whether or not to enter a Temporary Injunction based on this information.
After reviewing the petition, the judge may or may not grant the petition and enter a Temporary Injunction. A Temporary Injunction is just that – a temporary court order that sets out what the type of contact the respondent may or may not have with the petitioner. If the petition is granted on a temporary basis, the judge will then issue a Temporary Injunction against the respondent that will be in place for 14 days.
The judge will then set a hearing 14 days from the date the judge signs the Temporary Injunction, so that a full hearing can take place and both parties can testify and present evidence. The respondent will be served with a copy of the petition, along with the Temporary Injunction. Once he or she is served, the terms and conditions of the Temporary Injunction are in place and he or she must comply with them. If, however, the respondent cannot be located and served prior to the hearing, the temporary injunction will be extended for another 14 days. It is important to remember that the Temporary Injunction is not enforceable until the respondent has been served with it by law enforcement. That is why it is important to put the correct contact information for the respondent in the petition so that he or she can be found and served. Filing a restraining order in Jacksonville, for example, where there is a large population can be problematic, as it is sometimes difficult for police to easily locate the individual.
If the respondent is served with the petition and Temporary Injunction, you will need to use the 14 day period to prepare for the hearing. At this point, you may wish to hire an attorney to represent you at the hearing. Your attorney will help you better understand what you will need for the hearing. It is generally better to have everything/everyone you might need: witnesses; video evidence; phone records; text messages; social media posts; and anything else that would be evidence of abuse and violence. Your attorney knows the procedures needed to collect and verify evidence that the court will require and can prepare you and your witnesses to testify. Evidence must be presented which supports the allegations in the petition for injunction. Usually, the court will not want to hear “new” evidence or evidence other than what is contained in the petition for injunction, which is why it is so important to include everything in petition.
In general, the injunction procedure is very straightforward and completing and filing the petition can be done without an attorney. While it is not necessary to work with an attorney to file a petition for injunction in Duval County, you should strongly consider having an attorney representing you at the hearing after the Temporary Injunction is issued by the court. The outcome of the hearing is extremely important and can have a significant effect on your safety and well-being, so if you do not feel confident on your own then by all means seek help. When your life and the lives of your family members are at stake there is no reason not to ask for help.