Domestic Violence - Know Your Rights
Authored By: Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida
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Are you a victim of domestic violence? +
You may be a victim of domestic violence if any of these people hurt you, or seriously threaten to hurt you:
- Husband / Wife
- Ex-husband / Ex-wife
- Relative by blood or marriage
- Live-in (or former live-in) girlfriend or boyfriend
- Mother or father of your child
Florida law lets you work with the court system to stop the abuse. If you are a victim of domestic violence or if you have reason to believe you will become a victim, you should think about reporting it to the police and asking the court for an Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence (IFP).
Each situation involving domestic violence is different and you should do the safest thing for you.
How do I get a temporary injunction for protection? +
You have to file a Petition for Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence. You can get a form from www.flcourts.org or you can go to the courthouse and ask for the Circuit Court Clerk’s office. At the Clerk's office tell them you want to apply for an Injunction for Protection and complete the forms.
When you fill out the petition you are telling the judge why you need protection so include details. Be as thorough and descriptive as possible. Write the exact ways that you were hurt and the exact words used to threaten you. If you were forced to stay somewhere explain this, including how, where, and for how long. Include dates of threats, bruises, weapons, drugs, alcohol, and other details. If the abuser was arrested for abuse or may soon be released from jail, include this information. If you are pregnant and being abused, include this information as well. What has happened most recently is what is most important.
- At the Clerk's office you will be asked questions about what you write and you will be asked to swear that the facts in the petition are true.
- For safety reasons, you can give the Court your address in a separate confidential filing.
If you want the judge to order certain things such as custody of your children, child support, or a batterer’s intervention program for the abuser, you have to ask for this in writing on the petition.
You must ask for what you want the judge to do in writing in your petition. This includes:
- No Contact or Restricted Contact: This orders the abuser to stay away from your home, work and/or school, or restricts the abuser to having contact with you for purposes only related to minor children.
- Request for Counseling or Drug/Alcohol Evaluation: This might lead the abuser to confront issues related to abusive behavior.
- Exclusive possession and use of the home: This lets you to stay in the home without the abuser.
- Time Sharing/Support: This gives you temporary time sharing of the child(ren) and orders the abuser to pay some child support to you.
- You must ask for what you want the judge to do in writing in your petition. This includes:
- Bring your pay stub and one of the abuser’s pay stubs if you have it. If you want a specific schedule for time sharing or someone to help or intervene, you need to be prepared and a have a written schedule or a third party present.
After you have completed and filed these forms, the clerk will find a judge to review your forms. You will not see the judge. The judge may sign a Temporary Injunction for Protection (IFP), which is good for up to 15 days. The judge will schedule a hearing within the next 15 days, at which you will present evidence for the court to determine if a Permanent Order should be granted. The clerk will give you a copy of the IFP and will tell you the date of the hearing. The clerk will send a copy of the IFP to the Sheriff’s office, and the Sheriff will try to serve the abuser with the papers within 24 hours.
- Since the Temporary IFP only lasts until the hearing, it is important that you go to the hearing and give testimony. If you have witnesses, bring them. At this hearing, the judge will decide how long to continue the IFP. Once you have your Temporary IFP, call your local Legal Services office to learn if you are eligible for free representation at the hearing.
What should I do at the final hearing for the injunction for protection? +
- Dress nicely - very conservatively.
- Plan to arrive early - parking can be hard to find and you do not want to feel rushed.
- Do not interrupt and remember to always call the judge "ma'am," "sir," or "your honor."
- Let the judge know why you need protection. Be as detailed as possible. It may help to write notes of dates and times you were hurt or threatened so you do not forget to mention them. Bring the list to court to help you explain your case to the judge.
- If you do not have an attorney, ask the judge to grant your requests for any and all relief you have asked for in your petition (such as Custody, Child Support, Counseling, etc.).
- Bring all the people who know something firsthand that you want the judge to hear from to this hearing. Also bring any things you want to the judge to look at (such as phone bills or photographs of injuries, for example). THIS IS YOUR ONLY HEARING, so make sure you are prepared.
The injunction was granted but my abuser is not obeying the order - what do I do? +
- Stay safe. Follow your safety plan.
- Save evidence of violations by keeping voice messages, text messages, and anything else that can show there was a violation.
- If you are in danger, call 911. Show the police the final order.
- You can contact the State Attorney's Office and ask that the abuser be prosecuted. It is a crime to violate an injunction.
You can go to the clerk’s office where you asked for the injunction, and file a Petition by Affidavit for Order to Show Cause for a Violation of Final Judgment of Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence, Repeat Violence, Dating Violence, or Sexual Violence, or Stalking. You can find a form for this affidavit (sworn statement) by clicking here or by going to the clerk's office.
- A hearing will be set, and the abuser will have to show why he or she should not be punished. You will have to go to court.
- If the judge finds that the abuser disobeyed the court order, the judge can put the abuser in jail by finding him/her in contempt. The judge may also issue other sanctions such as fines or changes in custody/visitation.
What else can I do to protect myself? +
- Plan an emergency escape route.
- Keep money saved to use for your escape.
- See if a neighbor will give you emergency shelter.
- Make extra keys to the house and car. Leave them in a safe and secure place outside your home.
- Keep extra clothes for yourself and your child(ren) with a friend, relative, or neighbor.
- Copy important papers (birth certificate, driver’s license, vehicle registration, court orders, etc.) and keep these papers with someone you trust.
ALWAYS KEEP YOUR COPY OF THE ORDER OR FINAL JUDGMENT WITH YOU.
- If you are abused, call the police as soon as possible. When the police arrive, explain the situation. Once you have described the abuse, the police officer has to give you a package of helpful information, which includes where you and your child(ren) can go for shelter, food, clothing, etc.
- The police can arrest the abuser if the officer finds evidence of bodily harm and believes your abuser has committed battery. Your abuser can also be arrested if the officer believes you will be in danger if an immediate arrest is not made. This is the law. It is not necessary for the police to actually see the abuse or for you to have an IFP in order for the abuser to be arrested. If the officer refuses to arrest your abuser, get the officer’s name and badge number, and report it to the Police Department.
- In order to help prevent the abuse from happening again, protect yourself by cooperating with the State Attorney’s Office after the abuser has been arrested.
- Apply for the financial support you need to help break the cycle of violence.
What is relocation assistance? +
Relocation Assistance is a program that gives money to help families move who are moving to escape domestic violence. You have to be in the Welfare Transition Program getting Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) and meet their relocation criteria or be an applicant asking for TCA who meets their Up-Front Diversion eligibility criteria.
How do I apply for relocation assistance? +
- You must apply for Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) through the Department of Children and Families (DCF). You can do this at the DCF website here.
- After you apply with DCF, you will be notified to go to a Workforce Central Florida One Stop to register for work. Inform the Workforce Office that you are a victim of domestic violence and that you need relocation assistance.
- Workforce staff should:
- Let DCF know (through a system alert) that you are work registered and that you have met your pre-eligibility requirements.
- Set up an appointment with a welfare transition counselor to process the paperwork for Relocation Assistance.
- It should take about two weeks for you to get the money on your EBT card to make the move.
Victims of domestic violence do not have to make a relocation plan that stops them from applying for TCA for six months after getting relocation assistance (like others do). Once you have received relocation funds, you may reapply for cash assistance 30 days later.
Do I have to move out of town in order to receive relocation assistance? +
No. As a domestic violence victim, there is no minimum distance you must move in order to qualify for relocation assistance.
Do I have to have a job lined up in my destination city in order to obtain relocation assistance? +
No. You do not have to have a job lined up if you are a domestic violence victim.