Domestic Violence

Domestic violence can be an issue within the context of a divorce or paternity case, or it can be a case all its own. In Florida, domestic violence is covered by its own separate statute, and is governed by its own set of procedures.

There are two kinds of domestic violence cases. In a criminal domestic violence case, the police arrest the perpetrator, who is charged with a crime of battery/domestic violence. They are processed, often spending a day or more in jail, and then are bonded out. The State of Florida, through the State Attorney’s Office, will decide whether to prosecute them, and whether to offer them a plea bargain to avoid trial. Ms. Brodzki does not represent defendants in criminal cases, but can refer you to a number of qualified criminal defense lawyers who can, should you be charged with criminal domestic violence. If you are the victim of domestic violence, the State acts as your attorney, pursuing the case against the defendant. You will not need private counsel for the criminal case. Of course, if there is a related family law case and Ms. Brodzki is your attorney, she will assist you in preparing for your role in the criminal case, should you wish her to do so.

Civil domestic violence cases are often referred to as Restraining Orders. A civil domestic violence case seeks from the Court the remedy to keep the offender away from you. You can obtain a restraining order against your spouse or significant other if they commit any act of physical violence against you, or if they make a threat to commit physical violence against you, and you have a reasonable fear that you are in imminent danger of harm from them. We have seen restraining orders granted for pushing a spouse against the wall with one’s chest, for smashing a cell phone against the wall, for breaking a tape recorder against the wall when the spouse was told he was being recorded, for calling one’s spouse 100 times a day at work, and of course, for all manner of physical violence.

We have represented hundreds of clients over the years who have been victims of domestic violence. We will ask questions during your initial interview that are designed to help me determine whether you are or have been a victim of domestic violence. In some cases, we will urge clients to obtain a restraining order (or Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence, as it is formally known). If you have been the victim of domestic violence, it is essential that you disclose this at our first meeting. No one deserves to be the victim of domestic violence. But you cannot and should not use restraining orders as a way of gaining an advantage in your divorce or paternity case. Attempting to get a restraining order for an incident that occurred three years ago will only make you look like a person trying to manipulate the Court. And do us all a favor. If you are willing to make up stories about your spouse being violent so that you can “win” your case, please hire someone else. There are men, women and children out there who are real victims, and using domestic violence as a tactic is an insult to all of those clients who have truly suffered. They are the clients that we want to represent in a domestic violence case, not manipulative people who don’t care who they hurt to get what they want.

But if you really have been the victim of domestic violence, advise the office immediately after you’ve contacted the police or gone to the Emergency Room, if need be. It is not necessary for you to have an attorney to go with you to obtain the temporary injunction (which expires in 15 days), as there will be no hearing. The Judge will read the Petition that the Domestic Violence Intake personnel will help you fill out, and decide whether you’ve stated a sufficient case for the Court to give you a restraining order for 15 days until the Court can hold a full hearing. Meeting with us in advance of filing the Petition for Temporary Injunction will ensure that your facts are sufficient to meet the threshold requirements to obtain the Injunction, and that your Petition is worded correctly to give you the best possible chance of success. However, you may want representation when you appear at the hearing that the court will schedule to determine whether the temporary injunction should be made permanent.

The hearing for the permanent injunction is a mini-trial, with both sides having the right to introduce evidence, bring witnesses, and to ask questions of the other side’s witnesses. At the end of the hearing, the Judge will either grant the Permanent Injunction or deny it. If denied, it is as though the case were never filed. If it is granted, then the offender is ordered to stay away from the victim and to have no contact with the victim whatsoever. If they shared a residence, the offender (who was not allowed in the residence during the temporary order) will be permanently prevented from returning, except under police escort to retrieve personal belongings. The Court may order anger management or batterer’s intervention classes, child custody, child support, and time sharing schedule. Of course, sadly, sometimes the restraining order is on behalf of your children. In those cases, the Court may order parenting classes, supervised visitation, and other relief. Telephone calls, emails, packages, third party phone calls, text messages and all other forms of contact are prohibited. If the offender is in the grocery store, and the victim walks in, the offender is obligated to leave the store immediately. Once entered, the victim cannot give the offender permission to violate the restraining order. Any violation could result in the offender being arrested and incarcerated. Having a restraining order entered against you can hurt your employability, and will prevent you from owning a gun. You can see why it is so important to have representation should someone file a Restraining Order against you.

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