Welcome to the Florida Family Lawyer Blog

The posts in this blog focus on Florida family law issues including divorce , child custody/time-sharing , child support , mediation , domestic violence , parenting coordination , parenting rights of same-sex couples , and other family law topics. The posts discuss these topics under Florida law, and also focus on the family law local rules in Broward, Dade and Palm Beach Counties.

I hope the information here is helpful for you.

Articles Posted in Domestic Violence

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As a Broward County Domestic Violence attorney, one issue that arises in some cases and that is good for you be informed about ahead of time, is how to enforce a Domestic Violence Injunction. Although an Injunction is more than just a piece of paper because it does carry with it some important enforcement powers, in another respect it is just a piece of paper. If you are confronted by a violent spouse or significant other and no law enforcement or other source of safety is around, the Injunction is not going to provide protection, other than whatever concern the perpetrator may have regarding the consequences of violating the order. There are links here to domestic violence programs which can help with guidance, and also a domestic violence shelter when needed.

Law enforcement can arrest and take someone into custody for violating a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. If someone subject to an Injunction comes to your home, contacts you, comes within 100 feet of your car, damages your property or takes other action constituting a violation, you can contact law enforcement for assistance. Once arrested the person must be held in custody, and not released until they are brought in front of the Court for a bail hearing.

The other avenue for enforcement is to go the Domestic Violence Unit at the Courthouse, where the staff will assist you with filling out a Petition and Affidavit laying out the details of the violation, and requesting a hearing to determine if the perpetrator should be held in Contempt of Court for violating the Injunction. The Judge can impose fines or place a person in jail for violating the Injunction. The Florida Statute governing enforcement of Domestic Violence Injunctions provides that the Domestic Violence Unit at the court should also send the Affidavit to the State Attorney’s Office, and you can provide a copy of the Affidavit to the State Attorney’s Office yourself. Violating a Domestic Violence Restraining Order is a crime, and the Domestic Violence Unit can forward the Affidavit to law enforcement as well. There are links here for the Domestic Violence Units at the courthouses in Broward, Dade and Palm Beach counties, and you can find a copy of the Affidavit here.

One thing some people are not aware of, is that a Domestic Violence Injunction prohibits the perpetrator from contacting you directly or indirectly. That means it is a violation for the person with the Restraining Order against them to have someone other than themselves contact you, follow you, etc.

It is important to carry your Restraining Order with you. There is a procedure whereby information about the Injunction is entered into a statewide electronic database, but you should keep the Restraining Order with you, so law enforcement can see it, including seeing the specific terms and provisions the Judge has written into or checked off in the Order. This is especially true if there are provisions in the order regarding custody of children, and whether the Respondent can see the children.

One other area I wanted to address is some of the terms used in this post – I’ve used the terms Injunction and Restraining Order pretty interchangeably here. An injunction is a general type of order which prohibits a person or company from doing something, or requires them to do something. “Restraining Order” is a way of referring to an injunction which prohibits or restrains someone from doing something. There may be finer distinctions in older case law or statutes, but this explanation is pretty close. A domestic violence injunction is a particular type of injunction, with the rules governing it in Florida Statutes Chapter 741, and in the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, Rule 12.610. Two other terms – Respondent and Petitioner: the Petitioner is the person who files the Petition requesting the Judge to issue the Injunction, and the Respondent is the person who is alleged to have committed the domestic violence and who then responds to the allegations in court if they choose. Someone concerned with their safety probably isn’t most concerned with the different terms, but avoiding a little confusion may help sometimes.

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In this post, I wanted to draw attention to an organization in Broward County that provides services for victims of domestic violence. The organization, No More Tears was founded by Somy Ali, who continues to provide the large bulk of support and assistance for clients of the agency herself.

The agency is staffed entirely by volunteers, and has worked out partnerships with Dade and Broward County Divorce Attorneys, Immigration Attorneys, Counselors, Optometrists, Dentists and other providers in the area to provide a broad range of services to clients in Broward county as well as other parts of the state. It’s hard to do better justice to the work done by the organization than visiting the agency’s website, or listening to some of the interviews there of the organization’s founder, and I encourage you to do that – if you are looking to support No More Tears, or are in need of help.

The agency is fortunate to be supported by an active and accomplished board of directors. There is a fund-raiser coming up on October 6, 2011 at 5:30 p.m., hosted at The Bank Atlantic Corporate Center in Fort Lauderdale. You can find more information about the fund-raiser at No More Tears’ website, and also follow the organization on Facebook.

Although funding cuts have affected services in many areas, Broward County is fortunate to be served also by Women in Distress, a full service domestic violence center serving Broward County, as well as the Domestic Violence Unit at the Broward County Courthouse which can assist you in completing the paperwork to seek a Domestic Violence Restraining order. You can find these resources, as well as domestic violence services in Dade and Palm Beach Counties by following this link — domestic violence services.

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It’s been reported pretty widely in the press recently that the Court in the Charlie Sheen and Brooke Mueller custody dispute, did not grant Mr. Sheen’s request to change custody of the couple’s children (Chicago Sun-Times report).

A point to remember for Florida parents involved in time-sharing cases, is that parents in Florida cases can request the court to change or enter a temporary time-sharing and parental responsibility order while their divorce case is pending.

The request can be made as part of a divorce petition or by a motion filed after the petition. The Judge can enter a temporary order specifying what time-sharing will be, can order a parent to undergo a mental health or substance abuse evaluation if there is concern about the well-being of a child while he or she is with one of the parents – the court has a lot of power and discretion when it comes to entering orders to protect children. Temporary time-sharing and parental responsibility can also be determined in a domestic violence injunction hearing.

An issue often for motions regarding children’s issues, and other motions, is the timing of scheduling a hearing, and when a hearing date is available. In Broward County, Florida and other circuits, if there is “a matter of imminent or impending abuse, neglect or abandonment” of a child (this is the definition in Broward County of a “child emergency“), you can file an emergency motion and appear in front of the Judge on an “ex parte” basis”, possibly the same day you file your motion. The English translation for “ex parte” is “for (by or from) one party”, and it means you go in front of the Judge without the other side being present at the hearing. When there is domestic violence, a temporary time-sharing order can also be entered as part of a temporary restraining order.

Motions that don’t qualify as emergency motions, are scheduled like other motions through the Judge’s Judicial Assistant, or sometimes on-line. Depending on how busy the Judge’s court calendar is, there can be a wait. If you have a situation involving your children that affects their welfare, but doesn’t qualify as an emergency, it can be important to try to contact the Judge’s Judicial Assistant – sometimes other hearings are cancelled and an earlier hearing time may open up and become available for you.