How to File a Restraining Order in Florida: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you’ve been the victim of physical violence or have been threatened with violence, you may be able to get a restraining order to protect yourself. In some cases, a temporary restraining order may be issued as soon as you file your petition. That means you may be protected almost immediately. But, Florida law provides for several different restraining orders, depending on the circumstances. The exact protection offered by the restraining order may vary depending on the type of restraining order and other factors.
If you are in need of a restraining order, it’s important to understand the process and how to determine which type of restraining order is right for you. While the best source of information is an experienced Jacksonville injunction attorney, this guide provides basic information about how to get a restraining order in Florida. You’ll learn how to petition for an injunction for protection, what to expect in court, how your restraining order protects you, and how to enforce it.
To learn more about injunctions in Florida, read our free post “What is an Injunction? Meaning, Types, & Implications of Florida Injunctions.”
What is a Florida Restraining Order?
You may hear the terms “restraining order,” “protective order,” and “order of protection” used interchangeably. They’re all terms used by different states or under different circumstances to achieve the same thing. In Florida, these orders are called “injunctions for protection.”
When you file for a restraining order, you are the petitioner. The person you want to be restrained is the respondent. The restraining order, if granted, tells the respondent not to do certain things. Some common examples include contacting the petitioner, going to the petitioner’s home, and going to the petitioner’s workplace. Some types of restraining orders, such as an injunction for protection against domestic violence, prohibit the restrained person from possessing firearms. Violation of a restraining order may result in additional restrictions, punishment for contempt of court, or, in some cases, criminal charges.
How to Get a Restraining Order in Florida
Step One: Determine Which Type of Restraining Order is Appropriate
There are several types of injunctions, each with its own specific requirements. Before filing for a restraining order, make sure you understand the differences and who qualifies for each.
Domestic Violence Injunctions (formally called Injunction for Protection against Domestic Violence): To qualify for a domestic violence restraining order, you must either:
- Live with or have lived with the respondent in a family relationship, which may include spouses, former spouses, intimate partners who live or have lived together but are not married, parents, children, and others related by blood or marriage, or
- Have a child in common with the respondent
Repeat Violence injunctions (formally called Injunction for Protection against Domestic Violence): To qualify for a repeat violence restraining order, you must either:
- Be a victim of repeat violence (meaning at least two incidents of violence or stalking, with at least one having occurred in the previous six months), or
- Be the parent or legal guardian of a minor living at home who is a victim of repeat violence and be seeking the restraining order on behalf of the child
You must also have reasonable cause to believe you are in imminent danger of another act of dating violence.
Dating Violence injunctions (formally called Injunction for Protection against Dating Violence): To qualify for a dating violence injunction, you must:
- Be in a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the respondent, or
- Have been in such a relationship with the respondent within the past six months
Sexual Violence injunctions (formally called Injunction for Protection against Sexual Violence): The qualifications for a sexual violence injunction are a bit more stringent. To qualify, you must either:
- Be a victim of sexual violence, or
- Be the parent or legal guardian of a minor living at home who is a victim of sexual violence, and be seeking the restraining order on behalf of the child
- The victim has reported the sexual violence to law enforcement, and is cooperating in any criminal prosecution, or
- The respondent was sentenced to prison for sexual violence against the petitioner or minor child and the prison term has expired or will be expiring within 90 days
Stalking Injunctions (formally called Injunction for Protection against Stalking): To petition successfully for a stalking injunction, you must either:
- Be a victim of stalking, or
- Be the parent or legal guardian of a minor living at home who is a victim of stalking and be seeking the restraining order on behalf of the child
Step Two: Determine Where to File
If you’re filing for an injunction in Jacksonville or elsewhere in Duval County, there are three ways to file:
- Using the statewide electronic filing system,
- By mailing your petition and supporting documents to the Duval County Clerk of Courts, or
- By depositing your completed petition and supporting documents in the drop box at the courthouse
The address for mailing and dropbox delivery is:
Duval County Clerk of Courts
501 West Adams Street, Room 2409
Jacksonville, FL 32202
In other parts of Florida, you can find the location of and contact information for the courthouse on the Florida Courts website.
Step Three: Obtain, Complete, and File Your Forms
You can find the general forms required to petition for an injunction in the Florida State Courts System’s Self-Help Center. You may also obtain these forms from the courthouse. However, during the pandemic, not all court locations are open and an appointment may be required. It is best to call ahead for specific information in your area.
It’s also important to know that local court rules may require additional forms. In Duval County, you can find those forms on the court’s website or by contacting a court services specialist for help.
The judge will be making a preliminary decision based on the information in your petition before he or she has a chance to talk to you and hear additional details. So, it is very important that you complete these forms carefully. Provide complete, accurate, and factual information. And, make sure you follow the instructions precisely. Though you can file for an injunction on your own, working with an attorney experienced in securing Florida restraining orders can help you put together the strongest, best-documented packet for the court.
Step Four: Get a Ruling from the Court
After reviewing your petition, the court will issue one of three orders:
- A temporary injunction and order setting a final hearing: The respondent is restrained pending the hearing and served with the order and notice of hearing.
- A denial of the temporary injunction and an order setting final hearing: The respondent is not restrained immediately, but a hearing is set to determine whether an injunction should be granted.
- Denial of the petition: If the petition is denied, the court will set forth grounds in the order. The petitioner may refile.
If a final hearing is set it will be scheduled within 15 days of the filing of the injunction.
Step Five: Prepare for and Appear in Court
If the temporary injunction was granted and a final hearing date set OR the temporary injunction was denied but a final hearing was set, the next step is to appear in court and present your case. It is essential to attend the court hearing and to be prepared with whatever witnesses and other evidence may be available. If you have been granted a temporary injunction, it will expire on the court date. If you are not there to argue for an extension of the protective order, you will lose that protection.
You and the respondent will each have the opportunity to speak and present evidence. Some relevant evidence may include witnesses to threats or violence, messages you have received from the respondent, medical records relating to incidents of violence, or police reports.If necessary, you can subpoena witnesses and/or documents.
After the hearing, the judge will either dismiss the petition without issuing an injunction (meaning that the respondent is no longer restrained, even if you had a temporary restraining order) or may enter a final judgment of injunction.
Step Six: Understand and Enforce Your Injunction
When you receive the injunction order, read it carefully and make sure you understand the protection it offers and what would be considered a violation. Then, be sure to keep a copy of the injunction with you. That way, if the respondent violates the order, you can show the injunction to law enforcement officers.
If the respondent violates the restraining order, there are several possible outcomes. The respondent could be sanctioned for contempt of court. The court could impose additional restrictions or even affirmative obligations. Or, the respondent might face criminal charges.
Need Help with a Jacksonville Restraining Order?
The state of Florida and Florida courts have made a significant effort to make injunctions accessible, providing forms and instructions online, making court services specialists available, and ensuring that filing fees are not an obstacle to seeking protection. Still, the process can be overwhelming, especially facing the person who has harmed or threatened you in court. And, speed is often essential.
If you need help, an attorney experienced in petitioning for injunctions in Florida can simplify the process, take some of the preparation off your plate, help ensure that your petition is effective, and manage the court proceedings on your behalf. To schedule a free consultation with Lufrano Legal, P.A., a local Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys and injunction lawyers; call 904-513-3905 right now.