I was served with an Injunction! Now What?
Increasingly, injunctions are becoming a part of family law cases. These can involve, not just the parties, but the children as well. Below are some tips for reacting to an injunction should you be served with one with or without an ongoing family law case.
What is an injunction?
An injunction is essentially a Court order telling a party to stay away from another person or place. Injunctions are controlled by Florida Statute §741. It is sometimes referred to as a Restraining Order. When a party files for an injunction, they complete and sign a Petition. The person filing the Petition is known as the Petitioner moving forward and the party the allegations are made against is known as the Respondent. Once filed, a judge will review the Petition to see if the burden of proof for an injunction has been met. It is important to note that the judge makes a determination based only on the allegations contained in the Petition. He or she does not speak with either party first and no evidence is presented unless other documents are filed with the Petition. If the judge grants the injunction, he or she will issue a Temporary Injunction that includes a hearing date for both parties to appear in Court. This hearing must take place within 15 days.
Another thing that judges consider when determining whether to enter a Temporary Injunction or not is the burden of proof required. Injunctions are not criminal charges and the allegations alleged do not need to be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” as you see in many T.V. shows and movies. In fact, the burden of proof for injunctions is very low and the allegations alleged must be proven by “the preponderance of the evidence.” This basically means that the allegations need to be found more true than not. This is commonly referred to as “50+1”.
What to do if you are served with an injunction?
The first thing to do if you receive a Temporary Injunction is to read it thoroughly and make sure that you understand the provisions contained in it. There are many different provisions contained in most Temporary Injunctions, but the judge may not order that all provisions apply to your case. The most common provision is “No Contact.” This means just that: No contact with the other party through phone calls, texts, emails, through third parties, etc. Because of the shock that many people feel upon receiving an injunction, the first instinct in many cases is to call the party the filed the Petition and ask why. DO NOT DO THIS. Violating a Temporary Injunction could cause bigger problems down the road and could result in the Temporary Injunction becoming a permanent one.
If the parties have children in common, the injunction may also order whether the Respondent can have contact with the child until the hearing. If no contact with the child is ordered, this means the Respondent should not call the child, visit him or her at school, send gifts, etc. While frustrating for a parent, violating this provision of a Temporary Injunction could lead to having no contact for a longer time or having certain restrictions placed upon the Respondent’s timesharing in the future.
Another provision that is included in every injunction is that the party being served with the injunction will need to surrender any firearms and/or ammunition to the local Sheriff’s office. These will be returned if the injunction is denied at the hearing.
I Have a Hearing Scheduled. How do I prepare for my day in Court?
The first thing to do if you are served with an injunction is to make sure that you can be present for the hearing. If you simply do not show up, it is likely that the Court will enter a permanent injunction against you. If you have other pressing matters that cannot be rescheduled, you need to ask the Court for a continuance beforehand. Many times the Court will continue the hearing for a short time to allow you a chance to attend, though the Temporary Injunction will likely stay in effect until the rescheduled hearing date.
If you hire an attorney, make sure that you set up a time to meet with them prior to the hearing. This gives you a chance to flush out the issues and turn over an evidence that helps your case. It also gives your attorney a chance to prepare their questions for you and the other party. Trying to explain your side for the first time in front of the judge usually doesn’t go well as your attorney might be hearing it for the first time as well.
As always, if you have any questions about how to handle an injunction, you should contact any attorney who has dealt with injunction matters before and has a firm grasp of the law in this area. At the Bulger Firm, we have handled numerous injunction cases over the last few years. Whether you are a Petitioner or the Respondent, we are here to help. Call (904) 608-3694 to speak with an attorney today.