A Florida domestic violence injunction has the potential to significantly impact the respondent for years to come. An injunction will show up on background checks, impacting your ability to obtain certain types of employment, travel freedoms, clearance for certain government jobs, and your right to own a firearm and ammunition. Any violations are considered criminal and can result in arrest and prosecution.
Once you have a permanent domestic violence injunction against you, it can last indefinitely – removable only if you petition the court and successfully prove a material change in circumstances that removes the claimant’s previously reasonable continuing fear of becoming a victim of domestic violence. Filing a motion with the court asking for dissolution of a Florida domestic violence injunction is best done with the assistance of an experienced domestic violence defense attorney.
As illustrated in the recent case of Bak v. Bak before Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals, fighting for dissolution of a domestic violence injunction can take years – decades, even. But the fact that it’s still worth it to do so even after all those years just goes to further underscore the importance of putting up a strong defense against having them issued in the first place.
The Bak case goes all the way back to the summer of 1999, when the former wife alleged her then-husband was abusive toward her. The judge granted a temporary injunction (which isn’t difficult to obtain in Florida, as it only requires testimony and evidence from the petitioner). A couple weeks later, a permanent injunction was filed, and the pair divorced shortly thereafter.
Thirteen years passed. In 2012, the husband asked the court to have the injunction dissolved, arguing that changed circumstances had made it equitable to do so. As noted by the court, success in this argument would require the moving party to show that the scenario underlying the injunction no longer exists so that continuation of the injunction no longer serves a valid purpose (as pointed out in the 2011 Fla. 1st DCA case of Alkhoury v. Alkhoury). The request was denied. Two years later, he again requested an end to the injunction – and was again denied. In that ruling, the judge cited the ex-wife’s reasonable continuing fear based on the fact that their minor child still lived at her home. Another five years passed. He filed a third request to have the Florida domestic violence injunction dissolved. Again, the trial court denied his request. But instead of accepting this decision as final, he appealed – and prevailed.
According to the 4th DCA, the former husband made a number of compelling arguments, including:
- The minor child cited in the ex-wife’s previous argument had grown up and moved out of her home.
- Testimony indicating the former wife had asked her ex-husband to help her put up hurricane shutters, and also to stay with her during a hospital emergency room visit. He’d also had dinner at her home on a few occasions, and they’d eaten at a restaurant once. (Note: These actions might potentially constitute as violations of a restraining order on the ex-husband’s part – even if she asked him to be there. Bringing up these instances was risky, but it does illustrate his point that she no longer feared him and that they were able to interact without issues.)
- In a 2000 deposition, the ex-wife testified she was no longer afraid of her husband.
- The collateral consequences to the ex-husband for the continuing injunction were substantial. As the owner of a high-end art moving company, he’d been denied employment opportunities when prospective customers learned about the restraining order. He also faced hassles when traveling internationally, and his work trucks were regularly and unnecessarily searched when the restraining order was pulled up by patrolling law enforcement officers. Lenders also denied him bank loans on more than one occasion, citing the restraining order.
Although the ex-wife testified that she did still feel afraid of him and insisted the restraining order was the only thing that kept him away from her, the appellate court weighed that against the totality of the evidence, and ultimately decided to reverse and remand to the lower court for dissolution of the injunction.
Given the severity of consequences that can result from imposition of a permanent domestic violence injunction in Florida, it is important to work with an experienced Broward domestic violence defense lawyer to challenge and/or resolve them.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Bak v. Bak, Jan. 19, 2022, Fla. 4th DCA
More Blog Entries:
5 Possible Defenses to Fort Lauderdale Domestic Violence Charges, Nov. 17, 2022, Fort Lauderdale Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer Blog