Despite recent patchwork protections incorporated into family and divorce laws, the path to removing oneself from an abusive environment can still be fraught with emotional and legal hurdles. Whether you are a victim of domestic violence seeking to protect your safety, or an accused abuser who has been served with protective orders, the Miami-Dade County family attorneys at Davis and Associates, Attorneys at Law, LLC are sensitive and vigilant to ensure that victims’ rights are protected throughout the entire process.
The first step in protecting yourself from an abusive partner is contacting law enforcement. If an emergency exists, a victim can petition the local circuit court for a temporary Protection Order. A Protection Order can prevent a perpetrator from coming within a certain distance of you; prohibits any acts of harassment, intimidation or violence, including physical force; confinement or restraint; purposeful, repeated and unnecessary sleep deprivation; threatening to hide you or your children; and any behavior that creates an immediate risk of physical harm.
A permanent restraining order can be obtained in most states after the perpetrator is arrested and charged with a crime for domestic violence. The restraining order can prohibit the perpetrator from entering your home; requires him or her to stay away from you, your children and your pets; prevents him or her from having access to your firearms; and provides for a variety of other conditions designed to provide the victim with safe and permanent relief.
Most states require a victim to be notified of all court proceedings that involve her abuser, including sentencing hearings and parole hearings. A victim can also choose to speak at these proceedings, and most judges consider the impact of the crime on a victim when making decisions about prison time and release.
Domestic violence does not just affect the physical well-being of its victims, but can also be financially harmful. Each visit to the emergency room for domestic violence-related injuries can cost thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost wages. In some states, victims can apply to receive restitution for these expenses.
Lastly, domestic violence often causes its victims financial harm as they are forced to leave their homes and find new housing. Many states allow a victim to ask her or his landlord to change locks, to remove the abusive spouse from the property and, in some cases, to break the lease so that she or he can safely move out of the abuser’s residence without jeopardizing future employment benefits or public assistance eligibility.
The family court system is very different from criminal courts in its structure, power and purpose. The moment a victim steps into family court for a restraining order, custody and visitation rulings or divorce, she is opening herself up to unchecked counterattacks from her abuser in an arena that was never intended to handle these types of situations. This article discusses how a victim can minimize these risks by understanding some of the key differences between family and criminal court systems and the ways to prepare for the unexpected.