The Legal System
Protect Yourself and Your Family with a Restraining Order
How a Restraining Order is Like an Oxygen Mask
As a parent of a troubled person – whether that person has drug/alcohol issues, criminal records and habits, or anger/emotional issues – one of your tools to help you cope and to help your son or daughter get the help they need (and now cannot refuse) is a restraining order.
Yes, I know this sounds harsh and a little frightening, but you can’t really help your child until you protect and help yourself. Remember that airline rule – if the plane loses pressure and the oxygen masks drop, put yours on first before you put one on your child. A restraining order is just that – a way to keep you safe so that you can keep your child safe. There is nothing you can do for your child if you are dead, or so harassed and exhausted you cannot function. If you have already set boundaries –
1. You will not give him/her money.
2. They cannot crash on your couch or spend the night unless they are sober.
3. They cannot bother your family members for money or a place to stay.
4. They don’t have a key to your house because they will come in when you are out and steal whatever will buy them a quick fix.
5. You know the other boundaries you have to set and keep…
- and he/she still shows up in the middle of the night drunk, high, homeless, hungry, and penniless, you have two choices: you can let him/her in and continue enabling their behavior, or you can legally put your foot down. You can file a restraining order.
The restraining order will keep them from getting within a specific distance of you – either physically or cyber-wise through emails, phone calls, and texts. That’s putting the oxygen mask on you first. The restraining order can also force your adult child to get counseling – either for mental health issues and/or drug issues. That’s your ability to put the oxygen mask on your child.
A restraining order is free to file (although most attorneys suggest you hire them to help make all the paperwork look right – not for free). You can file a restraining order in person at a courthouse, or you can e-file it from your home. From the moment it has been received by the court, you are covered for up to 15 days; this is called a temporary injunction. So, if your adult child shows up at your door at any time and makes demands on you during this 15-day bridge, call the police. Tell them you have filed a restraining order against the person at your door. Do not open the door. Do not exchange words with him/her. Don’t let him/her push your buttons like they have done so often, time and again, for years. Put the oxygen mask on you first – let the police take care of it. Knowing there is a legal restraint order in place, the police will not ask you if you want to press charges; they will press charges. They may just escort him/her off your premises, or they may arrest him/her. Let them do their job. Keep firm in your decision.
Within the 15 days, you will be told one of three things:
- Yes, your paperwork is acceptable and you need to show up to court on a specific date.
- Your paperwork is not acceptable but the judge is willing to hear more from you – show up to court on a specific date.
- Your paperwork does not sufficiently support your request to restrain the person from coming near you.
If #1 – gather all your evidence and witnesses and show up – dressed professionally – at the court on that specific date and time.
If #2 – you may contact a lawyer to help you get the paperwork in order (look for the list of pro bono attorneys at the bottom of this article), but then gather all your evidence and witnesses and show up – dressed professionally – at the court on that specific date and time.
If #3 – you may need to contact a lawyer to have the lawyer request a restraining order.
If the judge approves your restraining order, it does not expire. If you allow your child to break the restraining order by allowing them near you or to contact you, your restraining order can be dismissed and you have little or no leverage to keep your child in counseling or from contacting you.
How to File a Restraining Order
This information is specific to Florida, but you can Google-search for your own state.
You must choose one of 6 reasons you need to be kept safe from the individual. These reasons are based on where the endangerment takes place and what relationship the petitioner (you) is to the respondent (him/her). You can also file the restraining order on behalf of one of your other children who is under 18. If the person you are asking to restrain is a family member – either through legal marriage or familial relationships (the two of you lived together in a family-setting at any time) - file for Domestic Violence Injunction. You may also file a Repeat Violence Injunction if the person you are filing against has harmed (or threatened to harm) you or a member of your family twice in the past, with at least one of the incidents being in the last 6 months. Dating Violence Injunction is used when you are dating or have dated within the last six months the person you are filing the restraining order against. A Sexual Violence Injunction has to have proof that the filer or parent of underaged victim had already been sexually preyed upon by this person and filed police charges against this person and this person is in jail or has been jailed for these charges. A Stalking Injunction is filed against someone who is stalking you – either physically or cyber-wise. A Cyber Stalking Injunction can be filed if you are being harassed through any form of e-media – your computer or phone or those of your underaged children. A Risk Protection Injunction can be filed if any of the above is not specific enough to explain the exact risk you are in.
You may file one type of injunction but have evidence that could be used under any of the types of injunctions above.
When you begin this process, sit down with a notebook and write down all the incidents that concerned you and led to this legal request. Make sure to date each incident and include any witnesses. These are examples (from https://herlawyer.com/florida-restraining-orders/) of incidents you should write down:
- The history between you and the harasser, including threats, harassment, stalking, and physical abuse.
- If the respondent has attempted to harm you or family members or individuals closely associated with you.
- If the harasser has threatened to conceal, kidnap, or harm your child.
- If the harasser has intentionally injured or killed a family pet.
- If the harasser has used or has threatened to use any weapons such as guns or knives against you.
- If the harasser has physically restrained you from leaving home or calling law enforcement.
- If the harasser has a criminal history involving violence or the threat of violence.
- If there was a prior order of protection issued against the harasser.
- If the harasser has destroyed your personal property (e.g., telephone, clothing, or other items belonging to you).
- Whether the harasser has behaved in any other way leads you to reasonably believe that you are in immediate danger of domestic violence.
- What else do you need?
You will also need information about the person you are filing against so that law enforcement can find him/her and so the judge can research your case. Name, social security, driver’s license, car tag, place(s) of residence, place(s) of work or hanging out, names of other family members who may be in contact with the respondent, names and contact information of your witnesses, your name and social security number.
You need to know to what court district you will be filing the petition. You can look up Florida courts here: https://www.flcourts.gov/Florida-Courts/Court-Locations You can Google-search for other state’s court locations.
Then you need to fill out the paperwork. I was amazed and a little intimidated by the number of forms one needs to file a restraining order until I realized that there is only ONE form that you need to fill out - Petition for Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence (see below). You may either go to the court and ask for paper copies of the forms (suggested time for this process is 3 hours minimum), or you can file directly online: https://www.myflcourtaccess.com/authority/
The form you need to fill out is Petition for Injunction for Protection Against Domestic Violence https://www.flcourts.gov/content/download/685947/file_rtf/980a.rtf It is important to remember that you are the petitioner and the person you want restrained is the respondent. The first 5 pages of this document are instructions, then the next 8 pages is the form itself. It might be easier to print out 2 copies – one for you to practice on and the other for you to fill out neatly – in black ink only.
You will need to sign the document in front of a Notary. You can find a Notary at UPS stores, public schools, bail bondsmen, banks, and sometimes your church, temple, or synagogue. Call first to establish that they have one available. (You do not need to tell them what the document is about; they are noting that they saw you sign the document, not what the document is about.) Make a copy of all of your paperwork after it has been notarized.
- How and where to file the paperwork
You can do this one of three ways: electronically, by mail, or in person.
If you want to file the paperwork electronically, go to https://www.myflcourtaccess.com/authority/ You may click on ENTER THE PORTAL or BEGIN E-FILING. Then register for a portal by clicking that you are a self-represented litigant. Once you have registered, make sure to keep a copy of your username and password in a safe place – like on the back of your copy of your document – and do not share it with anyone. You will need to have an electronic copy of your documents – either scanned onto your computer or directly typed into the Word document itself. Once your documents have been electronically filed, your temporary injunction against your respondent (the 15 days) has begun.
You may mail the documents – which must be notarized – to your specific court. Do not send it registered mail or receipt request. However, due to the number of papers in the envelope, you should go to a post office to get correct postage. Your temporary injunction will not begin until the court notifies you that it received your paperwork. Depending on holidays and postal schedules, this may take up to a week.
You may bring the notarized paperwork to your local court and hand-deliver it. But then you must wait there until you are notified that the judge has received the documents and the temporary injunction has begun (as mentioned above, this may take up to 3 hours).
The Next Fifteen Days
Be prepared to call the police if the respondent shows up or tries to communicate with you. Most likely, once the court has notified him/her of the action and the need to appear in court, he/she will try to contact you and bully you out of this decision.
Be strong. And stay safe.
Change your locks and keep your house secured. If you are renting, notify your landlord of the immediate need to change locks (and yes, tell them why). If your landlord cannot change your locks within 48 hours, do so yourself. It’s not hard. You can even order new locks online (delivered within 24 hours) with instructions and often the proper tool, too. (Most rental contracts require you notify the landlord before you change the locks and provide him/her with a new key. Due to the circumstances, they should be supportive and allow you to do this.)
Change your passwords on all of your online email and social media accounts.
Don’t answer any phone calls where the number is unlisted or unrecognized.
Don’t answer the door without looking out first.
Don’t answer the door if the respondent is at the door – call the police.
Don’t go anywhere alone for this 15 days.
Tell your minister, priest, or rabbi what is happening. They can and will support you in any way possible, including going to court with you. (If they don’t support you, why are you going to that place of worship?)
If the respondent has a parole officer or counselor, notify them, too.
If your minor children are part of this threatening situation, contact their school counselors so they can be extra vigilant during this time, and they can support your other children emotionally.
The First Court Date
You will be notified when and where to show up for court. Be there. If you have to take off from work, do so – tell your boss why. They cannot legally refuse to release you. According to AI:
“If your employer refuses to allow you time off for a court date, there are several steps you can take:
Communicate Clearly: Make sure you have clearly communicated your need for time off for a court date. Provide as much notice as possible and be prepared to provide proof of the court date if necessary.
Remember, it’s important to stand up for your rights and ensure you’re being treated fairly in the workplace. It’s also crucial to document all interactions with your employer regarding this issue, as this could be important evidence if you need to take legal action. Please note that laws can vary by location, so it’s always a good idea to seek legal advice in your specific situation.”
Make sure you have secure transportation which will let you arrive at least 30 minutes before the case begins.
According to Fraier & Mallet PC, (northborolaw.com/how-to-dress-for-court/ ), men should
- Groom and trim facial hair
- Dress conservatively
- Wear suit and tie
- Utilize modest colors
For women, the similar is true. Have your hair clean and neat, dress conservatively (cover the midriff and the cleavage, skirts must reach farther than the fingertips, avoid open-toed or open-backed shoes that could be easily worn at the beach or have heels above 3 inches, avoid clingy, provocative materials, no shoulder straps – wear at least a capped sleeve, no hats or caps) but also wear clothing that is comfortable (because you are going to be nervous) and warm (because courts use the AC to extremes sometimes). Utilize modest make-up and jewelry. Do not wear perfume.
Make sure you have copies of your paperwork and bring your witnesses or statements signed by your witnesses with you. Have them printed out with a copy of each for the judge. According to Lufrano Legal P.A., “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.” (https://www.jaxcriminaldefenseattorney.com/how-to-file-a-restraining-order-in-florida/)
Ask your friends and family to keep you and the respondent in their prayers for that day. Begin the day with prayer and pray as you wait for your case to begin.
Unless your minor children are acting as witnesses, do not bring them with you to court. Ask someone to watch them for you if they are not in school.
Answer the judge’s questions. Try not to babble or get overly emotional. The respondent will also be there with his/her witnesses and paperwork. Don’t let that rattle you. Remember how easily they can push your buttons, so don’t let them.
Make sure that court-ordered psychological/addiction counseling is set up for the respondent during this case.
If the respondent is living with you, ask that he/she be required to leave.
The most important thing about this day is to BE THERE. If you do not show up, your case will be dropped and since your temporary injunction ends at the time of the court case, you will lose all protection.
The judge will decide to extend the restraining order or to dismiss it. The judge may set up another court date to give his/her decision. As with the first court date, dress, prepare, pray, and act accordingly. The restraining order’s duration has no limit, but the respondent may petition the judge to end or limit the duration. “I promise to go to all counseling and never take another drink if…” Sound familiar? Stand your ground. Make the respondent live within the legal boundaries the court has set, because he/she has made so many promises in the past which weren’t worth the breath it took to say them.
Don’t lose your restraining order by allowing him/her to violate its restrictions.
Keep a copy of the restraining order with you at all times.
Call the police if you believe he/she is violating its restrictions.
Allow yourself to breathe again. Cry, but then smile and learn to laugh again.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9).
POPCSupport are not lawyers.
We do not know the law other than what we can learn from each other and from other sources.
So do not expect us to change what a judge has decided.
However, each week Mom will put an article on this page which will discuss the legal process. There are set rules about what you can and cannot do as the parent of a prosecuted child. We can help you understand them. We may also be able to put you in touch with some other organizations that may be able to help where we cannot.
Ask questions through the Contact page. Mom will find out as much as she can and post articles here.