Anyone who experiences domestic violence knows about the fear and helplessness the situation provokes. It takes courage to report the abuse and follow through with pressing charges. The effects of this scary situation are compounded when the domestic violence is witnessed by children who struggle to comprehend the events while hampered by their young age and lack of control over the environment. A recent article in the Palm Beach Post discusses a new project created by the Florida Coalition for Domestic Violence that is designed to keep children in the home with the non-offending parent and remove the abuser. The project, Child Protection Investigations, uses the skill of domestic violence/child welfare advocates to conduct in-depth investigations into the home situations and serve as liaisons among the non-offending parent, the Department of Children and Families and the courts. This has resulted in fewer children entering the foster care system. Given the prevalence of this destructive problem, it is important for victims to know how to protect themselves from an abuser and what the possible consequences are if the abuser is found guilty.What is Domestic Battery?
Generally speaking, domestic battery is an assault and/or battery against a family member or someone living in the household by another family or household member. Specifically, though, “domestic battery” includes any of the following acts:
- any assault, including aggravated;
- battery, including aggravated battery;
- sexual assault;
- stalking, including aggravated stalking;
- false imprisonment; or
- a criminal offense that results in death or injury of a family or household member by another family or household member.
Additionally, a family or household member for purposes of this offense includes:
- current and former spouses;
- people related by blood or marriage;
- people who currently live together as a family or did so previously; and
- people who have a child in common.
Further, in order for the assault or battery to qualify as domestic violence, the family or household members must currently live together or have done so in the past. People with children in common are not subject to this requirement.Protective Orders
Any family or household members who experience domestic violence, or reasonably believe they are about to become a victim of domestic violence, have the right to petition for a protective order. In Florida, this protective order is referred to as an injunction for protection against domestic violence. The purpose of these injunctions is to block the abuser from having contact with and/or access to the victim in order to prevent an attack. If a court finds there is enough evidence to show the petitioner was a victim of domestic violence or is in imminent danger of becoming one, a judge may issue a number of restrictions on the abuser to restrain his/her movement. Some of the options available to the court include:
- giving the petitioner exclusive rights to live in the home shared with the abuser or blocking the abuser from staying in the home;
- issuing a temporary parenting plan that grants the petitioner all of the parenting time with any shared children;
- ordering temporary child support; or
- ordering the abuser to seek treatment and/or counseling.
The minimum jail sentence for anyone found guilty of domestic violence is five days. In addition to minimum jail time, a court can also sentence the abuser to community service, community control (an intensive supervision program), or additional time in jail.Contact a Lawyer
If you are the victim of domestic violence, it may seem impossible to leave your abuser, but there are community and legal resources out there to assist and protect your family. Speaking with a lawyer before you take other action will inform you about the ways the legal process can protect you, and hopefully, some peace of mind. Stok Kon + Braverman, in Fort Lauderdale and Boynton Beach, represents victims of domestic violence and can assist you with your case. Contact us today for a consultation.