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I Have a Florida Domestic Violence Restraining Order Against Me, But My Spouse Wants to Make Up. What Can We Do?

Sometimes when it’s over - it’s really over. Other times, maybe it’s not. But if there’s an active Florida domestic violence restraining order, it’s smart to press pause on the reconciliation until the court gives the all-clear.

Restraining orders, also called injunctions, can be changed, extended, or dismissed - but only with a court order. Violate one at your own peril. If you’re the respondent and you test the terms of the order, you’re risking arrest, imprisonment, fines, revocation of parenting time, and other penalties.

This is true even if you weren’t the one who initiated contact and sought a truce. The language spelled out in standard Florida temporary injunction forms explicitly states: “Any violation of this injunction, whether or not at the invitation of the petitioner or anyone else, may subject respondent to civil or indirect criminal contempt proceedings, including the imposition of a fine or imprisonment … or criminal prosecution…”

As our Fort Lauderdale domestic violence defense lawyers can explain, it’s not the petitioner (person the order is supposed to protect) who takes the risk by reaching out while a no-contact order is still in effect. It’s the respondent. And whether that order is temporary or permanent, reciprocation of that contact can have you facing very serious criminal and civil penalties.

If the petitioner seems sincere and you truly think giving it another go is the right decision for both of you, then you owe it to yourselves and your family to make sure there are no legal complications that will come back to bite you just for reconnecting. It’s critically important that you tread carefully and work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in dealing with domestic violence restraining orders and related criminal matters.

How Long Does a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Last?

In Florida, restraining orders are initiated in several ways to garner the legal, court-ordered protection of someone who may be in imminent danger of violence from another individual. Domestic violence injunctions are just one type of protection order. Per F.S. 784.046, others can be issued for dating violence, repeat violence, sexual violence, stalking inunction, juvenile dependency injunction, and protection for vulnerable adults.

Domestic violence is recognized as the assault, battery, sexual assault/battery, stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any other physical attack resulting in injury/death of one family or household member by another.

Judges get a lot of discretion when it comes to deciding how long restraining orders last.

In general, temporary restraining orders last for 15 days, at which point the court is compelled to do one of the following:

  • Extend it, typically at the request of one or both parties as they prepare for the final protection order hearing. This might also occur if the respondent hasn’t been located for process service.
  • Dismiss it without granting a final protection order.
  • Enact a final protection order at the final order hearing.

If a final protection order is issued, that can last anywhere from a few months to indefinitely. However, as our Broward domestic violence defense lawyers can explain, the average is roughly 2 years.

If the petitioner wants the court to extend an FTO beyond its scheduled date of expiration, they need to show evidence of continued danger.

How To Remove a Florida Restraining Order

If either the respondent and/or petitioner wants to end a restraining order early, they must prove to the court there is no longer a threat of ongoing danger. There will be a hearing at which the judge will weigh all evidence presented before deciding. Certainly, you have a better chance of having a restraining order lifted if the petitioner is on-board with it, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee the request will be granted.

Respondents (the person the order is against)) may want the restraining order lifted for the following reasons:

  • Freedom from restricted movements and communications.
  • Return to the marital home.
  • Possible restoration of firearm rights.
  • Reconnecting with those they were prohibited from seeing due to the injunction.

Petitioners (whom the order is intended to protect) may want a restraining order lifted because they want to reconcile, they no longer feel threatened, and/or they want the respondent to resume a larger role in their kids’ lives.

The best way to challenge a Florida domestic violence restraining order is to do so before a temporary restraining order becomes a final restraining order. Final injunctions are much trickier to modify, and they have more serious and permanent consequences. Not only that, but extensive research - including an analysis published in the Florida Law Review - reveals that judges can be subject to a cognitive bias known as “lock-in effect” when faced with the decision of whether to issue a final injunction after a temporary injunction has already been issued. Essentially, decision-makers get trapped or “locked in” to a particular course of action in trying to justify resources already committed to that course of action - even when faced with indicators that the initial decision may not have been appropriate or didn’t achieve the expected results.

From the time a temporary restraining order is issued until the hearing for a final restraining order, you have about two weeks. In that time, you must hire a lawyer, get your evidence together, stay out of trouble, and prepare to make your case.

If a final restraining order is still issued, you have 15 days in which to ask for a rehearing or reconsideration. You do this by filing a motion - something best left to your attorney. It’s worth pointing out that even if you’re granted a rehearing, it’s not going to be a complete do-over. You’ll be limited to a review of certain facts or matters of law. You’re asking the court to reconsider its previous decision after carefully reviewing the evidence already presented that may have been misinterpreted or overlooked.

You also have the option to appeal the decision to impose a final restraining order to a higher court, notice of which must be given within 30 days of the order being issued. Again, this is not a do-over, and you don’t get to present a bunch of new evidence. It’s asking the higher court to correct a specific mistake the lower court made - such as making a finding based on insufficient evidence, as was the issue in the 2022 ruling in Werner v. Werner by Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal. It’s very important for a lawyer to help you with this if it’s the route you choose.

If it’s too late for a challenge by rehearing or appeal, either the petitioner or the respondent can ask the court to dissolve the injunction - and they can do so at any point. Our defense lawyers can help.

Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

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