The decision to obtain an Injunction should not be taken lightly. If you are the victim of domestic violence, dating violence, repeat violence, or stalking, you must decide whether obtaining an Injunction, also known as a Restraining Order, is the right course of action.
An Injunction involves a legal process whereby the Petitioner (person seeking the Injunction) and the Respondent (the person against who the Injunction is sought) must appear before a Judge who will listen to the testimony and review any and all exhibits (photos, recordings, text messages, etc) and will then decide whether to grant the Petition for an Injunction, or deny. If granted, the Judge may impose an Injunction for as long as he or she deems fit. The Judge may also order the Respondent to attend therapy or anger management classes.
If you are involved in a violent relationship, an Injunction is one way to create legal barriers to protect you. If somebody stalks you (repeatedly follows, contacts, harasses for no legitimate purpose) while a Injunction is in place (be it permanent or temporary), it is a felony. If somebody so much as makes contact with you when there is an Injunction against them, it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail.
Injunctions are serious business. The person on the receiving end cannot own or possess firearms; they cannot come within 500 feet of you or your residence; and they can find it difficult to obtain jobs and even travel internationally as Injunctions appear in background checks.
If you are merely in a dispute with somebody and it has not escalated to violence or even stalking, it may be wise to consider leaving the matter alone. Sometimes, ignoring somebody can make them just go away. If the dispute is relatively petty - some back and forth on social media or a handful of disrespectful text messages - it may not rise to the level of "violence" required for an Injunction. Obtaining one would be a waste of time and money, and may also just irritate the source of your anguish even more.
Many lawyers may be likely to persuade you to seek an Injunction any time somebody creates an upsetting situation for you. And why wouldn't they? It means money in the lawyer's pocket.
But consider the investment of time, money, and emotional capital that must be expended in order to obtain what may not be legally obtainable. The Injunction process can last several months, and may include depositions (which you as the Petitioner would be required to sit for), voluminous discovery requests, and several court hearings.
If you are the victim of violence, contact police. Obtain an Injunction. Do whatever you must do to create distance from your abuser and ensure your safety.
But if your dispute is one that may be able to go away with some good old fashioned school yard silent treatment? That may be the cheaper and less stressful alternative.
Remember - an Injunction is but a piece of paper. If somebody poses an imminent physical danger to you, you must involve the police. But if somebody is a mere annoyance, an Injunction may not be the legally or morally appropriate remedy.
Eric Matheny is an attorney assisting both Petitioners and Respondents with Domestic Violence, Repeat Violence, Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Cyberstalking Injunctions in South Florida.