Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Domestic Violence
A Florida domestic violence injunction must be supported by appropriate allegations. Often, yelling at someone, although unpleasant, is not enough to support an injunction. “In determining whether a petitioner’s fear of domestic violence is objectively reasonable, trial courts ‘consider the current allegations, the behavior of the parties in the relationship, and the history of the relationship.’” Stevens v. Hudson, 1D21-3142 (Fla. 1st DCA August 31, 2022).
In this case between a husband and wife, the wife alleged she was in fear of becoming the victim of domestic violence based on several incidents in which she alleged the husband punched himself or objects, and where he made vague statements that the wife interpreted as threats to her. For example, she alleged that during one of their arguments about their marriage, the husband told her “to take about five steps right now.” The wife testified that the husband never physically harmed her in their more than ten-year marriage. The trial court entered an injunction against the husband and he appealed.
The appellate court reversed. It held “Taking account of the context of the parties’ behavior, relationship, and history, [internal citation omitted], these various allegations occurred in the context of emotional discussions between the parties about their seemingly crumbling relationship and potential divorce after being married for more than a decade. Appellee feared becoming a victim of violence but also conceded that Appellant had never physically harmed her. Appellant also testified that he had never hit or physically harmed Appellee. He denied the various allegations and considered the petition to be a strategic ploy to facilitate Appellee’s divorce intentions. In the final analysis, for the injunction to stand, the party seeking the injunction had to show evidence of either being a victim of domestic violence, of ‘at the very least’ an objectively reasonable fear of ‘imminent’ violence. [internal citation omitted]. Here, the most recent allegation, a glare and directive to ‘take about five steps’ did not constitute domestic violence, nor meet the objective test of demonstrating an ‘imminent danger’ of becoming a domestic violence victim. Although an act of domestic violence need not be completed to seek injunctive relief, if fear alone is the ‘reasonable cause’ alleged to support the injunction, then not only must the danger feared be ‘imminent,’ but the rationale for the fear must be objectively reasonable as well. [internal citation omitted]. Appellee herself did not know what Appellant meant by his ‘five steps’ statement, other than to interpret it as a threat to do physical harm. But this was unfounded speculation.”
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