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Can I get a divorce while a protective order is in effect?

It is a rare situation to encounter a divorce that is without stress, conflict or hard feelings. This is especially true if domestic violence is a factor. If you are the victim of emotional or physical abuse, you may already know that your spouse can make it extremely difficult to leave. You and other Florida residents who are victims of abuse may need to obtain a protective order before starting the divorce process.

What is a protective order? The Florida Legislature defines this as a legal, court-issued document that restricts your spouse from contacting or approaching you and your children while the order is in effect. Abusers may face criminal charges for violating the terms of a protective order. A protective order generally provides the following legal protections:

  • Temporarily gives the possession and use of the marital home to the one seeking the order.
  • Temporarily awards child custody and financial support to the parent who is claiming to experiencing abuse.
  • Does not allow the alleged abuser to go near the victims or contact them via phone, email or social media.

When you initially seek a protective order, you will need to give a reason, such as physical violence, stalking, harassment or threats. After obtaining your temporary protective order, the court will set a hearing date, during which your spouse will be able to present his or her side to the court. It is advisable to bring proof of abuse to the hearing. Photographs of physical injuries, medical reports, police statements and screenshots of threatening or abusive texts and emails may be considered sufficient evidence for a judge to extend a protective order.

Leaving an abusive relationship is a delicate process. You may file for divorce at any time when your protective order is current or after it has expired. However, it is a good idea to involve allies to help you through the process of leaving an abuser, such as law enforcement, victim advocates and an attorney with experience in abuse cases.

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