Can My Spouse Seek a Domestic Violence Injunction Because We Had a Verbal Argument?
Domestic violence laws are designed to protect individuals from the threat of “imminent danger” to their physical safety. It is not a mechanism for parties to resolve their relationship disputes. In other words, just because you and your partner get into an argument or your relationship is breaking down, that does entitle you to receive a domestic violence injunction.
Appeals Court Overturns Domestic Violence Injunction
The Florida Second District Court of Appeals recently addressed such a situation. In this case, a wife in the process of seeking a divorce sought a domestic violence injunction against her husband. The wife alleged there were four specific incidents that justified her request. Although a trial judge granted the wife’s injunction, the Second District reversed because the lower court’s findings were “not supported by competent, substantial evidence that the Wife had an objectively reasonable fear of imminent domestic violence.”
Here is a brief rundown of the four incidents considered by the trial and appellate courts:
- The husband went to pick up the wife from work one evening. He “parked but did not turn off or get out of the vehicle.” A few minutes later, as his wife and some of her clients were exiting, the husband “revved his engine and peeled out of the parking lot,” which the wife took to mean he was “mad at her.”
- The wife ran into her husband while having lunch.
- On St. Patrick’s Day, the husband and wife happened to show up at the same bar. They did not speak or make contact.
- The husband and the wife argued over the wife’s failure to attend their child’s basketball game. The husband called the wife a “narcissist” and “pointed his finger at her face.” They continued to argue verbally, and both parties contacted the police, who declined to make any arrests.
As you can see, none of these four incidents involved any threat or actual violence. The Second District took note of this, pointing out the husband’s actions were at best “uncivil behavior that causes distress or annoyance.” But that does not rise to the level of domestic violence under Florida law. Indeed, the appeals court credited the husband with attempting to “deescalate” the arguments with his wife during 2 of the 4 incidents. Even in the fourth incident, which involved a heated verbal argument, the husband contacted the police “to get them to intervene.”
Defending Yourself Against a False Domestic Violence Charge
It is not unusual for estranged or divorcing couples to get into heated arguments. But an argument is not violence, and it is important not to confuse the two. A domestic violence injunction is only an appropriate remedy when one spouse threatens to physically injure the other. It should never be used to try and gain the upper hand in a divorce case.
If you have been falsely accused of domestic violence, it is critical to assert your own rights under the law. An experienced Miami criminal defense attorney can help. Contact the Law Office of Julia Kefalinos today at 305.676.9545 if you require immediate assistance.