What “Changes in Circumstances” Justify Ending a Domestic Violence Injunction?
When a Florida court issues a “permanent” domestic violence injunction, that does not mean the order can never be changed or revoked. To the contrary, Florida law expressly allows either party to the injunction–i.e., the subject or the person who asked for it in the first place–to ask the court to modify or dissolve the original order “at any time.”
And while the statute does not clearly state the grounds for granting a modification or dissolution, Florida judges typically look at whether there has been a “change in circumstances since the injunction was entered” that renders the injunction no longer necessary. Put another way, if a judge determines the subject is no longer a threat to the petitioner, there is no reason to keep the domestic violence injunction in place.
Appeals Court Rules Trial Judge Abused Discretion in Refusing to Dissolve Eight-Year-Old Domestic Violence Order
If a judge, however, refuses to consider a change in circumstances, that itself may constitute an abuse of judicial discretion. A recent decision by the Florida Second District Court of Appeals, Trice v. Trice, offers a helpful illustration of this principle. In this case, the appeals court held a trial judge abused discretion by refusing to dissolve a previously issued domestic violence injunction despite clear evidence the subject was no longer a threat to the petitioner.
The parties in this case were previously married. The wife sued the husband for divorce in 2011. A week later, she petitioned a Florida court for a domestic violence injunction against her husband. In her petition, the wife alleged the husband “pulled out a gun, trapped her in the garage, and threatened to shoot her in front of their nine-month-old daughter.” In June 2011, the court granted the wife a permanent domestic violence injunction. The parties’ divorce became final in 2013.
In 2016, the now ex-husband asked the trial court to dissolve the 2011 injunction. He told the court that since the divorce he moved to Kansas to pursue a “career in law enforcement,” but he was barred from handling firearms due to the domestic violence order. The ex-husband said he had no contact with his ex-wife or daughter in the past five years and had no intentions of making contact in the future. For her part, the ex-wife had moved to Japan on active-duty assignment for the military.
The trial court determined there had not been a “change in circumstances” and denied the ex-husband’s petition to dissolve the injunction. The Second District disagreed with the trial judge’s finding. While the record clearly established good cause for the injunction back in 2011–the ex-husband committed an undisputed act of domestic violence–the circumstances had definitely changed in the intervening six years. For one thing, the appeals court noted, the ex-husband was acquitted of criminal charges arising from the 2011 incident. And as explained above, both parties had moved on to different jobs and homes and there was no evidence the ex-husband had made any attempt to contact his ex-wife.
Although there was certainly a “theoretical possibility” that the ex-husband might still seek out his ex-wife and “harm” her, the Second District said that was not enough to justify keeping the injunction in place. The appeals court therefore reversed the trial court’s decision and returned the case with instructions to dissolve the domestic violence injunction against the ex-husband.
Speak with a Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Cases like this illustrate the importance of working within the system to address domestic violence allegations. Even individuals who are the subject of an injunction have certain rights to seek review or dissolution of the order against them. An experienced Miami domestic violence attorney can assist you in this process. Contact the Law Office of Julia Kefalinos at 305.676.9545 if you need to speak with a lawyer today.