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Domestic violence victims can seek help through civil courts

Domestic violence statutes are difficult to navigate, not only for the potential victim, but sometimes also for the person accused of perpetrating the violence. Understanding the provisions in a Florida restraining order or other protective arrangement can be a challenge. However, for those who have been victimized by a domestic offender, these protection orders can provide an important legal barrier -- not to mention a document that carries weight in family court.

First, it is important to know what qualifies as domestic violence. Assault, battery, kidnapping, stalking and sexual assault all fall under the purview of this law. Domestic violence is generally committed against a spouse, but the victim may also be an unmarried partner, ex-spouse or other relative by blood or marriage. Domestic violence also applies to individuals who currently or have previously cohabited together.

Individuals who are convicted on domestic violence charges automatically receive a minimum punishment of five days behind bars in a county jail. Courts can also extend that punishment to include time in the state prison. Alternatively, lower-risk offenders may only be required to complete community service or a probation term.

Any domestic violence victim may pursue a restraining order -- or an injunction -- if they are concerned about immediate injury or physical danger because of a dating relationship or other eligible situation. Legal options are available for victims through the civil court system, which has a lower burden of proof than the criminal court system. Protective orders do not require the same strict evidence needed to convict someone on criminal charges, for example; rather, a preponderance of the evidence generally suffices. Victims of domestic violence should know that they have rights and resources to help them in their time of need.

Source: FindLaw, "Florida Domestic Violence Laws" Jul. 29, 2014

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