Need protection? Here's how to file for a restraining order
In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:
1. Who can help?
2. What are the steps?
3. What documents are helpful?
It can be terrifying — and overwhelming — when a relationship turns violent. But there is help if you're ready to leave, find safety and start over.
“Sometimes the partner convinces the woman they are the problem,” says Jennifer Rey, program services director at Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse. “They waste precious time trying to fix themselves.”
Instead, they should reach out to a local domestic violence hotline, such as her organization at 561-265-2900, to explore the best options for their personal safety, Rey says.
1. WHO CAN HELP?
After seeking refuge in a safe place, such as an emergency shelter, the next step is to consider filing a temporary injunction, known as a restraining order. No filing fees are required.
Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County can give legal assistance to victims of violence for free. It provides attorneys at the West Palm Beach and Delray Beach courthouses who can help victims file initial paperwork and give legal advice and consultation, says Kathryn Oleksy, supervising attorney of the Domestic Violence Project. Victims also can be seen by attorney staff in Delray Beach, West Palm Beach or Palm Beach Gardens.
“It’s important to get this first step in the legal process right,” she says.
When a hearing is set, Legal Aid’s attorneys represent victims in all four courthouses in Palm Beach County. To find out more about the services, visit legalaidpbc.org/family/ or call 561-655-8944, ext. 238.
The YWCA of Palm Beach County is a certified domestic violence center offering services and support, including the Injunction for Protection Project. This project offers an attorney to assist survivors with the entire petition project, including representation at no cost in any of the courthouses in Palm Beach County, says Mary Cauthen, chief program officer.
2. WHAT ARE THE STEPS?
The first thing to do if someone believes they're the victim of domestic violence or are in danger is to call the police, Cauthen says. If they are not comfortable doing that, reach out to one of the agencies mentioned here to obtain support, services and advocacy. Any of these agencies can assist you and/or connect to resources in the community to file a restraining order.
Victim Advocates from Palm Beach County's Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center will meet with victims at all area Palm Beach County courthouses (West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Delray Beach and Belle Glade). Advocates will go over the injunction process with the petitioners, do danger assessments, safety planning, provide court accompaniment and referrals. Advocates can't provide legal advice and will refer petitioners to Legal Aid Society for legal representation.
“There has to be an act of violence or you have reasonable cause to believe you are in imminent danger to file a domestic violence injunction,” says E. Rene Boone, team supervisor for Palm Beach County’s Victim Services. A person also may file injunctions for stalking/dating, violence/repeat violence, and sexual assault.
Once an injunction is filed, there are three possible outcomes: It is denied, rejected or a hearing is set.
The court will review the filing and usually responds the same day, experts say. If the order is granted, a hearing date will be set within 15 days, and the clerk forwards the documents to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies find the alleged abuser where they live or work to serve the order.
Until the hearing, the order prohibits the alleged abuser from contacting the victim by mail, phone or any other manner, and from being within 500 feet of the victim’s house, employer or school; within 100 feet of the victim's vehicle; and within 500 feet of the victim's children, according to the Clerk of the Courts.
Victims may be vulnerable during the hearing, Rey says. It’s recommended they sit as far away as possible from the alleged abuser, ask the judge or bailiff to keep the alleged abuser in the courtroom as long as possible and ensure they have the permanent court order before leaving.
The time frame for a permanent order varies from six months or until further notice, Oleksy says. "At any time, either party can file a motion to ask the court to modify the terms or dismiss the order," she says.
3. WHAT DOCUMENTS ARE HELPFUL?
An ID that includes photo and signature, such as a driver’s license, is required to file a temporary restraining order, according to the Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller’s office.
The following items are helpful but not required:
- Police reports or referral cards from law enforcement agencies
- Dates and locations of the abuse
- Mailing address of a friend or relative, if keeping your residence confidential
- Picture of the abuser for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office
- Full name, date of birth and physical description of the abuser, including height, weight, scars, etc.
- The abuser’s address, telephone number, driver license number and Social Security number, if possible
- The abuser’s employer, work address and phone number, if possible
- The abuser’s vehicle information, including make, model, color, year and tag number
Other information and frequently asked questions can be found at mypalmbeachclerk.com or by calling 561-355-4506.
• E. Rene Boone, team supervisor, Palm Beach County’s Victim Services
• Mary Cauthen, chief program officer, YWCA of Palm Beach County
• Kathryn Oleksy, supervising attorney for Domestic Violence Project, Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County
• Jennifer Rey, program services director, Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse
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211 Palm Beach Treasure Coast
A helpline providing information, assessment, referral, telephone counseling, crisis intervention and suicide prevention, as well as online chats from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily2-1-1 Website Email
Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse
Services and emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence1-800-355-8547 Website Email
Palm Beach County
Victim Services — help for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and other violent crimes, including therapy and a crisis hotline561-355-2418 or 24-hour crisis hotline at 866-891-7273 Website Email
Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County
Individual Rights Advocacy — free legal services for the disadvantaged related to health care, housing, consumer issues, wage disputes and immigration561-655-8944 Website Email
Center for Family Services of Palm Beach County
Individual and family counseling561-616-1222 Website Email
Center for Child Counseling
Mental health services in Palm Beach Gardens for families, specializing in play therapy for children who've experienced trauma1-800-480-1899 Website Email
YWCA Palm Beach County
Domestic violence programs — services based in West Palm Beach for women who are victims, including counseling, support group, shelter, transportation, rental assistance, legal, help, food and clothing, child protection advocacy and educational workshops561-640-0050 or 24-hour crisis line at 561-640-9844 Website Email