Orders of Protection: Just Paper?

In the last couple of days, the media has briefly covered a couple of fleeting cases of the ultimate form of domestic violence – murder. These cases attract media attention only because they culminated in murder.

The media rarely delves into the domestic violence history that led there. Often that history is extensive.

If we, as a society, took “lesser” incidents of domestic violence as seriously as we take murder, perhaps there would be fewer deaths resulting from domestic violence.

Granted, many states have made it possible for victims of domestic violence to obtain orders of protection. Unfortunately, petitioning for an order of protection is just the first, often easiest, step victims of domestic violence can take.

Often, taking that step, draws intensified wrath from the abuser – and little real protection for the victim. Victims of domestic violence, and attorneys who represent them, know this only too well.

Nathaniel Hoffman, of The Contra Cost Times, reported last month on Domestic Abuse Laws Neglected . Hoffman cited as examples failure to serve orders of protection on abusers, failure to confiscate abusers’ guns, etc.

Although not noted in the article, having an order of protection in Florida is effectively undermined by too often lax enforcement of the orders and lack of punishment for violations.

Another disturbing trend in Florida domestic violence courts is too often deferring to family courts in matters of child custody and visitation if a divorce case is filed after the temporary order of protection is issued. This has the virtue of speeding cases through domestic violence courts and avoiding multiple judges having to tackle the same issues multiple times.

But there’s also a huge downside. In practice, there are more and more obstacles and delays until these custody and visitation issues can be reached in Florida’s family courts. This gap may expose victims of domestic violence – and their children, who are also potential victims – to unnecessary risks for far too long.