Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Domestic Violence

Neighbors who cannot get along are in the Florida family law case cycle again! In a recent stalking injunction case, one neighbor accused the other of “stealing, throwing, and damaging signs in the neighborhood that pertained to a lawsuit that some neighbors were involved in against a home builder [. . .], chasing him down the street while yelling profanities,” and sending an email to his employer, among other incidents.

In order to obtain a stalking injunction, a party must show by competent substantial evidence that a person willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly followed, harassed, or cyberstalked another person." § 784.048(2), Fla. Stat. (2018). "Harass" means "to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.” Feuds between neighbors usually do not meet this standard, and injunctions cannot be used to compel parties to be civil toward each other.

In the case Shannon v. Smith, 1D18-4587 (Fla. 1st DCA, July 23, 2019), the appellate court noted “Based upon the hearing transcript, the trial court entered the stalking injunction because of what it considered to be Appellant's aggressive behavior toward Appellee at the HOA meeting and toward a different neighbor on another occasion. However, whether Appellant was verbally aggressive toward someone other than Appellee has no bearing on whether he stalked Appellee. Moreover, a verbal altercation between two neighbors during an HOA meeting in no way warrants the entry of an injunction against stalking. The same can be said of the other incidents relied upon by Appellee in his petition, some of which Appellee himself described as being petty. As for the July 2018 anonymous email that was sent to Appellee's employer, Appellee acknowledged below that another person could have sent it.”

The injunction was therefore reversed. The court further held, “Appellant correctly argues that Appellee provided no testimony that any of Appellant's actions caused him substantial emotional distress. As we have explained, the substantial emotional distress that is necessary to support a stalking injunction is greater than just an ordinary feeling of distress. While the anonymous email sent to Appellee's employer and Appellant's behavior at the HOA meeting may have frustrated and embarrassed Appellee, and rightfully so, embarrassment does not equate to substantial emotional distress.” Internal citations omitted.

Deciding whether or not to pursue an injunction should be done carefully to avoid a waste of time, effort and possibly attorneys’ fees. Consult with a Miami domestic violence lawyer to determine the merits of your case.