What Are the First Steps to Getting a Domestic Violence Restraining Order in California?

California courts take domestic violence very seriously, and they provide protection to those experiencing domestic violence, even where a victim can only present his or her own testimony that abuse is occurring (which, to be clear, is not limited to physical abuse). Furthermore, the restrained person does not necessarily have to be made aware of your request for temporary restraining order until after it has been obtained. But obtaining a temporary restraining order does require some action on the part of the victim to request it. This article provides some basic overviews of the purpose of domestic violence restraining orders in California, who can obtain them, the different types of restraining orders, and how to go about pursuing them.

What a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Does

The purpose of a domestic violence restraining order is to prevent another person from taking specific actions which affect you, and, if they do, you can simply call the police who will have access to the restraining order, and the person who violates the restraining order can face arrest for having done so. A restraining order can serve a number of purposes, including the follows:

  • Preventing a person from coming within 100 yards of you or a third party such as family member, or coming within 100 yards of your home, school, place of work, or vehicle
  • Requiring a person to move out of your residence
  • Requiring a person to at least temporarily surrender all firearms
  • Preventing a person from contacting you through any means, including by phone, text or on social media
  • Requiring a person to pay certain debts or preventing them from taking action against property
  • Giving you custody of children and control of pets while the restraining order is in effect

Who Can Obtain a Domestic Violence Restraining Order

Domestic violence restraining orders are often thought of as applying to spouses and boyfriends/girlfriends, but they are more broadly available in California and can be obtained to restrain a roommate/housemate (and former roommates/housemates), a person with whom you share a child, a person with whom you formerly had a dating relationship, or a family member even if you do not live with them.

The key factor in obtaining a domestic violence restraining order is to provide evidence – even if it is only your own statements – that one of the aforementioned persons committed an act of abuse against you. Abuse can be intentionally or recklessly causing bodily injury, but it can also include the following acts and others that do not necessarily include bodily injury:

  • The threat of imminent bodily injury and/or placing you in fear of imminent bodily injury (or to another, such as a child)
  • Sexual assault
  • Stalking
  • Harassment
  • Impersonating you

The Types of California Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

There are three types of domestic violence restraining orders: 1) an Emergency Protective Order; 2) a Temporary Restraining Order; and 3) a Restraining Order After Hearing.

An emergency protective order is actually obtained by a member of law enforcement on a victim’s behalf after domestic violence is reported to him or her. As such, they can be quickly obtained through approval from a judge over the phone without a trip to the courthouse. They remain in effect for approximately a week, and the protected person is expected to go to court to obtain a temporary restraining order during that time to extend the protection.

A temporary restraining order requires that the victim file paperwork (the request can be found here) with the court providing detail of the abuse that necessitates the order, and the victim will request the specific type of protection sought. The person to be restrained does not have to be provided notice of the request, and a Judge can review the request and approve the temporary restraining order on the same day it is filed. The temporary restraining order will remain in effect for up to 21 days (or in some cases 25 days), at which time the restrained party will have a right to a hearing. The protected person is required to serve the paperwork on the restrained party at least five days before the hearing.

At the hearing, the judge will hear from both sides, and both parties have the right to provide testimony and other evidence to the court. If the judge determines there is sufficient reason to extend the protections of the restraining order, he or she can do so by issuing a restraining order after hearing which can remain in effect for up to five years, and also be extended for additional time beyond that.

Guidance on Your California Family Law Questions From a Westlake Village Family Law Attorney

LA and Ventura County Courts provide assistance at restraining order center (ROC) see https://www.courts.ca.gov/27737.htm or clinics at the court house for those seeking  restraining orders. ZFLG generally does not handle domestic violence matters and refers those matters to other law firms.