Each state in the U.S. takes domestic violence cases seriously and strives to provide legal remedies for victims. Violence in the home is an unfortunate reality of life for many people, including in California. No one should have to live in an unsafe situation. In California, a victim of domestic violence can seek protection from an abusive spouse, partner, or family member through a restraining order. Restraining orders for domestic violence cases in California can last as long as 5 years and are renewable indefinitely as long as the danger persists.
If you’ve been a victim of domestic violence in California, it’s important to understand the state’s process for obtaining a restraining order.
What Does a Restraining Order Do?
Restraining orders are sometimes called “Orders of Protection” because they serve to protect victims of violence, including domestic violence. California describes domestic violence as any circumstances in which a spouse, ex-spouse, partner, ex or current boyfriend/girlfriend, co-parent, or relative do the following:
- Assaults or injures you
- Sexually assaults you
- Threatens, harasses, or intimidates you or a loved one
- Destroys your property or disturbs your peace
- Emotionally or mentally abuses you
- Isolates you from others or from economic control
- Controls or monitors your movements
- Engages in reproductive coercion, or uses force, threats, or intimidation to force you to become pregnant or interferes with your birth control
There are many forms of domestic abuse. Once a judge grants a domestic violence restraining order, the police will enforce the order. A restraining order for domestic abuse does the following:
- Restricts any physical or electronic contact
- Prevents harassment
- Prevents the subject of the order from being within a specified distance from you
- Compels the subject to move out of a shared home
- Prevents the subject from owning firearms
- Compels them to pay existing child support and/or spousal support orders
How Do I Get a Restraining Order in California?
There is no court fee for filing a request for a restraining order for domestic violence. There are three types of restraining orders in California:
- An Emergency Protective Order (EPO): typically issued by a law enforcement officer who responds to the scene of domestic violence to provide immediate protection
- A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO): to provide protection until a hearing is scheduled
- A Permanent Restraining Order (PRO): to provide long-term protection after a hearing during which both sides testify and present evidence
In order to get a restraining order for domestic violence you must file a request at the court in your jurisdiction or online. The forms will require specific information about the type of abuse you’ve experienced as well as the dates and times the abuse occurred. Within 21 days of filing your request, you’ll attend a scheduled hearing to present evidence.
It’s highly advisable to have a lawyer represent your rights and best interests at the hearing since the other side also presents evidence and testimony. After the hearing, the judge grants the temporary restraining order for protection until the scheduled hearing for a permanent restraining order. At the second hearing, if the judge decides that you require ongoing protection, they will issue a permanent restraining order for up to five years.
It’s important to carefully adhere to the terms of a restraining order. When the order expires, you may request another hearing to ask for an extension.