Solving Complex Family Law Issues with Creative Strategies

Who Can File a Domestic Violence Restraining Order?

Domestic violence is a sad reality for many people in the United States, including in California where 1 out of every 6 homicide victims is killed by an intimate partner. Victims of domestic violence face long-term negative outcomes to their physical and emotional health. California offers legal protection for a victim of domestic violence through a restraining order.

If someone you are currently close to—or were once close to—is hurting, intimidating, threatening, or harassing you, you may be wondering if you can file a domestic violence restraining order against them for your protection.

Who can file for a restraining order in California?

What Is Domestic Violence in California?

Domestic violence—whether it’s intimate partner violence or child abuse—impacts over 10 million people a year in the U.S. Around 35% of women and 31% of men report experiencing a form of domestic violence during their lifetimes, and many more cases go unreported. There are several forms of domestic violence. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines it as a pattern of behavior used by one person to maintain power and control over another person. It can include any of the following abusive behaviors:

  • Physical assault or abuse
  • Sexual assault or sexual abuse
  • Intimidation or threats
  • Harassment or stalking
  • Verbal abuse, emotional abuse, belittling, and berating
  • Destroying property
  • Isolating someone from others
  • Asserting total economic control over another

No one should have to live in an unsafe home environment, but making a change can be frightening when you’ve been victimized and threatened. A restraining order offers legal protection for those living under the threat of domestic violence.

Can I File for Domestic Violence If I’m Not Married?

Not all relationships are traditional. In California, a victim of abuse can file for a restraining order against their abuser if they have any of the following relationships or connections to the abuser:

  • A spouse or ex-spouse
  • An intimate partner or ex-intimate partner
  • A boyfriend/girlfriend or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend
  • A domestic partner or ex-domestic partner
  • Anyone they once dated or lived with
  • Anyone they’ve had a child with
  • A biological or adopted child or stepchild
  • A parent, stepparent, or parent-in-law
  • A grandchild
  • A grandparent

If others in the same household have also been victims of the abuser, you can include them as a protected person on the restraining order.

How Does a Restraining Order Help?

Once a victim of domestic violence files a restraining order, the restrained person may no longer:

  • Go near you and anyone else listed on the order
  • Contact you
  • Have a gun or ammunition

The order can also compel the restrained person to move out of the home and pay child support or spousal support if they have a pre-existing support obligation.

When an investigating officer intervenes on your behalf at a call for domestic violence and perceives a significant threat to your safety, they may order an emergency restraining order against the abuser. You can also file for a restraining order online or at the courthouse in your jurisdiction. You’ll receive a notice with a hearing date. At the hearing, both sides may present testimony and evidence. If the judge decides a restraining order is warranted, they will issue a temporary restraining order for 21 days. After that time, you’ll attend a second hearing to request a permanent restraining order for up to 5 years.

Restraining orders are renewable if you are still at significant risk after an existing order expires.