FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
About Domestic Violence
What is domestic abuse?
Abuse can be any contact that makes you feel afraid, harassed, or controlled, such as stalking, threats against you, your family or your pets, harassing phone calls or texts, strangling, pulling hair or throwing or breaking things. It’s confusing because the law in California calls it “domestic violence” but it does not have to be physical violence. Abuse can be spoken, written, physical, financial or emotional.
What is a safety plan?
A safety plan is a personalized practical plan to help you avoid dangerous situations and know what to do when in danger. Safety planning means thinking about and making a plan of action for when things feel unsafe to you. You are your own best safety expert. If you need help thinking about safety planning, the Family Justice Center (FJC) has advocates who can help you.
What is a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO)?
It is an order that can help protect you from abuse by a person close to you, like an intimate partner or family member. A DVRO includes many types of orders, including child custody. For example, you can also ask for an order that the person who abused you:
- Stays 100 yards away from you
- Stays away from other people and pets
- Cannot contact you
- Move out of your shared home
- Pays necessary expenses
- Pays money for damages caused by the abuse
What do I have to do to get a DVRO?
In most cases, the basic steps are:
- Fill out court forms describing the abuse and asking the court for the orders.
- Give those forms to the court (in person or electronically) for the court to review and make orders.
- The Court sets a hearing date for 21 days later and can also make a temporary restraining order (TRO) that lasts until the hearing. If the forms are given to the court before 3:00pm, the court usually makes its orders the same day.
- The Court orders and other forms must be served on the restrained person, so they know about the order and the upcoming hearing. The protected person cannot serve the restrained person.
- If the protected person and restrained person have a child together, they will be ordered to go to custody mediation. People asking for protection can bring a support person to mediation.
- The Court holds a hearing (in person or via videoconference) where both sides can speak to the judge and bring documents or other things which help their case. At the hearing the judge will decide whether or not to make a longer restraining order, called a restraining order after hearing (ROAH) which can last up to 5 years. Child custody orders can last until the child turns 18.
What if I want to move?
Your restraining order can work anywhere in the U.S. If you move out of California, contact your new local
police so they will know about your orders. You may also need to file your California order in your new state.
Be aware that, if you ask for a custody order with a restraining order, the court may order you not to move.
Tell me more about serving the restrained person . . .
It is complicated. The court cannot make a long-term order, the ROAH, unless the restrained person knows about the DVRO request and has a chance to come to court to tell their side.
- You must serve them with a copy of the court documents at least five (5) days before the hearing for the court to make a long-term restraining order.
- If you need more time to serve the restrained person, go to your hearing and tell the court you need more time. The court can re-issue the TRO and set a new hearing date, giving you more time to serve.
- Any person that is 18 years old or over and not a protected person can serve the papers and complete a Proof of Personal Service (form DV-200). DVP will give you a form DV-200 to use.
- If you have an address for the restrained person, the sheriff’s department in the county where they live can help with serving the other party for free. The Sheriff usually makes 1-2 tries to serve and will send you the Proof of Service or Proof of Attempted Service.
Do I have to go to a court hearing?
Yes, if you want to ask for your order to continue beyond 21 days.
How can I get ready for my court hearing?
- Learn the process: Restraining order hearings are public. Take a day to visit the courtroom before you have your hearing. Watch the judge and the other litigants to get an idea of what it will be like when it is time for your day in court.
- Do what lawyers do: Practice out loud the things you want to say in court. Make a written list or notecards of the orders you want and practice saying them. Review your request forms.
- Get your documents ready to help prove your case (such as police reports, photos, bills, text messages, emails) and make 2 copies of them. Organize them so you can easily find them when you are in front of the judge. If any of your documents are in another language, translate them into English.
- If you want to appear remotely, schedule your remote appearance. You may be able to attend remotely from the FJC remote studio.
- Find a support person to be with you at your hearing. They cannot speak for you, but they can give support. You can choose a friend or family member or ask for an advocate through the FJC.
- Plan for what you will do after the hearing, especially if you do not get the orders you want.
Can you give me any tips for when I am at the court hearing?
- Arrive 30 minutes early or more. This will give you time to handle traffic, parking and other delays. If you are appearing remotely, this will give you time to handle technical problems.
- Have a pen and paper ready to take notes and write down what the court orders.
- Stay calm, even if the other side is saying things you disagree with. Do not speak when someone else is speaking. Talk only to the judge, not the other side or their lawyer.