How to Apply for a Restraining Order in a CA Divorce
In most instances, a divorce is a stressful and emotional time in a person’s life. When there is domestic violence or spousal abuse involved, it often heightens the stakes to an entirely different level.
If you’re preparing to end a marriage with a history of domestic violence or abuse, you’re not alone. It’s crucial to take the right steps to protect yourself and any loved ones involved in the separation. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is through a restraining order.
Filing for a California Restraining Order
Before you choose to file for a restraining order, it’s important to first ask yourself if it’s the best route for you. Consider the following FAQs about California restraining orders:
What is a domestic violence restraining order?
A domestic violence restraining order is a court order designed to protect those who have experienced spousal abuse, intimate partner violence, or another form of domestic violence in a relationship.
The person you are filing against must be:
- A married or registered domestic partner
- A partner you have divorced or separated
- A person you dated or used to date
- A person you live with or used to live with
- A person with whom you share a child
- A close relative (such as a parent or sibling)
Keep in mind that a domestic violence restraining order does not apply to just roommates or casual relationships.
How can a restraining order help me?
California restraining orders can help you in various ways depending on type and circumstances. Examples include:
- Ordering the threatening person to maintain a certain physical distance from yourself and any children you have
- Prohibiting the threatening person from owning a firearm or ammunition
- Ordering the threatening person to move out of a shared dwelling (a move-out order)
- Ordering the threatening person to obey child custody and visitation orders
- Ordering the threatening person to pay child support
How much does it cost to file?
Filing a domestic violence restraining order with your local California court is free.
How long until a restraining order goes into effect?
The judge typically decides within 1 business day whether or not to grant you a temporary restraining order, if not sooner. If issued, the temporary restraining order will stay in effect until your court date, during which the judge will decide whether or not to grant a long-term restraining order (which can last up to 5 years).
What qualifies as abuse?
Abuse isn’t limited to physical contact. It can be spoken, written, oral, emotional, or sexual in nature. Common examples of domestic abuse include:
- Destroying personal property
- Disturbing your peace
- Repeatedly contacting you
Abuse can be direct or indirect, and includes actions such as:
- Conveying messages through another person
- Texting, emailing, or calling
- Sending online messages
Disturbing someone’s peace includes coercive control. This entails actions that unreasonably limit the free will and rights of any person protected by a restraining order. Common examples include:
- Isolating someone from friends, relatives, or other means of support
- Preventing someone from obtaining basic needs (such as food)
- Controlling or keeping track of someone’s movements and whereabouts
- Limiting someone’s access to funds or services
- Forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do (such as through threat, harassment, or intimidation)
7 Steps to File a Request for a Restraining Order
There are important steps to take to file for a restraining order in California. Consider these 7 steps to obtain protection against an abusive person or spouse:
Step 1: Fill out the appropriate paperwork.
You’ll need to obtain the corresponding paperwork from the court (you can also access the forms online if desired). You’ll need to fill out the following 4 forms:
- Confidential CLETS Information (CLETS-001)
- Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DV-100)
- Notice of Court Hearing (DV-109)
- Temporary Restraining Order (DV-110)
The following 2 forms are optional if you wish to provide additional information regarding the abuse you experienced at the hands of the person you’re filing against:
You’re also permitted to request that the other party pay for attorney fees if you wish. For more information, click here.
Step 2: Fill out additional paperwork if you have children.
If there are children involved in your case, make sure you take time to fill out additional required paperwork (and check the appropriate boxes on Item 12 of Form DV-100).
Custody & Visitation Orders
If you have children with the person you need protection from and want a custody and visitation order (or want to modify the existing one), make sure you fill out the following 3 forms:
- Request for Child Custody and Visitation Orders (DV-105). Attach this to Form DV-100.
- Child Custody and Visitation Order (DV-140). Attach this to Form DV-110.
If this applies to you, you’re also welcome to fill out a Request for Order: No Travel with Children form (DV-108).
Requesting Child Support
If you wish to request child support from the person you need protection from, you’ll need to 1) check the appropriate boxes on Item 13 of Form DV-100 and 2) fill out the following additional forms:
You may attach both of these forms to Form DV-100.
Requesting Spousal, Partner, or Family Support
If you are the spouse or registered partner of the person you’re requesting protection from and wish to ask for spousal, partner, or family support, you must also fill out the following form:
Step 3: Check to see if there are local forms you must fill out (if any).
Depending on your geographical area, some local courts may require you to fill out additional paperwork. You can confirm this by contacting your local court clerk or checking your local court’s website. To locate your local court, click here.
Step 4: Have your forms reviewed if possible.
It’s always a wise idea to have a trusted professional review your restraining order forms before you proceed with filing. While it’s best to verify your forms with a skilled divorce attorney, you may also contact your court’s family law facilitator (if one exists) or another professional from your court’s self-help center.
It’s beneficial to have a seasoned legal eye review the paperwork before you move forward in the process, as they can ensure that everything was completed correctly and effectively to obtain the legal result you desire.
Step 5: File your forms with the court.
Next, it’s time to file the completed paperwork with your local court. To do so, follow these steps:
- Take your forms to the court clerk. The clerk will deliver them from the judge. From there, the judge will decide whether or not to issue a temporary restraining order. You should know the decision within 1 business day.
- Review the judge’s decision. The clerk will notify you when it’s time to pick up your paperwork. Check if the judge decided to issue the temporary restraining order. You should also review any changes made to the paperwork in case the judge made any amendments to the orders you requested.
- Note when your court hearing is scheduled. It’s important to review the Notice of Court Hearing (Form DV-109) to know the date of your hearing. This is the date that your temporary restraining order (if issued) will expire, so it’s important to be aware of when that will be and decide whether or not you will request a long-term restraining order.
- File your forms. If the judge signs your order, the clerk will file it to officialize the order. While the clerk will keep the original copy for court records, you’ll be given 5 copies stamped “FILED.” If you need more copies, you’re welcome to make them yourself.
- Distribute the copies appropriately. Be sure to keep 1 copy for yourself and distribute a copy to anyone else protected under the restraining order. Keep your copy on your person at all times. Should the threatening person attempt to violate the conditions of the order, you may need to show your papers to law enforcement. It’s a good practice to leave copies at other locations that the threatening person isn’t allowed to be (such as a school, dwelling, or workplace).
Step 6: Serve papers to the restrained person.
The process of “serving” means delivering a copy of the papers you obtained from the court to the restrained person. A third person that is not yourself will be the one who serves the papers to the other party (known as the "server" or "process server"). The server must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Not be one of the protected person(s) under the order
Keep in mind that the judge cannot issue a permanent order until the restrained person has been served. In cases of domestic violence, you often have the option to have a member of law enforcement serve the papers for you.
Step 7: Prepare for your court hearing.
Lastly, it’s time to prepare for the hearing. Here are some best practices you can follow to make sure your hearing goes as smoothly as possible:
- Take 2 copies of all documents and filed forms (including Proof of Service) and any documents that prove the abuse. Helpful evidence to bring may include photographs of injury or damaged property, medical or police reports, and threatening letters or other forms of correspondence (such as texts, emails, or voicemail transcriptions).
- Fill out and bring your Order of Protection form (DV-130) to the hearing. Make sure you only fill out what you can. Don’t fill out blanks that entail what the judge orders, as this will be completed later on.
- Consider taking a friend, relative, or another supportive person with you.
- Verify if there is a children’s waiting room in the courthouse before the hearing. Most courts do not allow children, so it’s important to know this information ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.
- Don’t miss the hearing. Arrive 30 minutes early if possible. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the location (including where the courtroom is located inside the courthouse) to avoid tardiness.
- Practice what you intend to say. Consider voicing the orders you intend to request ahead of time to get comfortable. In court, keep your speaking time under 3 minutes if able.
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