If you are in an abusive relationship, a domestic violence restraining order may be an important step in finding help and safety from abuse. The following article offers some basic information about restraining orders as well as some local helplines for further assistance. Please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for immediate and more comprehensive assistance www.thehotline.org or 1-800-779-7233.
1. What is a domestic violence restraining order?
A domestic violence restraining order protects a person from domestic abuse by ordering the abuser to stay away from the victim for a period of time. The abuser may be ordered to stop communicating with the victim or to communicate in a certain way. The purpose is to separate the individuals to protect the victim’s safety and also to provide a “time-out” during which the parties can try to resolve the causes of the violence.
This type of order is also called a DVPA restraining order.
2. What is DVPA?
DVPA stands for Domestic Violence Protection Act. This is the California law enacted to prevent acts of domestic violence, abuse, and sexual abuse.
3. How is “abuse” defined under California law?
The DVPA defines abuse as:
- Intentionally or recklessly causing bodily injury
- Intentionally or recklessly attempting to cause bodily injury
- Sexual assault
- Causing a person to reasonably fear imminent serious bodily injury to herself or someone else
4. Are there other types of restraining orders?
Yes, there are restraining orders other than domestic violence restraining orders. Civil harassment restraining orders and elder abuse restraining orders are a couple of examples.
A domestic violence restraining order is to protect a person from a family member or household member.
5. How do I prove to the judge that I need a domestic violence restraining order?
You will need to show that you are in reasonable fear for your safety due to past violence or abuse. Past physical violence is not a requirement; if the person’s behavior is sufficient to make a reasonable person fear for her safety, that behavior is enough to support a court ordered restraining order.
You will need to give specific examples of the abuser’s behavior. (Just telling the judge that he makes you afraid is not enough.) If you have other witnesses who can corroborate your testimony, their testimony can be helpful.
The DVPA lists several types of specific behaviors that can constitute domestic abuse. These include: molesting, attacking, striking, threatening, sexually assaulting, harassing, and destroying personal property.
6. Is it difficult to obtain a domestic violence restraining order?
It isn’t “easy” to get a restraining order against someone. And it shouldn’t be. Freedom to choose where one goes and to whom one speaks is a civil right. Taking that right away is serious and should only be done in limited ways to protect another person’s safety.
A court, therefore, needs to be convinced that a person’s safety truly needs to be protected. Sometimes it can appear that a person is just trying to punish another with threats of a restraining order. A judge must be able to make a decision based on credible evidence that a restraining order is necessary to protect the person’s safety.
7. Getting a domestic violence restraining order.
If you feel you need to request a restraining order, call an attorney to discuss the best way to proceed. Likely, a request for a temporary restraining order should be filed immediately. Whether granted or not, you will be given a hearing date where the judge will consider evidence and decide whether to order a “permanent” restraining order (which isn’t really permanent but can last up to five years).
You can use self-help clinics at the courthouse if you want to file a request for a domestic violence restraining order without legal assistance (in pro per). Consider consulting with an attorney or hiring an attorney to represent you at the hearing. An attorney can help you present the evidence in a clear, persuasive way which may help the judge better understand the abusive situation.
8. Do whatever you need to do to be safe.
If you are in physical danger, call 911. If you fear for your safety or the safety of others in your household, leave and find a safe place—a shelter, a friend’s home. If you don’t know where to go, call Orange County Domestic Violence Hotline at 714-992-1931 or Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Safety Plan Hotline 800-978-3600.
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