Legal Dictionary


Domestic Violence Restraining Order

A Domestic Violence Restraining Order, also referred to as a "DVRO," is a civil protective court order aimed at stopping or preventing abuse and violence by prohibiting an abuser from having access to the victim and his or her family members. To obtain a Domestic Violence Restraining Order in California there needs to be a special relationship between the parties. Some of the relationships include: spouses; former spouses; cohabitants; persons related by blood or marriage; partners with a child in common; partners in dating relationships.

Domestic Violence is physical violence, threatened violence, and/or intimidation which occur in a relationship for the purposes of establishing control and fear in the relationship. Domestic Violence includes the following behaviors:

  • Stalking
  • Slapping
  • Shoving
  • Kicking
  • Choking
  • Biting
  • Throwing things
  • Threatening
  • Harassing
  • Intimidation
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Economic Abuse
  • Vandalism.

A person (victim) seeking a Domestic Violence Restraining Order must demonstrate to the court by a "preponderance of the evidence" that abuse has occurred, been attempted, or been threatened. The abuse required in this type of case is not only physical abuse but includes verbal abuse as well, such as words which induce fear or imminent harm. Some behaviors that courts recognize as supporting issuing a Domestic Violence Restraining Order include:

  • Causing or attempting physical injury
  • Harassment
  • Sexual assault
  • Vandalism
  • Stalking (including cyber stalking)
  • Kidnapping
  • Trespassing
  • Criminal Threats
  • Burglary
  • Annoying & repeated phone calls or texts.

A person seeking a Domestic Violence Restraining Order should first consult with an attorney and decide whether the victim will represent him or herself or hire an attorney. Hiring an experienced attorney is the best option because the abuser could take full advantage of the victim and probably escalate the violence or the abuse if the restraining order is not granted by the court.

The first order of business is to go to court and seek a Temporary Domestic Violence Restraining Order and tell the judge what occurred and why that person needs a restraining order. This person can ask the judge to issue a Temporary Domestic Violence Restraining Order without notifying the other party, until the court hearing. Most judges are inclined to issue the Temporary Domestic Violence Restraining Order if enough facts demonstrate the need for a restraining order. The temporary order is valid and in effect until the actual court hearing, which is usually scheduled for two or three weeks after issuing the Temporary Domestic Violence Restraining Order. The person obtaining the temporary order must have the court papers and Temporary Restraining Domestic Violence served on the other party within five days of the scheduled court hearing. It is after personal service that the Temporary Domestic Violence is in full force and effect.

At the court hearing, both parties are in court and in the presence of the judge. The victim must present evidence and argue to the court he or she is in need of a permanent restraining order. To prevail and obtain a permanent Domestic Violence Restraining Order, the victim must convince the judge by a "preponderance of the evidence" there is a high probability the violence or abuse will continue and hence the need for the permanent restraining order. If the judge believes abuse or domestic violence has occurred and there is a credible threat of abuse or violence in the future, the judge will likely issue a permanent restraining order for one to three years. Violating the restraining order is a criminal offense. The abuser can be subjected to criminal proceedings - a misdemeanor Contempt of Court punishable by up to one year in the county jail.

The California laws regarding Domestic Violence Restraining Orders are complicated and require the skill of an attorney experienced in restraining orders. Consult with an attorney earlier rather than later to learn about your rights and legal options.