In 2018, nearly 35% of California women (and over 30% of men), reported that they’d experienced some kind of intimate partner physical violence. During this time, domestic violence accounted for 20% percent of all violent crimes, and a staggering 65% of all murder-suicides between significant others.
These statistics are staggering, but they only cover a portion of what criminal and family law courts refer to as “domestic violence,” which includes more than just physical harm, but emotional abuse, as well.
In order to protect themselves, individuals in these situations need access to firm and immediate legal action. Which is why California allows these individuals to file for a specific kind of protective order known as a DVRO. This type of order can be awarded ex parte, and offers victims immediate protection from domestic violence.
Here’s what you need to know about filing for a DVRO in California, and what the Provinziano team can do to help keep you and your family safe.
What is a DVRO?
A DVRO—also known as a “domestic violence restraining order”—is a type of protection order that is specifically designed to shield victims of family and dating violence.
In California, this order can be used to:
- Restrain an abuser from either direct or indirect contact with you, your children, and/or your property.
- Restrain an abuser from harassing, stalking, threatening you, or disturbing your peace.
- Prohibit an abuser from owning a firearm (or ammunition).
- Order an abuser to leave a home that both of you share.
- Give a victim temporary child custody (pending the results of a formal child custody hearing).
A domestic violence restraining order allows law enforcement to act swiftly in emergency situations, and attaches immediate punishments for any violations.
Who Commits Domestic Violence?
Most of the time, we think of domestic violence as being initiated by either a spouse or other romantic partner. While these people definitely qualify, the list of potential abusers extends much farther.
In California, domestic violence can be committed by:
- A current or former spouse;
- A current or former boyfriend or girlfriend;
- Someone you have a child with;
- Someone you either live (or have lived) with; or,
- Someone you are related to through either blood or marriage.
What is Domestic Violence?
Just like the list of potential abusers is much larger than we typically think of for domestic violence, so too, are the types of acts that qualify.
In California, domestic violence occurs anytime someone from any of the aforementioned categories:
- Injures or attempts to injure you;
- Sexually assaults you;
- Makes you fear for the physical safety of either yourself, or a loved one;
- Molests, attacks, batters, or strikes you;
- Stalks you;
- Threatens or harasses you (either personally, or through a third party);
- Destroys your personal property; or,
- Disturbs your peace.
If you are experiencing this type of harm from a family member or significant other, don’t wait. A domestic violence restraining order can help protect you and your children from future harm, and give you the legal recourse you need to see that it doesn’t happen again.
How to Get a DVRO in California
There are two main types of DVRO in California.
First, there is a temporary DVRO, which does not require a hearing, and can be awarded ex parte (meaning, “without the other party present”). These orders are temporary, and will only last until you can have a full DVRO hearing (generally within two weeks).
The second, is a permanent DVRO. This order will be tailored to protect from specific types of harm over a longer period of time, and usually lasts for about five years (though, it can be extended indefinitely, under certain circumstances).
When you file for protection, your judge will review the immediate evidence, and likely issue a temporary DVRO within one to two days. At that time, you’ll also be assigned a hearing, in order to determine whether or not a permanent DVRO is necessary.
To obtain a domestic violence restraining order in California, you should follow these steps:
1. Complete Your Forms
To initiate the process, download and complete all the necessary forms. These documents can be found either through your attorney, or via the court’s website.
When filling out the information, be sure to provide as much information as possible, along with any evidence you have (such as photos or medical reports).
2. Submit Your Completed Forms
Once complete, return your completed forms—along with all evidence—to your clerk. In California, you do not have to pay a filing fee for a DVRO.
3. Wait for Judicial Review
A judge will review your request either that same day, or within the next judicial business day. At this time, they will either grant you a temporary DVRO, or deny your claim, altogether.
While it’s always possible they could deny, it’s quite common for temporary DVROs to be granted whenever they are requested.
If approved, the clerk will schedule a date for your permanent DVRO hearing.
4. Complete Proper Service
While an accused does not need to be notified to receive a temporary DVRO, will need to be notified about your permanent DVRO hearing, since—by law—they have the right to appear and present their side of the story.
For it to be valid, this notification must be completed via proper service.
5. Attend Your Hearing
A hearing gives you the chance to explain what kind of protection you want, and why. Any supporting evidence you have will help the judge make their decision, so it’s important to be as detailed as possible.
At this time, the accused will have the chance to tell their side, and to present opposing evidence, if relevant.
6. File Your DVRO with the Clerk
If the judge approves your permanent DVRO, you will need to file it with the clerk before it’s enforceable. You will also need to deliver a copy to the accused (via proper service).
While not required, it’s also a good idea to deliver copies to other parties, such as school staff, local police departments, or anyone else protected by the order. That way they know how to respond, if a violation ever occurs.
Violating a DVRO
Once finalized, a DVRO is backed by the full force of the law. This makes the restrictions fully enforceable, and any violation can result in serious financial and legal consequences, including jail time.
In California, if an abuser violates a DVRO, then then you have two avenues for recourse:
1. Call the Police
Disobeying a court order is a criminal act. This violation is tantamount to breaking the law, meaning that your first recourse should be to call the police. Show the responding officers a certified copy of your order, and have your perpetrator arrested.
2. File a Claim with Civil Court
The second option is to file a claim of “contempt” in civil court for the willful violation of a legal court order. If upheld, the restrained can be punished with five days of jail time for each violation.
Contempt of court is a serious charge, and one that is difficult to prove. If it’s something you’re interested in, it’s important to discuss your options with an experienced attorney.
Do You Need a DVRO in California?
Whether you need help filing a DVRO, or believe that you have been unfairly served with a protective order, it’s important to have an attorney you can trust—someone who will fight tirelessly for both your safety and your rights. Which is why we hope you’ll choose us.
For more questions on how to file a DVRO in California, we want to hear from you. Call Provinziano & Associates at (310) 237-6179, or get in touch online, and let our team of experienced attorneys help keep you and your family safe from future harm.