Domestic Violence

Forms

No. You do not have to have a lawyer when you go to court. In California, several hundred thousand people each year go to court without a lawyer. This is called being in "pro per" -- the legal term for a person representing him or herself without a lawyer. However, some cases are complicated. This is when a lawyer can be most helpful.

You may find that you need a lawyer if:

  • anyone involved has an estate with substantial assets;
  • anyone involved lives outside of California;
  • there are some other legal proceedings going on at the same time;
  • anyone involved has special needs (physically/emotionally disabled);
  • anyone involved is a member of the armed services, or
  • anyone involved is Native American (in which case, federal laws may apply).

Lawyers are trained to research the intent of laws and judicial decisions and apply the law to the specific circumstances you face. In addition to skills in legal research, a lawyer will usually have:

  • familiarity with courtroom rules and procedures;
  • an understanding of when a witness is needed, and how he or she should be prepared for a trial;
  • an understanding of when an expert, consultant, or investigator is needed – where to find such a person, and how much is reasonable to pay; and
  • experience with different strategies for effective presentation of a case in court.

If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer there are several options that may help.

  1. Every superior court in California has legal help available in family law and in small claims cases. Several superior courts can also help you with other legal issues. Find out what services are available at your court.
  2. There are legal aid offices in many cities throughout California. These are non-profit organizations that provide free legal services to people below a certain income level. Find legal aid offices in your area and find out what areas of law they cover.
  3. If you don’t have much money but the other party in your case does, the court might order the other party to pay for some or all of your lawyer’s fees. (You would have to ask the court for this. It is not automatic.)
  4. Many bar associations have Modest Means Panels made up of lawyers who will take certain kinds of cases for a reduced fee. (You would have to find your local bar association and ask if it could help you with this.)
  5. You may be able to find a lawyer who will coach you on representing yourself (called "coaching"), or who will only handle (and charge you for) the more complicated parts of your case. This is called "limited scope representation" or "unbundled legal services.” (Your local bar association may have a list of lawyers who do limited scope representation.)

Generally, lawyers specialize in a particular area of the law. They may specialize in trial law (civil or criminal), bankruptcy law, elder law, family law, etc. When working with a lawyer, it is important to know his or her specialty.

NOTE: A lawyer cannot represent you in Small Claims court but they may help you prepare for your case.

If you decide to hire a lawyer, make sure you understand:

  • what you will be paying for,
  • how much it will cost, and
  • when you will be expected to pay your bill.

You may want to talk to several attorneys before you hire one.

You can also find attorneys listed in the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory, or through the internet.

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Anyone, including an angry spouse, could report you to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at any time. It is not, however, an automatic step in the court process to make such a report. This does not mean that it could never happen. But you do not need to be afraid that ICE will be notified, as a matter of course, if you file for a restraining order.

If you don't speak English, you can ask the court clerk for an interpreter. If one is not available, bring someone to interpret for you. Do not use a child to interpret for you.

You should be aware of a special provision in the laws governing immigration and naturalization that may apply to you. If your immigration status is dependent on your spouse and you are a victim of domestic violence, you may be able to "self-petition" for legal status under the federal Violence Against Women Act.

The Restraining Order is valid whether you have a green card or not. If you are worried about being deported, talk to an immigration lawyer.

There are many ways to find legal help. It's not always easy - sometimes you might have to talk to several people before you get help. If you talk to someone but they can't help you, ask them who can. Keep asking until you get the help you need.

For free and low-cost legal help:

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A safety plan covers steps a person must take to keep him or herself, and any children, safe from domestic violence. Although each safety plan is different, these are questions each person should consider before requesting a Domestic Violence Restraining Order:

Where will you live?

  • Should you leave your home?
  • Should you ask the court to order the person you want restrained to leave?
  • If you leave:
    • How and when will you leave?
    • When and where will you go?
    • What will you take?
  • If you leave:
    • Will you need to keep your plans secret?
    • Find a place to store your things until you are ready to go?

Where will your children live?

  • If the person you want protection from is also the parent of any of your children, you need to get advice from an attorney, the district attorney, or a domestic violence counselor about the rights and responsibilities that each of you has.

What important documents will you need?

  • You should keep certified copies of your Restraining Order with you at all times.
  • Keep copies of other important papers if you move or go to live in a shelter.

What emotional support or counseling will help you and your family members?

  • Domestic Violence hotlines, shelters, and other counseling resources can be very helpful in trying to assess how dangerous your situation is. You might also contact your doctor, religious leader, your local police or sheriff's department, or you county's department of human or social services for more referrals.

For some suggestions and resources for where you can turn for help, see the information on Domestic Violence resources.

Read an information sheet called "Can a DVRO Help Me?" (DV-500-INFO) in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese.

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In California, abuse is:

  • intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury OR
  • sexual assault OR
  • threats or promises to harm a person OR
  • engaging in harassing, molesting, stalking, threatening, striking, battering, or disturbing the peace against some one.

Read an information sheet called "Can a DVRO Help Me?" (DV-500-INFO) in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese.

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Domestic Violence Restraining Orders can be an important part of a plan to protect a person, his or her children, or other people who live with him or her.

  • The person seeking protection will not have to pay a filing fee to get a Domestic Violence Restraining Order from the court.

It can be hard, though, to decide if, or when, to ask a judge for a Restraining Order. If you aren't sure whether you want to end your relationship or get back together with the person you want to be restrained, you should be aware that while the Restraining Order is in effect, you must be prepared to not see or talk to that person.

Consider talking with the staff at a domestic violence shelter or hotline.

Sometimes, when you decide to get a restraining order, move out, or get help, the other person might try to make you stay by hurting or scaring you. This is why safety plans are so important.

To read an information sheet called "Can a DVRO Help Me?" (DV-500-INFO) in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese, click on the language you need:

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IF YOU NEED PROTECTION RIGHT NOW, call 911,

or

  • a local law enforcement agency, or
  • a domestic violence shelter, or
  • the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-799-SAFE.

Get more Domestic Violence information and resources.

Emergency Protective Orders

  • Any police officer can call a judge and get Emergency Protective Orders (EPO's) 24 hours a day. Tell the police officer what happened and why you're afraid.
  • There is no cost to you for this service.
  • The EPO goes into effect immediately.

The Emergency Protective Order can:

  • order the abusive person to move out of the home;
  • order him or her to stay away from you and your place of work;
  • order him or her to not see your children, at least on a temporary basis.

An Emergency Protective Order only lasts up to 7 (seven) days.

If you want protection for longer than 7 days, you must go to court to request the Domestic Violence Protection Act Restraining Order.

There are also restraining orders, not covered on this site, which can be issued by the criminal, civil, juvenile, and probate courts.

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Domestic Violence Restraining Orders only apply when the abuse is between people who live together, share children, or are in a close relationship.

Harassment or abuse by neighbors, co-workers, or others is covered by civil harassment restraining orders instead.

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A Restraining Order is a court order.

It can require the person to stop threatening a person with whom he or she has a close relationship, or beating him or her, or his or her children, or the people who live with him or her. Restraining Orders can also tell someone to:

  • stop calling,
  • move out,
  • stay away from where the person seeking protection lives or works,
  • give up all firearms and ammunition,
  • limit the time he or she spends with their children,
  • pay certain bills,
  • pay child support,
  • release or return certain property, or
  • pay some or all of the attorney fees for the person seeking protection.

If a person seeking protection gets a Restraining Order, he or she can ask a police officer, sheriff's deputy, or other law enforcement officer to make the person to be restrained do what the Order says.

These Orders can last for as little as a week, or as long as five years.

NOTE: If someone gets a Restraining Order, he or she should be ready to not see or talk to the person to be restrained as long as the Restraining Order is in effect.

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You may seek a domestic violence restraining order as long as you have one of the following relationships with the abuser:

  • Current or former spouses.
  • Current or former domestic partners.
  • People who live together.
  • People who used to live together.
  • Dating/engagement relationship.
  • Former dating/engagement relationship.
  • Co-parents.
  • Child/Parent relationship.
  • Any other family relationship to the 2nd degree.

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YES. A child may get a Restraining Order.

  • A child under the age of 12 years may appear in court to request or oppose a restraining order. They will need to have someone appointed by the court to file the paperwork and appear in court on their behalf. This person is called a "guardian ad litem."
  • A child over 12 may appear in court to request or oppose a restraining order. They do not need a "guardian ad litem."
  • The child must meet all of the normal requirements for a restraining order.

If the child is living with a parent or guardian, and does not have a gurdian ad litem, the court must send a copy of the protective order to a parent or guardian picked by the child. This is true unless the court decides that telling the parent or guardian about the restraining order would not be in the best interests of the child.

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You cannot restrain more than one person on the Temporary Restraining Order.

You must complete separate paperwork for each individual person you want restrained. In some situations this will mean you would file a request for a domestic violence restraining order. In other situations it means that you would file a request for a civil harassment restraining order.

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The answer here depends upon what orders the petitioner has requested, and what orders the judge has approved.

To know for sure, carefully read the court order and see what actions have been included as something the restrained person cannot do to the person who asked for the order, or to anyone else covered by the order. Look for the check marks or an "X" on the DV-110 (pages 1-5) for what has been included in your order.

The full list behaviors or actions that a restrained person can be made to stop include:

  • molesting
  • attacking
  • striking
  • stalking
  • threatening
  • sexually assaulting
  • battering
  • harassing
  • telephoning
  • destroying personal property
  • contacting either directly or indirectly through a 3rd person or by mail
  • coming within a specified distance of the other party (usually 100 yards, the length of a football field)
  • disturbing the peace of the other party
  • possessing, buying, receiving or in any other way getting guns or other firearms and ammunition.

The respondent may also be ordered to:

  • leave/move out of a shared dwelling ("kick-out order")
  • stay away from the couple's children (at least until a hearing can be had)
  • turn in or sell all guns and ammunition in their possession
  • give over exclusive use of certain property to the Petitioner (at least until the hearing)

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A judge may include other orders with the restraining orders:

Child custody and visitation orders: If the parties have children together, the judge can decide where the children will live and how/if the children will spend time with the other parent.

Parentage: The judge can accept an agreement to parentage and enter a Judgment of Parentage.

Removal of child: The judge can restrict either or both parents from traveling or moving outside of the area with the children.

Child support: The judge may order one parent to pay child support.

Spousal/Partner support: If the parties are married or in a registered domestic partnership, the judge may make an order for spousal or partner support.

Property control: The judge may give a party exclusive use of certain things that they own together.

Give up guns and ammunition: The judge can order the person to be restrained to sell or give any guns and ammunition they own to a law enforcement agency during the time the restraining order is in effect. The judge can also order him or her not to buy a gun while the restraining order is in effect.

Restitution: The person seeking protection may ask the judge to order the restrained person to pay back lost earnings or other expenses that are a result of the domestic violence.

Counseling: The person seeking protection may ask the judge to order the restrained person to attend a "certified batterers treatment program" or other counseling service.

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Generally, the court must issue or deny temporary restraining orders on the same day that the request was filed. (Or, if the request was filed too late in the day for effective review, the order must be issued or denied on the next day.) (See California Family Code, Section 246.)

If the judge feels the situation is not urgent and so does not issue temporary restraining orders right away, the court will schedule a hearing to consider the matter.

The hearing to decide whether or not the court will order “permanent” restraining orders (5 years) should be scheduled within 21 days from the date that the request was filed.

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All restraining orders have a time limit.

  • If the judge grants the request for a Temporary Restraining Order, it will will be good until the Order to Show Cause hearing on the restraining order, which is usually about 3 weeks. Then it will end.
  • At the hearing, the court can issue a Restraining Order that will last up to 5 years.

The person requesting protection can later ask the court to renew that Restraining Order, either for another 5 years or permanently, whether or not there has been any more violence or threats of violence.

  • If there is a need for a renewal, the person requesting protection should apply for it at any time within the three months BEFORE his or her original Restraining Order runs out by using a:
    • Request to Renew Restraining Order (Form DV-700)

To read an information sheet called "How Do I Ask the Court to Renew My Restraining Order?" (DV-700-INFO) in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese, click on the language you need:

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Once a person seeking protection files forms with the court, a hearing will be scheduled. There is no way to "drop charges" before the trial.

  • If the person seeking protection changes his or her mind about requesting a Restraining Order, he or she might consider talking to a counselor or attorney before dropping the request.
  • The case will automatically be dropped if the person seeking protection does not attend the Order to Show Cause hearing.

If the person requesting protection changes his or her mind AFTER the hearing and Orders have been made by the judge, the petitioner MUST file forms to change (modify) or drop (dismiss) the restraining order.

NOTE: It is important to file these forms so that the other person is not charged with violating a court order.

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In California, the process the court uses to establish a DV Restraining Order involves three basic steps:

  1. Someone files a request for a Restraining Order in a court.
  2. The court may conduct a search to find out if the person to be restrained has outstanding warrants, or is currently on parole or probation.
  3. The judge reviews the case and makes a decision that reasonably protects those involved from future violence, usually after a hearing.

NOTE: The court will not start a domestic violence restraining order case on its own, nor will it follow up with the case after a Restraining Order has been issued.

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In California, a Domestic Violence Restraining Order process normally gets started when someone asks for protection by filing papers with a court clerk.

  • Forms asking for protection are available at courthouses, or may be found on our forms page.
  • For a list of courthouses and their locations in Contra Costa County, California, see our Information on Domestic Violence Cases page.

You can file your forms with the court either in person or by mail.

  • Most people choose to file in person, so that nothing gets lost and they can get their orders as soon as possible, and so if there is a problem with their paperwork they can fix it on th
  • If you file by mail, it will take a few extra days, and you must send an extra copy of each form and a stamped, self-addressed envelope so the court clerk can mail you an official (filed) copy of each form.

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A person seeking protection may write "address confidential due to domestic violence" on his or her court forms.

You can obtain a substitute mailing address for your official documents by visiting the California Secretary of State's website: Safe at Home Program.

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A victim-survivor of domestic violence may apply for a Safe At Home program, which is run by the Secretary of State's office in California. The Safe At Home program will give you a substitute mailing address to use on official documents, including:

  • your court papers
  • your driver's license
  • your voter registration papers, and,
  • if you decide to get married while on the program, your address will remain confidential on those documents as well.

Any first-class or government mail sent to you at that address will be forwarded within 48 hours.

  • Any Service of Process delivered to the address also will be passed on to you.
  • If you follow the rules, you can use the address for up to 4 years.

Get more information about enrolling in this no-cost mail forwarding service.

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There is no charge to file papers at the court for a person seeking protection with a Domestic Violence Restraining Order.

However, if the person seeking protection wants the sheriff or marshall to "serve" their papers at no charge, he or she needs to fill out the fee waiver forms below.

First, read the information sheet and then fill out Forms FW-001 and FW-003:

  • Information Sheet on Waiver of Court Fees and Costs (Form FW-001-INFO)
  • Application for Waiver of Court Fees and Costs (Form FW-001)
  • See the instructions for this form.
  • Order on Application for Waiver of Court Fees and Costs (Form FW-003)
    See the instructions for this form.
NOTE: These forms are confidential forms for the court. Do not have them served on the person to be restrained.

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NO. It is the responsibility of each person to find someone 18 years old or older, that is not involved in the case, to personally serve the other party.

  • For example, the person who wants protection must find someone 18 years old or older to hand the Restraining Orders to the person to be restrained.
  • And, if the person to be restrained wants to "answer", he or she must find someone 18 years old or older to serve the person who want protection.

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Court forms can be "served" by anyone over 18 years of age that is not involved in the case.

  • This may be a friend, relative, the county sheriff, or a professional process server.

If you hire a "professional process server" to serve the other party in the case, it will cost money.

  • It helps to give the process server a picture of the person you want served, and a list of times and places when it will be easier to find the person.
  • You might also try to find a process server who is close to where the person you want served lives or works, since a process server's fee is often based on how far he or she has to travel to serve your forms.
NOTE: If you cannot afford to pay to have your court papers served, you may file a Fee Waiver Application (Form FW-001) with the court.
See the instructions for this form.
  • The judge may waive your fee so that the sheriff or marshal will serve your papers for free.
  • If the person to be served is in jail, there is no fee to have the person served.

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If ythe person to be restrained cannot be served by the hearing, complete and file the forms below to continue your temporary orders.

  • Request to Continue Court Hearing and Reissue Temporary Restraining Order (Form DV-115)
  • Notice of New Hearing and Order on Reissuance (Form DV-116)

It is best to do this BEFORE your hearing date. If you are filing these new forms on the same day as your court hearing, you should bring them with you to the hearing so that the judge can sign the order right then.

Otherwise, you will have to prepare all the papers and start the process all over again.

To read an information & instructions sheet called "How to Ask for a New Hearing Date" (DV-115-INFO) in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese.

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The person to be restrained does not have to attend the court hearing.

If he or she does not come to court, the hearing will probably be short. IF the person seeking protection properly filed a "Proof of Service" form -- which shows that the person to be restrained knew about the hearing:

  • the judge will review the request for Permanent Restraining Orders;
  • ask the person seeking protection some questions, and
  • make a decision about whether or not to approve the request.

If the person seeking protection does NOT have a copy of the "Proof of Service" form with them, or if he or she didn't get the other person "served" in time, nothing can be decided that day. Another hearing will have to be held at a later date.

If the hearing is postponed:

The judge can be asked to sign a "Notice of New Hearing and Order on Reissuance" (DV-116) so that the Restraining Oder will continue in effect until a new hearing can be held.

  • Request to Continue Court Hearing and Reissue Temporary Restraining Order (Form DV-115)
  • Notice of New Hearing and Order on Reissuance (Form DV-116)

To read an information & instructions sheet called "How to Ask for a New Hearing Date" (DV-115-INFO) in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese, click on the language you need:

IMPORTANT: If a "Notice of New Hearing and Order on Reissuance" form is not gotten, the person seeking protection will have to start the process all over again.

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The person seeking protection MUST attend the court hearing.

If the person seeking protection is not in court by the time his or her case is called, the judge will probably have the case "dropped from the calendar." This means:

  • All Temporary Restraining Orders will end.
  • The request by the person seeking protection to receive Permanent Orders will not be heard.
  • If the person seeking protection wants the court to issue Restraining Orders in the future, he or she will need to start the process again with a new set of forms.

However:

If the person seeking protection knows ahead of time that he or she cannot attend the hearing, he or she can request that the hearing date be changed. To do this you need to fill out and file:

  • Request to Continue Court Hearing and Reissue Temporary Restraining Order (Form DV-115)
  • Notice of New Hearing and Order on Reissuance (Form DV-116)

To read an information & instructions sheet called "How to Ask for a New Hearing Date" (DV-115-INFO) in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese, click on the language you need:

If granted, this "Notice of New Hearing and Order on Reissuance" (Form DV-116) will keep in effect any Temporary Restraining Orders the person seeking protection has until the new court hearing date.

IMPORTANT: If a "Notice of New Hearing and Order on Reissuance" form is not gotten, the person seeking protection will have to start the process all over again.

You may bring a witness to court to testify if the person is properly qualified and the information he or she will provide is relevant to the issues. You may also give the court written testimony of a witness that is prepared as a declaration. You may use this form:

If you decide to bring a witness, give some thought to what you expect him or her to say, and how that is important to the orders you want the court to make. Remember that the court time is usually very limited, so be sure the information the witness will provide is helpful and relevant.

Prepare, file and serve a witness list

If you intend to call live witnesses at your hearing you must prepare a witness list before the hearing. This list must include the names of all witnesses you intend to call, as well as a brief description of their expected testimony.

Once you have finished this list:

  • Make two copies of the list - one for the court and one for your spouse or partner. Then take (or mail) the original and two copies to the court to be filed by a court clerk.
  • You must serve a copy of this list on your spouse or partner.
  • Make sure your witnesses know how to find the court and what time to be there. It might be a good idea to give them a copy of the checklist on this website for how to dress and how to behave in court.

NOTE: If you do NOT file and serve a witness list before the hearing, the court may postpone your hearing to a later time. The court could also make temporary orders to be obeyed until the new hearing takes place.

California Rules of Court, Rule 1.100 allows lawyers, parties, witnesses, jurors, or other people with a disability to make confidential requests for accommodations from the court.

If you have a disability (as defined by the Americans with Disability Act) and would like to request an accommodation, you may fill out a:

  • Request for Accommodations by Persons With Disabilities and Response (Form MC-410)
    See the instructions for this form.
  • You can also make a request for an accommodation by writing a short letter to the court OR
  • You can go to the court, ask a clerk for the form, fill it out, and return it to the clerk that same day.

Requests can be made at any time, although you should give the court at least 5 court days’ notice if possible.

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If the restrained person violates the Order by committing or threatening domestic violence, or tries in any way to get the protected person's address or location, the protected person should contact a law enforcement agency. The restrained person may be arrested, charged with a crime, and put in jail.

IF the violation occurs BEFORE the first court hearing:

The protected person must have with them a certified copy of: (the copy given to him or her by the court clerk)

  • the Temporary Restraining Order (Form DV-110)

    OR
  • the Restraining Order After Hearing (CLETS) (Form DV-130)

Along with any attachments such as:

  • the Child Custody and Visitation Order (Form DV-140)

    AND
  • the filed copy of the Proof of Service (Form DV-200)

The police officer or sheriff's deputy will read the court order to see if it has been violated. He or she will then decide what action to take to enforce the court order.

If the restrained person is arrested and criminal charges are filed, the protected person may be asked to go to the criminal court to tell what happened.

It may be several weeks or months before the criminal case is called and the protected person is asked to tell about what happened.

Therefore, it would be easier to remember things for the hearing if the protected person wrote down everything that happened just as soon as possible after things calm down.

If the restrained person violates other provisions of the order (such as child support or property control), the protected person can contact:

To read an information sheet called "How to Enforce Your Order" (DV-530-INFO) in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese, click the language you need:

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If you are being protected by a DV Restraining Order and move out of California, you must contact law enforcement agencies in your new location so so that they know to enforce your Orders.

  • Bring them a certified copy of your Orders.
  • Also, provide copies to your children's new schools or daycare providers.

The Restraining Order is enforceable in every state, territory, or Indian reservation.

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Only a Judge can change or cancel a Restraining Order.

All Restraining Orders have a time limit.

  • If the judge grants the request for a Temporary Restraining Order, it will last until the Order to Show Cause hearing on the Restraining Order, which is usually about three weeks.
  • After that, the court can issue a Restraining Order that will last up to five years.

The person requesting protection can later ask the court to renew that Restraining Order, either for another five years or permanently, whether or not there has been any more violence or threats of violence.

  • If there is a need for a renewal, the person requesting protection should apply for it within the three months BEFORE his or her original Restraining Order runs out by filling out and filing a:
    • Request to Renew Restraining Order (Form DV-700).

Read an information sheet called "How Do I Ask the Court to Renew My Restraining Order?" (DV-700-INFO) in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese.

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If the person who asked for protection changes his or her mind -- after the hearing, but before the time limit for the Restraining Order has run out - he or she must file forms with the court.

  • There are forms to change (modify) the Restraining Order.
  • There are other forms to drop (dismiss/vacate) the Restraining Order.

NOTE: It is very important that the person who asked for protection files these forms with the court so that the restrained person is not charged with violating a court order.

  • The restrained person also CAN ask for the Orders to be modified.
  • The restrained person CANNOT ask for the Orders to be dropped.

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Child support is the amount of money that the court orders one parent to pay the other parent every month for the support of the child(ren).

  • California has a formula (called a "guideline") for figuring out how much child support should be paid in all cases.

Child support payments are usually made until children turn 18, or 19 if they are still in high school full time, living at home, and can't support themselves.

  • Parents may agree to support a child longer.
  • The court may also order that both parents continue to support a disabled adult child that is not self-supporting

If the judge signed Domestic Violence "Child Support Orders", collection can be through wage assignment.

If the protected person (a) completed and filed the following forms, (b) the judge signed them, (c) they were filed with the court clerk after the hearing, and (d) copies were "served" on the restrained person, then (e) copies of the forms can be sent to the restrained person's employer:

  • Child Support Order (Form DV-160), and a
  • Order/ Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support (Form FL-195)
  • The address for the employer can be found on the pay stub or W-2 form that was attached to the restrained person's "Income and Expense Declaration," or the "Financial Statement (Simplified)".

These forms tell the restrained person's employer how much money to withhold from the paycheck for child support, and where the money should be sent.

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If you have children and CANNOT agree about custody and visitation:

The protected person and the restrained person will have to go to mediation through Family Court Services if they have children and CANNOT agree about custody and visitation.

  • The protected person has the right to bring a support person to mediation.
  • He or she can also ask the mediator to meet separately with him or her (and the support person) without the restrained person being present.

Mediation gives parents a chance to work out how they will share time with their children and how decisions that affect the children will be made.

  • The court has child custody mediators available at no cost to the parents.
  • If the parents reach an agreement, the mediator may write it up so that each can sign it and give it to the judge.

If the parents still can't agree, the court might do one or more of the following things:

  • Ask the mediator to recommend a parenting plan he or she thinks would be in the child's best interests;
  • Appoint an investigator or evaluator to tell what parenting plan he or she thinks would be in the child's best interests; or
  • Conduct a trial where the parents will have the chance to tell what each thinks would be best for their children, including calling witnesses, and then have the judge make a decision in the case.

It may be that "supervised visitation" is recommended. "Supervised visitation" means the child can visit the other parent IF another adult is present.

  • Ask your mediator if there is a "supervised visitation center" where you live.
  • If there is no center in your area, talk with your mediator about other options.

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What is "custody?"

"Custody" means:

  • who the child lives with and
  • who makes important decisions for the child about his or her health care, education, and other important things. This is often called a "parenting plan."

What is "child custody mediation?"

When parents cannot agree on who will have "custody" of their children, the judge will probably send them to mediation.

What is a "mediator?"

Mediators work for the courts. They are specially trained to help parents make parenting plans that are good for the children.

  • Mediators know how to work with couples that are separated, and they are trained to understand domestic violence.
  • If you are worried about your safety, or your children's safety, tell the mediator. You can ask to speak with the mediator alone.

What will the mediator do?

The mediator will try to help both parents make a plan that:

  • is safe for both parents and the children;
  • explains how the parents have agreed they will make decisions about the children;
  • states when the children will be with each parent.

What is a "child custody recommending counselor?"

In some counties in California (including Contra Costa County), if the parents can't agree, the mediator might make a recommendation to the court regarding what child custody and visitation plan he or she believes will be in a child's best interests. In these "recommending counties," the mediator is called a "child custody recommending counselor."

  • When these mediators made a recommendation, it must be in writing, and a copy given to each parent, any attorneys involved, and the judge.
  • The recommendation will state what custody orders the child custody recommending counselor believes will be in the best interests of the child, and why.