November 23, 2014
Domestic Violence: How Do I Get a Restraining Order?

Important note: A domestic violence restraining order is not a divorce. You must file for divorce separately.

 

Qualifying for the Order

You must meet certain requirements to be able to qualify for a restraining order:

  • (a) the other person must have recently threatened you or a minor with physical harm or actually physically harmed you or the minor; and
  • (b) you have some sort of intimate relationship with the restrained person (married, formerly married, related by blood or marriage or adoption, live together or formerly lived together, have had a dating or engagement relationship, or are parents together of a minor child). If you do not meet these qualifications, you may still be able to obtain a restraining order to prevent "harassment."

The Sheriff's Office will provide service of process, free of charge on all restraining orders.

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Obtaining the Order

To obtain a restraining order, you must complete the paperwork for the judge's signature and file the order at the courthouse. The temporary restraining order must be personally served to the restrained person by someone over 18 years but not you or anyone else named in the restraining order. The order is effective as soon as the judge signs it and lasts until the court date (usually three weeks from the filing date).

For help filling out the forms to request a Domestic Violence Restraining Order, please go to Bay Area Legal Aid's Domestic Violence Restraining Order Clinic.

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What Happens at the Court Hearing

You need to attend the hearing, even if the restrained person has said he or she would not attend. You can request that the restraining orders continue for a period of up to three years. In addition to the restraining orders , the court can make orders about child custody and visitation/child support, debt payments, restitution by the restrained person for your lost wages and out-of-pocket expense s related to the violence, attorney's fees, and batterer's counseling. The court will make its orders based on your statements in the Temporary Restraining order, other writte statements of both parties, testimony in court, the recommendations of Family Court Services, (if you have minor children in common and there is a dispute about custody and/or visitation), and other evidence either party brings to the hearing, such as photographs.

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Enforcing the Order

The orders are valid throughout the State of California. The orders may also be enforced in other states if registered correctly in those other states. You should keep a copy of the orders with you at all times. It is your responsibility to enforce the order by refusing telephone calls from the restrained person, not allowing the restrained person into your home or workplace, and reporting violations to the police. A violation of the restraining order is a misdemeanor and the police may arrest the abuser even if they did not witness the violation. Felony charges may also be brought. You may also file contempt charges in civil court if the restrained person violates the order, in addition to or instead of criminal sanctions.

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© 2014 Superior Court of San Mateo County