California, like all states, has a serious problem with domestic violence. Unfortunately, it is not clear how to stop this societal trend. But those who are suffering from actual or threatened domestic violence can seek to get a restraining order. Courts in each California county can issue a domestic violence restraining order. Such an order forbids the alleged abuser from engaging in the activity and can even forbid any sort of communication from the abuser to the victim.
While it is possible to go to a lawyer and get personal help for filing a restraining order, that generally costs money. Because the state knows that domestic violence needs to be stopped as quickly as possible. state laws now allow a victim to file a California restraining order for free. The courts also provide limited assistance in helping a victim file the proper forms. Although it is always advisable to speak to an attorney, California domestic violence victims can follow a few simple steps to petition for an order.
Each California county has a court clerk. This clerk has forms for requesting a restraining order. You do not have to pay for these forms or a filing fee. Just ask the court clerk for forms to file a temporary restraining order.
To find the court clerk, you can go to Google or another search engine. Enter your county name and “court clerk” to find the local clerk. You can then search around the clerk’s website (it may be a section on the county’s website) for an address and phone number. Call if you have any questions about California restraining orders or how to file for one.
The California courts have an online Self-Help Center with forms for TRO’s (temporary restraining orders). You can see a link in the Resources below. However, the problem is that each county could use localized restraining-order petition forms. Look at these online forms to get an idea of what kinds of information you need to request a California restraining order (you will almost always be asking for a temporary restraining order because it takes effect as soon as the abuser is served notice). But you should then make sure you get the proper local forms from the county court clerk.
Fill out the forms and give them back to the clerk. The staff there will then schedule you for a hearing. You will then go in front of a judge or other court official and explain why you need a temporary restraining order. Make sure you give every instance of actual domestic violence or threats of violence. In California, you will receive a TRO if the judge feels that you need immediate protection.
Schedule a second hearing. You will now need to convince a judge that you need a full California restraining order. In the meantime, the abuser will be served notice of the restraining order on your behalf.
Show up at the hearing with any witnesses to the domestic violence or other behavior. The abuser does have a right to attend this hearing. So you may wish to bring along someone for moral and emotional support. As long as your claims are valid in the judge’s eyes, you will then generally get a California restraining order that can last for many weeks.
If you feel you need to extend the restraining order, then contact the court clerk near the time of the order’s expiration date and ask how to request another hearing. Eventually, you may have to start the process again from the beginning. But as long as you are still faced with the threat of domestic violence, you can continue to go back to the court to get the protection of a restraining order.
An order really does nothing by itself. You will need to report any violations of the order to the police immediately or as soon as possible. It is a criminal act to violate a restraining order, so seeking to enforce the order through the police (only if necessary) is the best way to make use of the order.
California Courts Self-Help Center with Filing Forms for Restraining Orders