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California’s Domestic-Violence Restraining Order

As promised last week, here’s the scoop on restraining orders in California.

First is the domestic-violence restraining order, or DVRO for short. It’s a court order that can help protect you from the abuse of people close to you.

Because it’s a domestic-violence restraining order, it only applies to people who are or were married, dating, living together, or raising a child together, as well as to immediate family like parents, siblings, children, grandparents, grandchildren, or in-laws.

What’s considered abuse? For one thing, it’s when you purposely or recklessly harm someone physically, or try to. Or when you make them reasonably afraid that you’re going to. Or when you stalk, harass, or bother them in person, by phone, online, or otherwise, and you won’t stop.

The court can order you to stay away from the other person and their home, work, or school; to not attempt to contact them in any way; to move out if you’re living with them; and to surrender any guns you may have. It can also make orders about child custody, support, and visitation; the use or possession of property you share; or the payment of debts between you.

When you file for a restraining order, the court may grant a temporary order that lasts for approximately three weeks until the hearing. If you don’t have a lawyer, you’ll want to bring everything you have to prove your case to the hearing. If the court extends the order after the hearing, it generally lasts three to five years.

There’s no filing fee to apply for a domestic-violence restraining order, and the sheriff’s department will serve the other person for free if you give them a good address.

If the person doesn’t obey the order, they go to jail. Once granted, the order is automatically uploaded to a database that’s accessible to police across the state. The order is also enforceable across the country, so if you move out of state, let the local police there know about it as well.

For more information, here’s a helpful guide from the California courts. And here’s another one on how to prepare for the actual hearing. And for all the various forms you may need, scroll through here. They have them in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese.

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