A DVRO is a domestic violence restraining order. The courts issue DVROs to protect people against abuse or violence from a family member or significant other residing in the same household. That might include a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or the other parent of a child. It may also include in-laws, siblings, and stepparents.
If a person of these relationships causes or attempts to cause physical injury or sexual assault against you, a DVRO can protect you for further abuse. Also, a DVRO protects you should that person make threats of violence or abuse, or if he or she leads you to believe you’re in immediate danger. It also protects against harassment, stalking, and other ways of disturbing your peace.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence?
When asked about domestic violence, if a client answers with, “no, he’s never hit me or anything like that,” it’s a red flag for a family law attorney. Many clients do not realize that abuse and domestic violence takes many forms. For example, if your spouse keeps the finances from you to create a situation of financial dependence, that potentially falls under domestic violence.
Other examples of behavior that may be considered domestic violence include:
- Accesses your e-mail, computer or cell phone against your will
- Keeps you from seeing friends and family
- Restricts movements
- Tracks your location without consent
- Punches holes in the wall; throws or breaks things in anger
- Threatens physical or emotional harm if you leave or file for divorce
- Sends harassing/threatening text messages or emails
- Leaves threatening voice mail messages
This is not an all-encompassing list. The courts’ determination of what constitutes domestic violence is ever changing, and in some cases, expanding. Behavior you might not consider domestic violence could very well be within the courts’ or legislatures’ definition.
What Does a DVRO Do for You?
Depending on the nature of your case, getting a DVRO can either stop someone from acts of abuse, or it can order that certain action is taken. Commonly implemented orders connected with DVROs include:
- Restrains an abuser from making contact with you, your children, and your property either personally or through a third party
- Restrains an abuser from harassing, stalking or otherwise disturbing your peace
- Orders an abuser to be removed from a home that you share
- Gives victims temporary child custody pending formal hearing and permanent custody after the formal hearing
- After a formal hearing, requires the abuser to pay child support and/or spousal support
- Prohibits the abuser from possessing a firearm or ammunition
- After a formal hearing, orders that the abuser to pay fees related to acts of violence, including medical and attorney fees.
How to Get a Temporary DVRO
Obtaining a DVRO is a multi-step process. It requires that you complete and file several forms at a California courthouse in the county where you reside. Initially, a family court judicial officer reviews the filing, and makes a decision whether or not to issue a temporary DVRO.
The restraining order forms give you a chance to present why there is fear of harm or harassment. You want to be as detailed and specific as you can about instances of abuse, using dates and times if possible. Include photos of injuries, police reports, text messages—anything you can show demonstrating threats to the safety or peace of you and/or your children.
Should the judicial officer decide you are in immediate need of protection, a temporary restraining order is issued within one or two business days of filing. The restraining order must then be served on the person being restrained. The person serving the order must be someone other than the victim who is 18 years or older. A marshal or sheriff’s deputy will do it for free, but you must ask them.
The temporary orders create conditions that are enforceable until a DVRO hearing takes place at a later date set by the court. Until that time, the abuser must follow the rules set forth by the temporary order.
How to Get a Permanent DVRO
Whether or not you get a temporary order, the court will schedule a hearing for a longer lasting DVRO, called a permanent DVRO, which can last up to 5 years. At the hearing, you and your abuser will have a chance to present evidence to a family court judicial officer. You will want witnesses to the domestic violence or harassment there to testify and to present any documentary evidence, such as photographs, e-mails, text messages and the like. You will have a chance to tell the judicial officer what happened and why you are fearful of continued abuse.
When Is a DVRO the Route to Pursue?
When the safety for our clients and our clients’ children is at issue, we pursue DVROs. Safety is absolutely paramount, as is the right to live in peace. A DVRO is a powerful document for keeping you safe. However, it's a piece of paper and it's only as good as you're willing to enforce it.
We tell our clients it is important to have several copies of the restraining order made, file one with local law enforcement, and keep the remainder in a number of places:
- One copy with you at all times
- One copy in your vehicle
- One copy in your home
- One copy on file at a child’s school or care facility
Should the abuser violate the DVRO, contact local law enforcement and your attorney immediately.
How Can a Family Law Attorney Help Get a DVRO?
A family law attorney can help you identify persuasive evidence, prepare it for the court, and present in a way that is consistent with the law. Attorneys know what family law judicial officers look for with respect to making decisions about issuing a DVRO. They know how to cross examine your abuser in a manner that reveals their violation of your right to live in peace.
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