What Is a DVRO in California and How Can It Help Me?

Abuse can happen to anyone at any time, but California law offers you protection with a DVRO or 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.

DVROs can protect you and your children from many different forms of abuse, including emotional abuse and situations where someone is blocking your access to money or basic needs or preventing you from communicating with others..

A family law attorney can assist you with obtaining a DVRO if you need one. In addition, if you have received papers indicating that someone has taken out a DVRO against you, a family law attorney can help you understand the types of conduct you must avoid to remain in compliance and avoid penalties.

How a DVRO Works

A domestic violence restraining order is designed to protect you against abusive conduct from someone you’ve had an intimate relationship with or close relatives including:

  • Siblings
  • Parents
  • Children
  • Grandparents
  • In-laws

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.

The DVRO might be issued with broad terms prohibiting all contact between you and the person who has committed or threatened abuse. Or the order might contain specific prohibitions, such as ordering a spouse to move out of the home or prohibiting a family member from having firearms or ammunition.

Every domestic situation has unique dynamics, so the terms needed to protect vulnerable family members may be slightly different in each case. If you are having difficulty caused by someone who is not a family member or former partner, California courts offer other types of restraining orders that can provide protection

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 can be considered a form of domestic violence because it is abuse.

Other examples of behavior that may be considered domestic violence include:

  • Accessing your email, computer or cell phone against your will
  • Keeping you from seeing friends and family
  • Restricting your movements
  • Tracking your location without consent
  • Punching holes in the wall; throws or breaks things in anger
  • Threatening physical or emotional harm if you leave or file for divorce
  • Sending harassing/threatening text messages or emails
  • Leaving threatening voicemail messages

This is not an all-encompassing list. The courts’ determination of what constitutes domestic violence is ever changing, and often expanding.  Behavior you might not consider domestic violence could very well fall 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 someone to take certain action. Commonly implemented orders connected with DVROs might:

  • Restrain an abuser from making contact with you, your children, and your property either personally or through a third party
  • Restrain an abuser from harassing, stalking or otherwise disturbing your peace
  • Order an abuser to be removed from a home that you share
  • Give you temporary child custody pending formal hearing and permanent custody after the formal hearing
  • After a formal hearing, require the abuser to pay child support and/or spousal support
  • Prohibit the abuser from possessing a firearm or ammunition
  • After a formal hearing, order that the abuser to pay fees related to acts of violence, including medical and attorney fees.

A family law attorney can meet with you to discuss your needs and present your requests to the court so that you can gain a DVRO with the right terms to provide the protection you need for yourself and others in your care.

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 explain to the court why you are experiencing 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. An attorney can help you gather and present evidence persuasively to demonstrate your need for a restraining order.

Should the judicial officer decide you are in immediate need of protection, a temporary restraining order can be issued within one or two business days of filing. 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.

Serving Notice of a Temporary Restraining Order

You will need to make sure that the restraining order is properly served on the person being restrained. “Serving” is the legal term for delivering legal documents in a way that ensures that they are properly noticed. You cannot serve the order yourself—you must have a server deliver them for you.

A server can be any other person over the age of 18. A marshal or sheriff’s deputy will do it for free, but you must ask them. Some notices can be served by mail but in many cases they must be served in person. Your attorney can help you ensure that papers are served in a way that fulfills legal requirements.

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 five years. At the hearing, you and the person you are seeking the order against 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.

An attorney can help you prepare a statement for the court. You can read off notes, although it is often more effective if you use your notes for reference but speak candidly and directly to the judge. It is natural to feel nervous about the process, but working with an experienced attorney during preparation can help ease your concerns considerably.

During the hearing, the person against whom the order is sought will make their own arguments, so it is a good idea to take down notes about how you might want to respond to those arguments. This is another task your attorney can assist with, and they can present arguments on your behalf.

When Is a DVRO the Route to Pursue?

At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC when the safety for our clients and our clients’ children is at issue, we pursue DVROs. We believe 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 dedicated California family law attorney can help you identify persuasive evidence, prepare it for the court, and present it 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. We know how to cross examine your abuser in a manner that reveals their violation of your right to live in peace. We know how to help.

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