Domestic Violence

During the Case

This section is designed to help the people involved to pay attention to the process and do what is required of them by law.

For the person being accused of violence, the case starts when you are served with a:

  • Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DV-100)

You may also have been served with a Temporary Restraining Order (DV-110).

The following sections contain step by step instructions for how to file paperwork to respond to the Request for a Restraining Order and what to expect in Court.

Take the following steps one at a time and in order.

If you received a "Temporary Restraining Order" (TRO) against you, it is very important that you read it and follow it carefully. If you do not obey the orders, the court can send you to jail for up to 1 year and order you to pay a fine.

The Temporary Orders will be included in the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO-CLETS) Form DV-110 in a part that states: "The court has granted the temporary orders checked below."

  • If any of the boxes following those words have been checked or the sections are filled in, these are Court Orders that affect you now.
  • You MUST OBEY all of these Orders, and do everything exactly as the Order says.

If any of the requested Orders presents a particular problem for you, make sure you file a response within the required time period. For example, the requested Orders might prevent you from:

  • operating a home business (if you are ordered to move out of the home you share with the person seeking protection);
  • going to work (if you and the person seeking protection work at the same place); or
  • attending church (if you and the person seeking protection go to the same church).

When you go to the court hearing, you are allowed to ask for changes in the Orders.

If you AGREE with the Orders that the person seeking protection has asked for, then you may decide to let the person seeking protection get the requested Orders at the hearing without filing any opposing forms or attending the court hearing. For a person accused of abuse, the consequences of having a Restraining Order against you can be serious. It may impact where you can live, when you can see your children, your right to possess a gun, or your immigration status. The Restraining Order may show up on an employment background check. You should consider talking with an attorney before deciding to not respond.

If you decide to OPPOSE or DISAGREE with the Orders, file an answer and attend the hearing. To file an answer, follow steps 1-4 below.

  • If you need protection from the person who filed a restraining order against you, you can file your own request for a restraining order.
  • If you have, or may have, criminal charges filed against you related to the abuse in this case, you may want to talk to an attorney before filing a response. What you say in this case may be used against you in a criminal case.

Normally, you will have been given the court forms you need when you are "served" with the "Temporary Restraining Order" (Form DV-110) and the "Request for Order" (Form DV-100). If, for some reason, you did not get the forms you need, you can get them by clicking on the form number below.

You may want someone to help you to fill in the court forms. Your answers may be handwritten, but they must be printed neatly so other people can read them easily.

NOTE: You may not need all of these forms. Or you may need more forms. If you're not sure which forms to use, talk to your Family Law Facilitator or a lawyer.

Find local court forms you may need, go to your county's court website.

If you disagree with the Orders, fill out an:

  • Response to Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order
    (Form DV-120)

If you and the person seeking protection are joint parents of children under the age of 18:

  • Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and
    Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)
    (Form FL-105)
    See the instructions for this form.

If the person seeking protection has requested Child Custody and Visitation Orders:

The Family Law Facilitator may be able to review your papers if there are child or spousal support issues in your case.

NOTE: Court staff cannot give legal advice, they can only review the forms to confirm that the paperwork is in order.

When you believe your papers are ready to file with the court, get at least 2 copies of each document.

  • the court clerk will keep the original of each document when you file them;
  • you will need at least one copy for your files; and
  • one copy will be needed to give to the person seeking protection.

Finally, all papers must be filed at the clerk's office at the courthouse at least 5 days before the hearing.

Take the original and all 3 copies of your court forms to the clerk's office.

Give all of your papers to the clerk. The clerk will stamp the forms to show that they have been filed. The court clerk will keep the original copy of each of your court forms, and give you back the three sets of copies you made.

Next, you have to have copies of all of the papers you filed at court given to the person seeking protection.

Once you have filed your forms at the courthouse, you have to make sure that the person seeking protections (or his or her lawyer) gets a copy of each document. This is called "Service of Process."

It is very important that you make sure the other person gets their copy of the court forms in the right way.

Read a brochure about "Service of Process."

NOTE: YOU CANNOT SERVE YOUR OWN COURT FORMS

How to serve court forms:

There are two ways that copies of the documents you have filed with the court can be "served" (given to the person who is asking for protection.) These are:

  • A person over 18 who is not connected with the court case can give the forms to the other parent in person. This is called "personal service."
  • A person over 18 who is not connected with the court case can mail the forms to the other parent. This is called "service by mail."

Service of Process checklist:

What needs to be served?

  • A copy of all of the forms you filled out and filed with the court. (These would include your "Response" (Form DV-120), plus other forms as appropriate.)

Who needs to be served?

  • The person seeking protection (or his or her attorney).

When do the papers need to be served?

  • Before the court hearing.

What happens next?

The person who has the court forms served must file another form with the court that shows that the court forms were served on the right person, at the right time, in the right way.

First:

To prove to the court that the person who is seeking protection has been served in the right way, the person who served these forms must fill one of the following forms and then give that form back to you.

  • For "Personal Service" - the person must fill out and sign one:
    • Proof of Service (In Person) (Form DV-200) for each person served.
  • For "Service by Mail" - the person who mailed the forms must fill and and sign one:
    • Proof of Service by Mail (Form DV-250) for each person served.

Second:

  • You must make one copy of each Proof of Service form and take these forms to the court clerk. The clerk will file and stamp all the forms. The court will keep the original of each form, and will give the copies of these forms back to you.
  • KEEP YOUR COPY OF EACH PROOF OF SERVICE IN A SAFE PLACE and take it to any court hearing that has been scheduled in this case.

If you decide to "Answer" the person who is seeking protection, your next step is to prepare for the hearing.

To prepare you can:

  • Talk with a domestic violence counselor, an attorney, or Family Law Facilitator about the court process.
  • Go to the courthouse to watch other DV Restraining Order hearings.
  • Read all of the court forms about the case.
  • Consider alternatives, such as mediation.

Domestic violence counselors or attorneys can answer questions and explain Domestic Violence cases.

To read an information sheet called "Get Ready For the Court Hearing " (DV-520-INFO) in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese.

WARNING! People can tell what Internet sites you have visited on your computer. Be Safe!

In California, domestic violence hearings take place in a courtroom. These hearings are often very short (sometimes as little as 10 -15 minutes), so you really need to plan ahead if you want to give the judge your information before he or she makes a decision. To get ready for your court hearing:

Know Your Own Case

  • Read the court papers carefully. Understand what you asked for, and what the other party has asked for in their papers.
  • Before your own hearing, summarize, organize and write down the key points you wnat to tell the judge. Try to make it as clear and simple as you can. Be ready to explain why the judge should approve (or not approve) each request. Practice speaking a few times - if you can, practice in front of friends or family.
  • Make an outline listing your reasons for each request and how the other named party responded. This will help you to speak to the judge if you get nervous in court.
  • Be sure to focus on the issues that are the reason your court date was scheduled. The judge cannot address issues that are not identified in the original paperwork filed to request the hearing. If you have other problems to resolve, you can schedule a separate hearing for that purpose.
  • Get ready to bring copies of all of your paperwork with you to court, including:
    • Copies of everything you've filed with the court concerning your case,
    • Copies of everything that has been served on you in this case, and
    • Any other paperwork that is related to your case.
    • Also bring a copy of an documents you have filed recently to show the judge - just in case the paperwork did not make it into the file.

Prepare, File and Serve a Witness List

If you intend to call witnesses (other than yourself and the other party) you must prepare a witness list prior to the hearing. This list must include the names of all witnesses you intend to call, as well as a brief description of their expected testimony.

Once you have finished this list:

  • Make two copies of the list - one for the court and one for the other party. Then take (or mail) the original and two copies to the court to be filed by a court clerk.
  • You must serve a copy of this list on the other party.
  • Make sure your witnesses know how to find the court and what time to be there. It might be a good idea to give them a copy of the checklist on this website for how to dress and how to behave in court.

Find out Where to go and What These Cases are Like

  • Learn how to be on time for all court dates. Look on a map and find out where the courthouse is. Learn the schedules of the buses that will get you to the courthouse, or figure out what roads would be best if driving. Learn where to park.
  • It may be a good idea to go to the family court and observe another domestic violence hearing before going to yours so that you can get a better idea of what to expect.

NOTE: If you know ahead of time that you are unable to attend the hearing in person, there may be a possibility for you to arrange to participate by telephone. Call the court clerk in your county for information and to make the necessary arrangements.

Know What to do at Your Court Hearing

  • Arrange for childcare for your children. Children are not permitted in the courtroom.
  • Arrange for an interpreter if you will need one. You may use an adult friend or relative to interpret for you.
  • Plan to dress for your court date as if going to a job interview. If you are coming from or going to work, your uniform or work clothes are fine. Make sure that you have made an effort to be neat, clean, and well groomed.
  • Dress neatly and respectfully.
  • Take all of the documents that will be needed to show to the judge. Be sure you have copies for the other side.
  • If you intend to call witnesses (other than you and the other side), and have filed and served a witness list, arrange for your witnesses to be present at court. Make sure they know where to go and that they allow plenty of time to find the courtroom. Give your witnesses a copy of this page so that they know what to expect.
  • Be on time. Allow extra time for traffic or other possible delays. (If you are delayed or unable to attend the hearing due to a car breakdown, sudden illness, or other emergency, contact the department clerk on or before your hearing time.)
  • Turn off your cell phone and/or pager when you enter the courtroom.
  • When your case is called, walk to the table or podium in front of the judge and stand facing the judge.
  • Be prepared to state your name and your relationship to the case.
  • Speak clearly and loud enough that the judge can hear you. Speak only when it is your turn.
  • When you speak to the judge, act respectfully and call him or her “your honor.” Be sure never to interrupt the judge.
  • Answer all of the judge’s questions and stop talking immediately if the judge interrupts you.
  • If you don’t understand something, say that you don’t understand. Someone will try to explain it for you.

WARNING! People can tell what Internet sites you have visited on your computer. Be Safe!

In California, DV Restraining Order hearings take place in a courtroom in front of a judge, commissioner, or other appointed officer of the court. In the same courtroom there will also be a court clerk and a bailiff, and usually other people in the room. For example, there may be people waiting for their case to be heard.

Special Note: The following are general guidelines. The actual rules may be different in each court, so learn your county's local rules of court on trial procedures.

When your DV Restraining Order case is called, if both the person seeking protection and the person to be restrained are present, they are to go up to the tables in front of the judge.

NOTE: There may be more than one court hearing before the case is settled.

At the beginning of the hearing, the judge will ask each person involved to give his or her name for the court record.

Then, the judge will listen to both sides of the story in this order:

  • Because this hearing is the result of a person seeking protection, he or she will be asked to tell his or her side of the story first. He or she may present facts on each of the contested issues, and introduce documents.
  • If the person seeking protection has witnesses (and has served and filed a witness list), the judge will hear these witnesses next.
  • The person to be restrained should not interrupt the person seeking protection when they are speaking. However, when they are finished he or she has a chance to ask questions of the protected person or witnesses.
  • Next it is the turn of the person to be restrained to tell his or her side of the story by presenting facts on each of the contested issues, and introducing documents.
  • If the person to be restrained has witnesses (and has served and filed a witness list), the judge will hear those witnesses next
  • Again, the person seeking protection should not interrupt the person to be restrained when they are speaking. However, when they are finished he or she has a chance to ask questions of the person to be restrained or the witnesses.

The judge may ask anyone any questions at anytime. He or she will examine the evidence, and then make a decision about whether to issue Permanent Restraining Orders based on many considerations, including:

  • the relationship between the two parties;
  • the history of abuse.

At the end of the hearing, the judge may:

  • decide to grant all of the Orders the person seeking protection requested;
  • decide to grant some of the Orders the person seeking protection requested;
  • decide not to grant any Restraining Orders at all;
  • tell those present that he or she will decide the case later (perhaps after reviewing the evidence in more detail.)

It is the responsibility of the person seeking protection to fill in the:

  • Restraining Orders After Hearing (Form DV-130)

When it is completed correctly and the judge has made a decision, he or she will sign the court Orders clearly stating what that decision is.

ALERT! The case is not finished yet. See after the Court Hearing.

WARNING! People can tell what Internet sites you have visited on your computer. Be Safe!

When papers are filed in a court requesting a Domestic Violence Restraining Order, the court hearing will usually be held about 21 days later.

The following timeline is offered simply to convey the information that this process has a beginning, a middle and an end. If exact details are required -- about how the days are counted, for example - it might be good to consult a lawyer.

One possible way a case might proceed...

Below is a description of the stages of a DV Restraining Order case.

A. The person seeking protection starts the paperwork:

  • Ask for an Emergency Protective Order, if needed.
  • Get forms needed for a Permanent Restraining Order
  • Fill out the forms - have them checked by a court clerk.
  • File the paperwork at the court (the original plus a copy.) Receive case number and hearing date from the court clerk.

B. The person seeking protection has to make sure everyone involved receives copies of the Restraining Orders petition papers and notice of the date and place of the hearing.

  • Notice of the hearing's date and place to be served as stated on the Restraining Order.
  • Also remember that it is necessary to prove that all of the paperwork was received. ("Proof of Service")
  • If you are not sure what to do, you may want to consult a lawyer.

C. Both the person seeking protection and the person to be restrained need to gather together the "evidence" that will be needed in court - photographs of injuries, or police records, for example.

D. The person to be restrained may file an "answer" at the court at least 5 (five) days before the hearing.

E. It is possible that people - family, friends or neighbors - may be asked to come to the court hearing to answer questions the judge might have.

F. The person seeking protection MUST attend the court hearing. If he or she does not show up, the case will usually be dismissed.

G. Immediately after the hearing, the person who received protection has to file the Restraining Orders After Hearing (CLETS) (Form DV-130) with the clerk's office.

WARNING! People can tell what Internet sites you have visited on your computer. Be Safe!

Asking the Court to help protect you will cost some money. Exact amounts will differ from case to case, from person to person, from court to court, and from year to year.

The following list of possible costs is offered simply to convey the information that this process has costs associated with it. If specific information is required, it might be good to consult a lawyer.

General costs

  • Time off work
  • Transportation to and from the courthouse
  • Telephone charges
  • Mailing costs

Getting help before the proceedings

  • Hiring a lawyer (also called an attorney), or
  • Employing the services of a legal clinic, and/or
  • Buying self-help books

Getting started with the proceedings

THERE IS NO CHARGE TO OBTAIN THESE FORMS OR TO FILE PAPERS WITH THE COURT.

THERE IS NO CHARGE FOR "SERVICE OF PROCESS" BY THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT IF YOU HAVE A VALID FEE WAIVER ON FILE.

Investigation and preparation stage of the proceedings

  • Getting copies of documents certified to present to the court costs money. Such documents might include:
    • Photographs of injuries;
    • Police reports;
    • Emergency Protective Orders previously issued;
    • Divorce papers - if relevant;
    • Medical or death records - if relevant;
    • School records - if relevant.

Trial or hearing stage of the proceedings

  • It is possible that there will be court reporter costs.
  • If the trial has to be postponed or continued, there might be court fees.

After the trial

  • If the protected person moves to another county in California, or another state in the United States, there may be transfer fees to be paid.