Restraining Order FAQ


What is Domestic Violence?

If you are in immediate danger, please call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

The United States Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women, defines domestic violence as 

" The term “domestic violence” includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies, or by any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction.

In an emergency, victims of domestic violence should call 911 or contact state or local law enforcement officials, who can respond to these crimes. Individuals in need of non-emergency assistance can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or visit "

However, domestic violence is not only used in criminal courts.  In California, a person can request from the family law court a request for a Temporary Restraining Order which may be issued only on the written documentation presented to the Court after 4 hours notice to the perpetrator (or no notice with good cause) and then a Restraining Order After Hearing if the person asking for the orders proves to the Court the need for the orders.  To get a family law Domestic Violence Restraining Order there must be a special relationship between the parties (marriage, parents of the same child, etc.).  If the violence is between, e.g., neighbors, then the parties go to civil court and attempt to get a Civil Harassment Restraining Order.  The difference between the two is 1)  The relationship between the parties; and 2) The amount of proof needed to obtain the orders.  Less proof is needed in the Domestic Violence Restraining Orders (preponderance of evidence) than in the Civil Harassment Restraining Orders (by clear and convincing evidence).  There can be two restraining orders running at the same time, a Protective Order issued by the criminal court and a restraining order issued by either the family law or civil court.

Domestic violence is typically a pattern of abusive behavior in a relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain control over another intimate partner.  This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone but can also include extreme disturbance of the peace by one partner as against the other.

  • Physical abuse can include hitting, biting, slapping, battering, shoving, punching, pulling hair, burning, cutting, pinching, etc. (any type of violent behavior inflicted on the victim). Physical abuse also includes denying someone medical treatment and forcing drug/alcohol use on him or her.
  • Sexual abuse occurs when the abuser coerces or attempts to coerce the victim into having sexual contact or sexual behavior without the victim's consent. This often takes the form of marital rape, attacking sexual body parts, physical violence that is followed by forcing sex, sexually demeaning the victim, or even telling sexual jokes at the victim's expense.
  • Emotional abuse involves invalidating or deflating the victim's sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem. Emotional abuse often takes the form of constant criticism, name-calling, injuring the victim's relationship with his or her children, or interfering with the victim's abilities.
  • Psychological abuse involves the abuser invoking fear through intimidation; threatening to physically hurt himself or herself, the victim, children, the victim's family or friends, or the pets; destruction of property; injuring the pets; isolating the victim from loved ones; and prohibiting the victim from going to school or work.  Threats to hit, injure, or use a weapon are a form of psychological abuse. Harassing phone calls, stalking, a large amount of text messages are other types of abuses that may annoy and disturb the peace of a partner.


Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. Domestic violence occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together, or dating.

Domestic violence not only affects those who are abused, but also has a substantial effect on family members, friends, co-workers, other witnesses, and the community at large. Children, who grow up witnessing domestic violence, are among those seriously affected by this crime. Frequent exposure to violence in the home not only predisposes children to numerous social and physical problems, but also teaches them that violence is a normal way of life - therefore, increasing their risk of becoming society's next generation of victims and abusers.  California has determined that abuse by one parent on the other parent in the presence of the children is abuse on the children.

What is a restraining order (R.O.) and how does it work?

A restraining order (both the temporary and order after hearing) is merely a piece of paper.  Sometimes victims mistakenly believe it is somehow a shield to protect them physically.  It is not.  The largest advantage to the R.O. is that it is entered into what is called the CLETS system.  This is a computer system available to all law enforcement.  If there is a call from a victim after the R.O. is entered into the CLETS system, this call usually takes priority and there is an immediate response.  After the Court issues a R.O., it is incumbent on the protected person to file the R.O. and the proof of service on the restrained party with the police department and also to give a copy of the R.O. to the school, child care, work, keep a copy in the car and in the purse or briefcase

How is a restraining order enforced?

If a person violates a restraining order, criminal charges may be filed.  Law enforcement officers are trained to take these restraining orders very seriously.  If you have a restraining order in place and the protected party walks into the restaurant where the restrained order is mid-way through the meal, the restrained party must get up and leave immediately.  Sometimes the protected party calls or otherwise contacts the restrained party.  This is not an exception.  There is nothing prohibiting the protected party from calling the restrained party (although the judicial officers and law enforcement do not like this at all).  The only person who can get in trouble is the restrained party even when the protected party initiated the contact.  Just insist that if you have a restraining order, that you cannot speak with them until the R.O. is no longer in place.

Do I need a restraining order? What kind of evidence do I need?

Sometimes all that is necessary is the credible testimony of the victim.  Sometimes that is not enough, especially if the restrained party is also credible.  The person requesting a R.O. should gather evidence such as photographs, medical reports, police reports, social media posts and text messages.  Witnesses may also be contacted to testify.  A witness may be someone directly involved or a witness can be other people who have direct information about the case, such as police officers, doctors, neighbors or family members. Witnesses should be people who directly saw what happened or heard what happened.  If you need a person to testify as a witness but that person says they will not come to court, you may need a subpoena. 

Be very careful.  Sometimes it is true that the perpetrator of D.V. committed the acts, but there was insufficient proof to have the order in place.  Do not let yourself get in vulnerable situations.  DO NOT MAKE YOUR CHILDREN AFRAID OF THEIR PARENT; however, pay attention to what the children say in case new events arise.  If it is denied and new things happen, the past D.V. acts will be relevant.