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Bay Area Family Attorneys > Blog > Domestic Violence > Domestic Violence Restraining Orders In California

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders In California


The path one must journey to come to the questions of “Do I need a restraining order? What do they even do? Would this even actually help me?” is long. You, or someone you love, have doubtlessly dealt with countless unforeseen circumstances to reach this point, and have many things on your mind to thoughtfully consider as you move forward. In many cases of domestic violence, restraining orders have been key in protecting individuals and helping them move forward from an abusive situation. Below we will take the mystery out of this process, and explain what a domestic violence restraining order is and what protections it can provide.

Domestic Violence Restraining Order

A domestic violence restraining order is an official order from the court that is issued in order to protect someone (petitioner) from the abuse of a person/persons (respondent) that they have a close relationship with. A typical restraining order will last from 1-5 years, and can prohibit the respondent from doing something (such as going to the petitioner’s home).  The court may also refer to the petitioner as the “protected person” and the respondent as the “restrained person.”

The California Family Code section 6211 states that “domestic violence” is recognized as abuse of a:

  • spouse/former spouse,
  • cohabitant/former cohabitant,
  • persons with a dating history,
  • persons who share a child,
  • a child of any of the above parties, and
  • “any other person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree.”

Any of these parties who have suffered abuse may seek to file a domestic violence restraining order.

What Qualifies as “Abuse” under California Law

The Domestic Violence Prevention Act specifies that “abuse” can be any of the following:

  • Intentional/reckless cause/attempt to cause physical injury
  • Sexual assault
  • Assault (to give a person reasonable apprehension of imminent injury to themselves or another, even if no physical harm actually ensues)
  • Any behavior that has been enjoined, or could be enjoined, pursuant to California Family Law Section 6320 (pertaining to protective orders)
  • Physical and non-physical injury or assault, to include, for example, harassment, physical abuse of a pet, barring petitioner from leaving a home

As is shown above, California law recognizes that domestic violence is not always solely physical. Abuse can be verbal, emotional, or psychological as well. This manifests itself by a person taking control over an abused person, threatening to distribute, or actually distributing, private photos, and harassment.

To proffer sufficient evidence that abuse has occurred, the petitioner must establish the facts by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that the evidence that abuse occurred is more convincing than any evidence that it did not occur.  Viable evidence can include photographs, text messages, witness testimony, etc.

How a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Can Help

If granted, the court will use a Domestic Violence Restraining Order as a vehicle to grant rights and protections on the petitioner while limiting the respondent/restrained party. The court might, for example:

  • Order no contact with you, your kids, other relatives, pets, or those who live with you
  • Ban respondent from coming within a certain distance of your home, work, or kids school
  • Order respondent to move out of your shared home
  • Ban respondent from owning or possessing a firearm

When a restraining order is granted by the court, it goes into the statewide “California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System” and is made accessible to law enforcement. This will make police aware of the terms of the order and enable them to better recognize any potential violations of the order. It should also be noted that the restraining order will also show up on a background check, so may have a significant impact on the respondent’s employment.

Contact Cardwell Steigerwald Young

If you are a domestic violence survivor, or if you have been unfairly blamed for acts of domestic violence you did not commit, our San Francisco domestic violence attorneys at Cardwell Steigerwald Young LLP can help. We have helped many others down the road now facing you, and can offer experienced advice and zealous advocacy on your behalf. Contact our office today to discuss the details of your own case.

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