Domestic Violence

During the Case

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In California, getting a Domestic Violence Restraining Order includes a number of steps. This section is designed to help the people involved to pay attention to the process and do what is required of them by law. Follow these steps one at a time and in order.

NOTE: The court system will not initiate the case, nor will it follow up with the case after a Restraining Order has been issued.

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To ask the court to issue a Domestic Violence Protection Order, several forms must be filled out.

You may want to work with someone to help you while filling them out. It will take a lot of time, but will be easier, in the long run, than telling your story to people over and over again as the court process proceeds. Forms 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 at your county's court website.

For a restraining order, you need to fill out:

  • Request for Order (Form DV-100)
    This 5-page form tells the judge the facts of the case and what Orders you are asking the judge to make.
  • Notice of Court Hearing (Form DV-109)
    See the instructions for this form.
    This form has information about the court hearing that will be held.
  • Temporary Restraining Order (Form DV-110)
    This form will become your Temporary Restraining Order if it is signed by the judge.

If you have children:

If you and the person to be restrained share parenting responsibilities of any children under the age of 18, you will need to complete these additional forms and attach them to the Request for Order Form DV-100:

  • Child Custody, Visitation, and Support Request (Form DV-105)
    This form tells the judge what arrangements you'd like to make for custody of
    your children, visitation, mediation and child support.
    For more information, click here.
  • Child Custody and Visitation Order (Form DV-140)
    Attach this form if you need Custody and Visitation Orders before the hearing.

Get more information about Child Custody.

If you want child support, you also need to fill out:

  • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150 (a,b,&c))
    See the instructions for this form.
    or
    Financial Statement (Simplified) (Form FL -155)
    See the instructions for this form.
    You will use one or another of these forms to tell the judge about your financial situation. You will need one of these forms if you are asking the judge to order
    child support, attorney fees, or service costs.

To help you decide if form FL-150 or form FL-155 is right for you, read an information sheet called "Which Financial Form - FL-150 or FL-155?" (DV-570) in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese. Click on the language you need:

Get more information about Child Support.

Fill out the forms, and then take them to the court clerk.

  • For information about where to file your forms in your county, click here.

Other forms you will need (don't fill them out now):

  • Response to Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (Form DV-120)
  • Restraining Order After Hearing (Form DV-130)
  • Proof of Service (in Person) (Form DV-200)

For a checklist of the forms you need called "Forms You need for a Temporary Restraining Order" (DV-505) in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese, click on the language you need:

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After you have filled in all the information you need on your court forms, sign each one, and make 3 copies of the full set of forms. Take the original and all three 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: Get 3 More Forms

Make 3 copies of each form. Do not fill out these forms:

  • Answer to Temporary Restraining Order (Form DV-120)
  • Restraining Order After Hearing (Form DV-130)
  • Proof of Service (in Person) (Form DV-200)

Add one set of blank forms to each of the sets of file-stamped (endorsed) forms. You should now have 3 sets of forms. Each set includes the 3 forms you have already completed, and the 3 new blank forms.

Here is what the 3 sets of forms you have are for:

  • one copy of the forms is for you (the person who is seeking protection)
  • one copy of the forms is for the person who is being accused of abuse
    DO NOT GIVE THESE FORMS TO THIS PERSON YET!
  • one copy of these forms is an extra just in case another copy gets lost.

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It is very important that you make sure the other person gets their copy of the court forms in the right way.California law requires that the person being accused of abuse be given formal notice that the legal process has been started. This is called "service of process."

Read a brochure about "Service of Process."

NOTE: YOU CANNOT SERVE YOUR OWN COURT FORMS

How to serve court forms:

Copies of the documents you have filed with the court can be "served" (given to the person who is being accused of abuse) in two ways:

  • A person over 18 who is not connected with the court case can give the forms to
    the other party in person. This is called "personal service."
    SPECIAL NOTE: You MUST use this way to serve the forms DV-100, DV-105, DV-110, or DV-125. They cannot be sent by mail.
  • A person over 18 who is not connected with the court case can mail the forms to
    the person to be restrained by first class mail. This is called "service by mail."
    This can be used to serve the forms DV-120, FL-150, FL-155, DV-130, and other
    forms needed for this case.

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 the "Request for Order" (Form DV-100), the "Temporary Restraining Order and Notice of Hearing" (Form DV-110) plus other forms as appropriate). You must also serve:

  • A blank Response to Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (Form DV-120)
  • A blank Restraining Order After Hearing (Form DV-130)
  • A blank Proof of Service (in Person) (Form DV-200)

Who needs to be served?

The person being accused of abuse.

When do the papers need to be served?

For Personal Service: at least 15 court days (days the court is open) before the court hearing.

What happens next

The person who serves the court forms must file another form with the court that shows they served the court forms to the right person, at the right time, in the right way.

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The judge cannot hear your court case until you have filed your court forms properly, given (served) copies of these forms to the person accused of abuse, and then filed a form that shows someone over 18 who is not connected to the court case served those forms on the other party.

First:

To prove to the court that the person who has been accused of abuse 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.

To read an information sheet called "What is 'Proof of Personal Service'?"(DV-200-INFO) in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese, click on the language you need:

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You must go to the hearing in order to get a decision about your Domestic Violence Restraining Order.

NOTE: If you are worried about your safety at court, you can tell the court's clerk or bailiff and they will help you.

If you intend to call witnesses, make sure your witnesses know where to go and at what time.

Bring the original and two copies of all of these documents:

  • Your copy of all forms filed with the court.
  • Photos.
  • Medical, repair, or other bills.
  • Police reports.
  • Any other papers that are important to your case.

IMPORTANT: Give the court clerk or bailiff one copy to give to the restrained person.

  • Your proposed orders, as needed:
    • Restraining Order After Hearing (Form DV-130).
    • Supervised Visitation Order (Form DV-150).
    • Child Support Order (Form DV-160).
    • Child Support Case Registry (Form FL-191).
    • Notice of Rights and Responsibilities - Health Case Costs and Reimbursement Procedures Form FL-192).
    • Spousal, Partner, or Family Support Attachment (Form FL-343).
    • Child Custody and Visitation Order (Form DV-140).

If you are asking for child support, meet ahead of time with the court's Family Law Facilitator to find out what you need to bring to your hearing. You must also bring:

  • Your last three pay stubs.
  • Your most recent federal and state tax returns.
  • Proof of childcare or health care expenses for the child, such as receipts and canceled checks.

If you and the person to be restrained are not married and have children together, the court may enter a parentage judgment at the hearing.

Arrange for someone to watch your children while you go to court. Children generally are not allowed in the courtroom.

If your child has important information about the violence or threats, ask an attorney or domestic violence counselor about how to have the judge hear from your child.

Arrive at the courtroom early.

Read an information sheet called "Getting Ready for the Court Hearing" (DV-520-INFO) in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese.

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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.

Read an information sheet called "How to Reissue a TRO" (DV-126-INFO):"

  • 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.

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When you arrive for your hearing check in with court personnel.

  • If the person to be restrained is also at the court, and you are worried about your safety, tell the clerk or bailiff so that they can help you.
  • After you have checked in, take a seat and wait until your case is called.
  • Do not talk to, confront, or argue with the restrained person if you see him or her.

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.

Learn what to do if the person to be restrained does not show up for the hearing.

If the Restrained Person is present:

If the person to be restrained is in court, you should already have a copy of his or her:

  • Answer to Temporary Restraining Order (Form DV-120)
  • If he or she tries to file an "Answer" on the day of your hearing, you can ask the judge for extra time to read the form and gather extra information, witnesses, or statements from witnesses.
  • If the judge sets a date for a new hearing, be sure that the judge also extends any Temporary Restraining Orders that are in effect until that new date.

When your case is called, you will be asked to come up to the tables in front of the judge. Then the judge will ask each of you to give your name for the court record. At this point, many judges will ask a few questions to help them understand what has happened. Since this hearing is the result of your request for a Restraining Order, you will be asked to testify first.

  • If you have statements from witnesses (called "declarations") or documents to show, be sure to give them to the bailiff to give to the judge at the time during the hearing when you think the information will make the most sense.
  • Once you have finished, the person to be restrained will have the chance to ask you or any of your witnesses questions about what was said.

Then it is the restrained person's turn to tell his or her side of the story, present witnesses, and to show whatever documents he or she thinks are important. Once they have finished, you will have a chance to ask the person to be restrained, and his or her witnesses, questions.

At the end of the hearing, the judge will either:

  • tell you of his or her decision while you are both present in court, or
  • tell you that he or she will decide the case later (perhaps after reviewing the evidence in more detail).

If your request for Restraining Order is granted:

  • Ask the judge to tell you how long your Restraining Order will last, so that you can fill that part in on the "Restraining Order After Hearing" form.
  • Then, ask the clerk if you may hand your proposed "Restraining Order After Hearing" form, and any attachments, like the "Child Custody and Visitation Order Attachment," to the clerk to give to the judge.
  • If the judge grants all of the Orders you asked for, and your form was filled out properly, the judge will sign and return it.

If you asked for child support, be sure you take notes on:

  • How much the child support is for each child;
  • When the child support starts; and
  • Whether extra amounts are added for childcare, uninsured health care costs, or other items.
  • If the child support was figured out on the court's computer, ask for a copy of the printout.

If the judge denies or changes some of the Orders you asked for, he or she will tell you if you need to fill out new forms.

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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.

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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.