• Chris Marshall

How to get a Domestic Violence Restraining Order in California

There are several types of “restraining orders” that the California court system can issue. One of the most common is the Domestic Violence Restraining Order, or DVRO. The California court system has a quick way to get a DVRO hearing with a judge and have an order issued. It can be done with or without an attorney and there is no cost.

To get a domestic violence restraining order in California you will need to fill out a few simple court forms and include the relevant information about your relationship to the person you want restrained. The completed paperwork can be handed physically to the court clerk near where you live and you will be given a court hearing date. During your hearing you will make arguments to the judge as to why you need the restraining order and the judge will make a final decision within one day.

Who can get a restraining order?

Anyone residing in California is entitled to apply for a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO). You do not need to be a citizen or have a green card to request one. If you are concerned about how requesting a DVRO may affect your immigration status it is important to talk to an immigration attorney.

DVRO’s are a very specific type of restraining order in California used specifically for people with whom the victim has had a close relationship. You can request a DVRO against someone if: a person has abused or threatened to abuse you and they are related to you, live or lived with you, or have been in a relationship with you. Let’s take a closer look at that.

You can request a DVRO against someone you’ve had at least one of the following relationships with:

- Married

- Divorced

- Separated

- Registered Domestic Partner

- Have a child together

- Dating or used to date

- Living together or used to reside in same household

Or you can request a DVRO against someone related to you, including:

- Mother or mother-in-law

- Father or father-in-law

- Child, stepchild or legally adopted child

- Grandparent or grandparent-in-law

- Grandchild or grandchild-in-law

- Brother or brother-in-law

- Sister or sister-in-law

- Stepparent

- Daughter-in-law or son-in-law

If you do not have one of the above relationships to the person who abused you or threatened to abuse you, there are other kinds of orders you can request including a Civil Harassment Order.

What are the valid reasons to request a restraining order?

The legal language in California revolves around the word “abuse” in the DVRO context. Here, abuse means intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, sexual assault, or placing a person in imminent fear of serious bodily injury.

The court is attempting to prevent actions such as molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, harassing, impersonating, making annoying phone calls, destroying personal property or coming within a specified distance of the potential victim.[i]

What are the steps to getting a restraining order?

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders are free. There is no court fee for the application and there is no additional cost if the order is granted or denied.

The first step is to read DV-500-INFO, an informational PDF document produced by the California court system. It includes a great description of the purpose of restraining orders in California and if you are eligible.

Second you will want to read DV-505-INFO, which provides a fantastic explanation of each individual step to take, once you decide to file a DVRO.

Step three is to fill out the DV-100 form, also available on the California court website. The DV-100 form is six pages long with a lot of questions, but it is written specifically so that non-lawyers can easily fill it out. The questions are very straightforward and basic. Answer all 29 questions as completely as you can.

Step four is to fill out the other associated forms, including CLETS-100 (which has four straightforward questions), DV-109 (you only fill out the top part), and DV-110 (you only fill out the first three questions). I know it seems like a lot of numbers and letters but most of it is repetition and none of the questions are difficult. You will also need to include a couple forms if children are involved as well, and the DV-505-INFO specifies exactly what you need.

Step three is to file your forms with the court. This can be done by talking to a lawyer and paying them to do it for you, or you can go to the court clerk and file the paperwork yourself.

There are four courthouses in San Diego County: North County, South County, East County and Central. You need to go to the proper courthouse for your application. Here is a list provided by the Court that shows you which court is appropriate based on your zip code.

Bring at least three copies of everything with you to the court. When you get the court entrance there will be a security area with metal detectors and Sheriff’s deputies. As you are being screened by the detectors, ask them where the office for filing domestic violence restraining orders is and they will point you to the correct door.

The court clerk will then file your paperwork. At this point things could vary depending on how busy the court is. Sometimes the clerk will hand you a hearing date and time and tell you to come back to court to talk to the judge, usually soon. Sometimes the clerk will have you quickly chat with the judge right then and there. Sometimes the judge will issue temporary restraining orders immediately. As of the time of this writing in April 2020, Covid-19 issues continue to plague the court system and processes are a little bit up in the air. No matter what, when you hand your paperwork to the clerk you will be informed of the order’s status.

Finally, with signed orders in hand, you will need to let the restrained party know that he or she has been restrained. This is done by “serving” (giving) them a copy of the forms. You cannot mail them. You cannot hand them personally to the restrained person. You must either:

- Have someone over 18, not you, hand them to the restrained person. Whoever does the serving will need to fill out a DV-200 Proof of Personal Service form after they hand everything over. That DV-200 form will need to be brought back to the court clerk as soon as possible after service.

- Hire a process server to do it for you. There are lots of them in San Diego and you should expect to pay $75-$150 for this. The process serving company will typically file the DV-200 for you afterward, but you definitely want to confirm.

- Ask the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to perform the service. There is no charge for them to serve domestic violence restraining orders. The basic form to fill out is here, and this chart will show you which Sheriff’s Department office you need to go to, based on your zip code. The Sheriff will file the DV-200 Proof of Personal Service for you.

What is the impact of a restraining order?

The actual restraining order issued by the judge will have explicit directions on it regarding what the restrained person can or cannot due, based on your application. Most often people are ordered to stay a certain distance away, but more specific or elaborate requirements can also be included based on the situation.

If you have a restraining order against someone and that person violates the order in any way, call the police immediately and report them. They will almost certainly be arrested and charged.

How long does a restraining order last?

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders can last for up to five years in California. Your judge will review the relevant information and decide what makes the most sense in your situation. You may also receive an immediate temporary restraining order upon filing that will last three weeks. As mentioned above, ask the court clerk what the timelines are because they tend to vary.

If you have additional questions about domestic violence in California or how to secure a restraining order please don’t hesitate to call our office at (858) 964-2324 or email us at

[i] Conness v. Satram(2004) 122 Cal.App.4th 197, 201, 18 Cal.Rptr.3d 577


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