Domestic Violence Restraining Orders: Filing and Serving Your DVRO
This is the fourth article in a series about DVROs. Begin the series here.
Filing Your DVRO
This article pertains to filing within Sacramento County, California. If you live outside Sacramento County, contact the court in your own county for specific filing instructions.
Once you’ve completed your DVRO paperwork, you must file it with the court and serve it to your abuser before your restraining order will be in effect.
In Sacramento, take your paperwork to:
William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse
3341 Power Inn Road
Sacramento, California 95826
Business Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Monday – Friday, excluding court holidays
Your DVRO forms must be signed and dated on the date you file. At ACFP, we recommend you don’t date and sign the forms until you arrive at the courthouse.
If your forms are filed by 2:00 p.m., you will receive your temporary orders from the judge on the same day, at 3:45 p.m. In order to be certain your DVRO will be filed by 2:00 p.m., we recommend arriving no later than noon. However, the earlier you can arrive, the better. You can file your DRVO until 4:00 p.m. However, if you file after 2:00 p.m., you won’t receive your temporary orders until 3:45 p.m. the following day.
You will present your forms to the court clerk. If there are any errors or problems, the clerk will send you away to correct them. When your forms are correct, the clerk will stamp them. You have now filed your DVRO.
Return to the court clerk at 3:45 p.m. the same day (or the following day, if you filed after 2:00 p.m.). Do not be late! At ACFP, we recommend you arrive early, giving yourself plenty of time to get through parking and building security. If the clerk calls your name and you aren’t there, you won’t receive your orders until the following day at 3:45 p.m.
Understanding Your Temporary Orders
When it’s time to receive your orders, the clerk will call your name, and hand you a packet. This packet is your temporary restraining order. It will be in effect from the moment it is served on your abuser until your court hearing date.
Your packet will include:
- Notice of your hearing date, time and location.
- Two to three copies of your temporary orders.
- A blank packet for the respondent to complete.
- A blank proof of service form.
ACFP’s legal advocates can go over your forms with you and help you understand what the orders mean. The judge may grant all your requests, grant some requests and deny others, or deny all your requests. However, regardless what the judge decides, these orders are temporary. They are only in effect from the moment they are served until your court hearing. At the hearing, the judge will make permanent orders.
Serving Your DVRO
The respondent (your abuser) must be served in person with the DVRO. That means you cannot mail, fax or leave the DVRO on a doorstep, etc. The paperwork must be handed to the respondent. If s/he refuses to take the paperwork, it can be dropped at his/her feet.
There are several ways to serve a DVRO. When choosing a method of service, consider the level of danger the respondent poses, the ease of finding the respondent, hours s/he will be at the address listed, etc.
To serve your DVRO you can:
- Have a person mutually known to you and the respondent serve the paperwork. The server cannot be:
- Anyone listed as a protected person on the DVRO
- Anyone under 18
- Have the DVRO served by law enforcement. In Sacramento, the Sacramento County Sheriff will serve your DVRO free of charge. For sheriff’s service, take your packet to the Sheriff’s office at William Ridgeway Courthouse where you file your DVRO and follow the instructions to fill out the form for sheriff’s service.
- Hire a professional process server.
Note: the address you put for the abuser on the DVRO is the address a process server or the sheriff will use to attempt to serve him/her.
Staying Safe During the Service Period
ACFP highly recommends that you assess your danger level and make a safety plan for this time period. It may take several days for the respondent to be served. You may not know precisely when it happens. Your abuser may become angry and retaliate after service. Be sure you and your family are protected. Some clients choose to leave home and hide in an undisclosed location during this period.
Filing Your Proof of Service
It’s very important that your proof of service form be completed and filed with the court. Whoever serves the DVRO will complete and sign the form. Talk to your server to be clear about who will file. The sheriff often files in Sacramento, but it’s up to you to be certain you know that’s done.
Be sure to get a copy of your proof of service and keep it with your DVRO. Bring your copy of proof of service – filed and stamped by the clerk – to court on the day of your hearing. Sometimes, even when proof of service has been filed, mistakes happen and the judge’s clerk may not have your filed proof of service. In these cases, if you cannot present your filed proof of service, your case will be continued (delayed) or, occasionally, dismissed.
When your DVRO is filed and served, and your proof of service is filed (and you have a copy), it’s time to prepare for court.
Read more about your hearing and court preparation here. [Colleen: link to next article on hearings and court prep.]