Domestic Violence Restraining Orders: Completing Your DVRO Forms
To learn what a DVRO is, and how to decide whether it is right for you, read this article first.
To learn more about the process of obtaining a DVRO, read this.
How to Begin
Once you have decided to file a DVRO, the first step is to complete the lengthy packet of required forms and submit them to the court.
If you have children in common with the abuser, you’ll need to get the packet Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (Step 1) for Parties with Common Minor Children (Sacramento County). If you do not have minor children in common, you’ll need Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (Step 1) for Parties Without Common Minor Children (Sacramento County). (If you live outside Sacramento County, California, check with your local family courts to obtain the correct forms.)
The packet of forms comes with comprehensive instructions. Read them carefully, and follow them exactly.
Gather all evidence you wish to submit with your DVRO. Evidence may include, but is not limited to:
- Photos of injuries or property damage
- Emergency Protective Orders from law enforcement
- Arrest records or other documented law enforcement history
- Hospital records
- Witness statements
- Letters of support from other agencies such as CPS
Telling Your Story: Incidents of Abuse
One of the most important and often most difficult aspects of the DVRO is writing about your abuse. The DVRO allows you to recount one to four incidents of abuse. In addition, there is a section for you to recount other abuse in the relationship – a “catch all” of your experiences that may not fit into one specific incident.
It’s important to organize your thoughts and write your experience in focused detail. You can write directly on the form, or add an attachment if you need more room. Your attachment can be typed or hand written.
Be specific, with as much clear detail as you can remember. “He hit me” is not as clear as, “He hit my left jaw with his fist and knocked me to the floor.” Likewise, “She said” is not as clear as, “She yelled at me from less than a foot away.”
If you can recount specific things your abuser said to you, write them verbatim, in quotes. Don’t be afraid to use profanity if your abuser did.
Your story can be as long or short as it needs to be to convey your experience. If the incident needs to be put in context of long term abuse, include that context in the incident. For example, compare these stories:
On August 6, my husband, John Doe, got angry and threw our son’s toy against the wall and started yelling at me. I grabbed our son and went to my mother’s house.
How much did you learn about the victim’s story? How serious does the incident seem? Now, put it in context of past incidents:
In January and again in March, my husband, John Doe, became angry with our son and started throwing his toys into the wall. Both times, this seemed to make him angrier, and he turned on me and physically assaulted me, pushing me onto the floor and kicking me in the stomach and legs. Last Thursday, August 6th, I could feel him working up into the same anger. He started throwing our son’s toys and yelling and threatening me, so when he went into the kitchen, I picked up our son and went to my mother’s where I called the police.
In this instance, the victim left before physical violence occurred. If she just shares that her husband threw their son’s toys and yelled, and she fled to her mother’s, the judge is missing crucial information: throwing toys and yelling leads to physical violence in this family.
Put yourself in the judge’s shoes when you share your story. S/he knows nothing about you, your abuser or your situation. You must provide enough information to give the judge a clear picture of your experience without going off into unrelated information that will distract the judge without making your point.
One of the most evocative and poignant statements a client included in her DVRO was, “Every time I came home, I said a prayer before I put the key into the lock. I never knew what was on the other side of that door. So I just prayed he wouldn’t hurt me tonight.”
The ring of truth in that statement was palpable. It was her story. It fit clearly with the rest of her narrative. And it won her the protection of a fully granted DVRO.
Filling out a DVRO is time-consuming and can be very hard. The difficulty is heightened because of the stress you’re probably feeling.
If you have just been through a frightening incident of abuse, it can be hard to collect your thoughts. It’s traumatic to recount and relive your incidents of abuse. You may be conflicted about your relationship to your abuser, or frightened about how to care for yourself and your children if you leave. You may be afraid filing a DVRO will escalate the violence in your life. And it’s hard to make life-changing decisions when you are in trauma.
If you need help filling out your forms, you can make an appointment with the Legal Services Department at ACFP. We can assist and support you as you complete your forms, and guide you through the process of filing, serving, and court hearings.
The legal advocates at A Community For Peace are not attorneys. They can help you with the process of completing and filing your request for a DVRO, but cannot give you legal advice.
For additional help, email email@example.com or call (916) 728-5613
Read about filing and serving your DVRO. [Colleen: Link to next article on filing and serving.]