Domestic Violence Restraining Orders: The Pros and Cons

If you are experiencing domestic violence, a restraining order may help keep you and your children or other loved ones safe. However, the process of filing a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) can be complicated, and there are several factors to consider before deciding if a DRVO is right for you.

What is a DVRO?

A DVRO is an order from the court that can help protect you from abuse or threats of abuse from someone you have a close relationship with. It can give law enforcement the means to arrest someone who abuses you or your family.

You can ask for a DVRO if:

The person has abused you, AND You have a close relationship with that person. You are:

  • Married or registered domestic partners,
  • Divorced or separated,
  • Dating or used to date,
  • Living together or used to live together,
  • Parents together of a child(ren), OR
  • Closely related (parent, child, brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather, in-law)

If you are a parent and your child is being abused, you can file a restraining order on behalf of your child to protect your child (and you and other family members). If your child is 12 or older, s/he can file the restraining order on his or her own.

If you are being abused by someone who is not related to you in any of the ways described, you can file a civil harassment restraining order. This can be used for neighbors, roommates, coworkers, or more distant family members like cousins, uncles or aunts, etc.

What is Abuse?

According to the California Courts, California domestic violence laws say “abuse” is:

  1. Physically hurting or trying to hurt someone, intentionally or recklessly;
  2. Sexual assault;
  3. Making someone reasonably afraid that they or someone else are about to be seriously hurt (like threats or promises to harm someone); OR
  4. Behavior like harassing, stalking, threatening, or hitting someone; disturbing someone’s peace; or destroying someone’s personal property.

The physical abuse is not just hitting. Abuse can be kicking, shoving, pushing, pulling hair, throwing things, scaring or following you, or keeping you from freely coming and going. It can even include physical abuse of the family pets.

Abuse isn’t always physical. It can also be verbal, emotional, psychological, or even economic/financial. Many abusers use a combination of tactics to maintain power and control over the person being abused.

What Can a DVRO Do for You?

A restraining order can order the restrained person to:

  • Not contact or go near you, your children other relatives, or others who live with you;
  • Stay away from your home, work, or your children’s schools
  • Move out of your house, even if you live together
  • Not have a gun
  • Follow child custody and visitation orders
  • Pay child support
  • Pay spousal or partner support (if you are married or domestic partners)
  • Stay away from your pets
  • Transfer the rights to a cell phone number and account to the protected person
  • Pay certain bills
  • Not make changes to insurance policies
  • Not incur large expenses or do anything significant to affect your or the other person’s property if you are married or domestic partners
  • Release or return certain property
  • Complete a 52-week batterer intervention program

A restraining order CANNOT:

  • End your marriage or domestic partnership – it is NOT a divorce
  • Establish parentage (paternity) of your children with the restrained person (if you are not married to or in a domestic partnership with, him or her) UNLESS you and the restrained person agree to the parentage of your child(ren) and agree to the court entering a judgment about parentage.

The judge has the final decision about which orders are ultimately granted.

“Carol” came into ACFP after her husband had become more controlling and easily angered since the birth of their youngest daughter two years ago. Carol lived in an unpredictable and hostile home, enduring a near daily stream of insults, blame, and threats. She felt she was constantly “walking on eggshells” and began to see negative impacts on her children, as they became more frightened and yet also tried to protect her. When her husband physically assaulted both Carol and their oldest daughter, she called law enforcement, who arrested her husband and referred her to ACFP.

ACFP Legal Advocates worked with Carol as she recounted and wrote out the most recent incidents of abuse. They instructed her how to file and serve her DVRO, how to take precautions to remain safe after filing, and how to prepare for court.

Carol went to her DVRO hearing, where the judge granted her a maximum, five-year DVRO, ordered her husband to stay at least 100 yards away from her and their children, not contact her in any way, and move out of the family home. Carol was also granted full physical and legal custody of her children. She now attends counseling and DV education classes. She is getting her children the help they need, and preparing divorce paperwork. Her healing has begun.

The Dangers of a DVRO

Abusers often become angry over the loss of control they feel when their victim files a DVRO against them. Seeing themselves as the victim, they blame the real victim for “ruining their life”.

While responses vary greatly, it should not be assumed that a DVRO will ensure your safety. In fact, the few weeks after the DVRO is served can be very dangerous. At ACFP, we never assist a client in filing a DVRO without reviewing the level of danger the client is in, assessing the likelihood of that danger to escalate, and making a comprehensive safety plan.

Despite the protections a DVRO tries to give, abusers retaliate in a variety of ways, including:

  • Physical violence or assault. Victims have been killed after filing a DVRO.
  • Taking or hurting the children.
  • Destroying property.
  • Continuing to threaten or harass the victim, or getting others to do it for them.
  • Hurting or killing pets.
  • Stalking the victim.
  • Harassing friends or loved ones, or using them to try to get information about the victim.
  • Filing a retaliatory DVRO or another court case against the victim.
  • Lying and making false accusations about the victim in court documents, in public, or online.

Carol’s outcome was excellent, but a DVRO can also escalate a violent situation. Most abusers aren’t incarcerated, like Carol’s husband was. It’s important to consider your own situation carefully and make plans according to your needs.

If you do decide a DVRO is right for you, consider making a comprehensive safety plan for you and your children before you file.

ACFP advocates can work with you to assess your situation, make a safety plan, file your DVRO and/or prepare for your court hearing and custody mediation.

Written by Colette R.- A Community For Peace legal Advocate

For further assistance, you can email or call for an appointment at (916) 728-5613

ASK ABOUT OUR Domestic Violence Restraining Order Round table Discussions held every THURSDAY at ACFP.   KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.


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