Domestic violence is a serious matter. However, there are legal steps a victim can take to protect themselves and their family from the actions of an abuser. One of the most important things you can do if you’ve been subjected to abuse, stalking, violence, or harassment is obtain a restraining order. Not only can a domestic violence restraining order keep your abuser away and give you peace of mind, but criminal charges can be brought if your abuser violates its conditions and requirements.
When Can You Obtain a Domestic Violence Restraining Order?
It’s essential to understand that there are different types of restraining orders. The relationship you have with the abuser will determine which one you may apply for in your situation. A domestic violence restraining order may be granted if a victim has experienced actual physical violence by a close family member or a romantic partner — or if there is a credible threat of violence. Legal protection may also be ordered if the violence was perpetrated by a spouse, former spouse, parent, sibling, or grandparent.
Notably, a domestic violence restraining order is distinct from a civil harassment restraining order. Although it serves a similar purpose, the relationship requirements to obtain one are different. A civil harassment restraining order is appropriate to prevent annoying behavior or physical abuse from neighbors, strangers, and distant relatives.
What are the Protections Offered by a Restraining Order?
If you’ve been a victim of domestic violence, a restraining order doesn’t only offer you protection from harmful conduct — it can also give you peace of mind. Specifically, a domestic violence restraining order prohibits an abuser from engaging in a wide range of harmful conduct, including the following:
- Entering the home
- Contacting you
- Coming near you or your pets
- Harming you or your children
- Entering your vehicle
- Going to your work or school
- Calling, emailing, or texting you
- Possessing a firearm
The judge might also order the abuser to continue paying bills, such as rent and mortgage, if they bring home most of the income. Working with an experienced family law attorney can be helpful to ensure that you do everything properly and adequately articulate your position to secure the protection you need. Critically, if you are in a dangerous situation, a restraining order can be vital to keep the abuser away from you and prevent you from being subjected to further harm.
How Do You File for a Restraining Order?
Your attorney can help you obtain a restraining order when it is needed to ensure your safety. However, if you have been harmed by your abuser or are in fear that they will hurt you again, you can immediately file for a restraining order by visiting your local county court. In the state of California, you will need to fill out certain forms for a domestic violence restraining order (DV-100 and DV-110) which can also be found online.
Once you have completed the required documentation, you can simply turn it in to the court clerk. A judge will then look at the forms and determine whether you have the legal grounds to receive a restraining order. A judge has one business day to make this decision. If the judge grants your request, you will receive five copies of the temporary restraining order.
A temporary restraining order is effective for three weeks — and you should be sure to always keep a copy of it with you during this time. In addition, the abuser must be formally served with the order. Anyone over the age of 18 (except for the person who took out the order) can serve the paperwork to the abuser. Law enforcement officials may serve the order as well.
You will soon receive a date for a court appearance at which you can ask for a permanent restraining order, which usually lasts for three to five years. At the hearing, the respondent will have the opportunity to be heard. Since these types of restraining orders are the most severe, they are not easy to obtain. However, if the court finds it is necessary to help ensure you are protected, it will become effective once it is signed by the judge.
Emergency Restraining Orders
Sometimes, a victim may not be able to wait until the court opens to get a restraining order. In the event you fear that your abuser will cause you to suffer imminent harm, it’s imperative that you contact law enforcement. If the police have reason to believe you are in immediate danger of abuse or domestic violence, they can request an emergency protective order on your behalf — at any time of day, on weekends, and holidays. An emergency protective order is effective immediately and expires within seven days.
Contact an Experienced Fresno Family Law Attorney
Whether you’ve obtained a domestic violence restraining order or have been served with one, the legal process can be stressful and overwhelming. In such cases, it’s crucial to have knowledgeable legal counsel by your side to ensure your rights are protected. The Law Offices of Rick D. Banks has over 20 years of experience assisting clients with domestic violence issues and family law matters throughout Fresno and the surrounding area. To schedule a no obligation consultation, call (559) 272-8359.