By JIM McCULLAUGH, ESQ.
In California there is help for individuals who need to protect themselves and their family from violent and abusive behavior. It’s called a Restraining Order and individuals can obtain one through the Superior Court system.
In addition to physical violence and excessive verbal abuse, domestic violence can also be stalking, sending excessive texts, making excessive phone calls, damaging property and other actions which engender fear.
It is estimated that each year some one million persons in the U.S. are granted restraining orders.
There is no fee for filing for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order in California. With a little research and guidance, a person can file without the necessity of an attorney. All it takes is filling out some pre-printed forms and writing a declaration signed under penalty of perjury outlining the recent violence. Forms are also available in Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.
The required forms are on the court’s website at slocourts.net. The main form an individual needs is a DV-100 Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order. Other forms are available which cover child custody and visitation orders. A main requirement is writing the declaration explaining the recent instances of violence. You must be specific and let the judge know the nature of the violence and how fearful it has made you. Above all it should be direct as possible and not an exaggeration. Stick to discussing what you personally experienced as to avoid hearsay problems.
What happens after you file? When you file your papers a clerk will bring them to a judge who will review them in chambers the same day you file. If the judge grants you a Temporary Restraining Order, you can take it to the Sheriff and have it served on the other person for free. Serving the other person and giving them notice is an requirement.
The Temporary Restraining Order usually lasts for about 21 days. The Court will set a hearing date on the Temporary Restraining Order for a Permanent Restraining Order. These days judges can issue Restraining Orders for up to five years.
It is important that you come to the hearing date and bring whatever evidence and witnesses you want to present. If you don’t come to the hearing date, the judge will dismiss the Temporary Restraining Order.
Of course, the person who you filed the Restraining Order against will also come to the hearing. If that person does not come, a judge will probably issue a permanent order.
If both persons are there, the judge will hear the arguments from both sides and review evidence from each. The judge will also ask questions and will allow the parties to cross-examine each other. After that the judge will make a ruling.
If you do get a Permanent Restraining Order, make several copies and keep one with you. If the other party violates it, they can be arrested.
Some folks may be nervous about the court hearing and may want an attorney to represent them. If the other party has obtained an attorney, the person who filed may want an attorney at the hearing.
Questions? Call (818) 380-3081 or e-mail attorney Jim McCullaugh at: firstname.lastname@example.org.