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Legal Information: California

California Restraining Orders

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Restraining Orders

In this section you will find information about domestic violence restraining orders, civil harassment orders, restraining orders to prevent elder or dependent adult abuse, workplace violence restraining orders, and gun violence restraining orders. You will find helpful information on the California court system at the Center for Families, Children, & the Courts. Also, the California Courts Self Help Center has a lot of valuable information.

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

A domestic violence restraining order is a civil order that protects you from abuse from an intimate partner or family member.

Basic information

What is a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO)?

A domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) is a civil court order that is signed by a judge and tells the abuser to stop the abuse or face serious legal consequences. It offers civil legal protection from domestic violence to both female and male victims.

What is the legal definition of domestic violence in California?

This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a domestic violence protective order.

Domestic violence is defined as when your current or former spouse, boyfriend / girlfriend, someone you have a child in common with, someone you live(d) with, or someone you are related to through blood or marriage1 does one of the following:

  • causes or attempts to cause you physical injury;
  • sexually assaults you;
  • makes you fear that you or another person is in danger of immediate, serious physical injury;
  • molests, attacks, batters (uses force), or strikes you;
  • stalks you;
  • threatens or harasses you - either in person or through phone calls, emails, or other methods;
  • destroys your personal property; or
  • disturbs your peace.2

Note: If the acts of the abuser do not fit in this definition or if you do not have the specific relationship with the abuser that is mentioned above, you may still be eligible for a Civil Harassment Order. If you are elderly or a dependent adult, you may qualify for a protective order if you are being physically abused, neglected, financially abused by anyone or deprived of needed care by your custodian (caretaker). See Restraining Orders to Prevent Elder or Dependent Adult Abuse for more information.

1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6211
2 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6203; 6320(a)

What types of orders are there? How long do they last?

There are three types of domestic violence restraining orders:

Emergency Protective Order
If a police officer responds to a domestic violence call, the police officer can call a judge (anytime, day or night) and ask that an emergency protective order be issued for you, which goes into effect immediately.1

A judge will only issue an emergency protective order if s/he believes that there is an immediate and present danger of domestic violence or that a child is in immediate or present danger of abuse or abduction (kidnapping) by a parent or relative and that the order is necessary to prevent domestic violence, child abuse or child abduction.2

An emergency protective order can last only five business days or seven calendar days (whichever is shorter).3 An emergency protective order is supposed to give you time to go to court to ask for a domestic violence restraining order, which lasts longer. In the emergency order, the judge can include most of the protections that you can get in a regular DVRO, such as removing the abuser from the home and ordering him to have no contact with you. It can also give you temporary custody of your children.4 For other remedies that may be included, see How can a DVRO help me?

Temporary (ex parte) Restraining Order
When you go to court to apply for a restraining order, the clerk will give you a date, usually within three weeks, when you will have to come back to court for a full hearing. If you are in immediate danger and need protection right away, you can ask for a temporary (ex parte) restraining order, which can order the abuser to leave the home, have no contact with you, and offer many other forms of protection that are listed in How can a DVRO help me? 5

Restraining Order After Hearing
Whether or not you get a temporary order, you will be scheduled for a hearing to get a final DVRO. After having a court hearing, a judge can grant you a “restraining order after hearing” that can last up to five years. However, if there is no termination date on the order, the order will last 3 years from the date it was issued.6 See How can a DVRO help me? to read about all of the protections that you can get in a DVRO issued after a hearing. During the last three months of the order, you can ask the judge to have the order extended for another five years, or permanently. The judge can make this extension without you having to prove any further abuse.7

1 See Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6250
2 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6250; 6251
3 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6256
4 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6252(a) & (b); see CA Courts website
5 See Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6320; 6321
6 See Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6345(c)
7 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6345(a)

What protections can I get in a DVRO?

A domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) can:

  • Order the abuser not to do the following to you, your children, and/or your family/household members:
    • assault, threaten, abuse, follow, stalk, sexually assault, destroy the property of, come within a certain distance of, disturb the peace of, harass or make contact (directly or indirectly) on the telephone or by other means.
  • Grant you the exclusive care, possession, or control of any animal owned or held by either you, the abuser, or a child residing in either of your households and order the abuser to stay away from and not harm the animal;1
  • Order the abuser to be removed from the home you are both living in together even if you do not own the home or you are not the tenant;2
  • Prohibit the abuser from possessing or purchasing a firearm or ammunition;3
  • Order the abuser to pay child support and spousal support (if you are married)4 - see Can I get support when I file a DVRO?;
  • Grant you temporary possession of things that you own together such as a second home, a car, a computer, etc. The judge can also order the abuser to pay ongoing debts associated with those items; 5
  • Order the abuser to pay back money you lost for missing work or other expenses (such as ambulance, medical, dental, shelter, counseling and/or legal fees) that resulted from the abuse;6
  • Order the abuser to pay your attorney fees if you are unable to pay them and if the abuser earns more money than you do;7
  • Order the abuser to attend a batterer's treatment program or other counseling service;8
  • Transfer a shared cell phone account into your name alone so that you can keep your existing wireless telephone number and the wireless numbers of any minor children in your care;9
  • Give you temporary child custody and visitation. The judge can decide where the children will live, which parent will make decisions affecting the children, and how the children will spend time with each parent (including where, when, and whether that time is supervised or not). Note: Any order for custody, visitation, or support that is made within your DVRO will continue to be effective even when the DVRO ends. You may want to ask the judge to specifically write this fact into the DVRO to make future enforcement of it easier;10 and
  • Grant anything else you ask for that the judge agrees to.

Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.

1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6320(a); 6340(a)
2 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6321(a); 6340(c)
3 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6304
4 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6341
5 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6324
6 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6342
7 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6344
8 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6343
9 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6347(a)
10 Ann.Cal. Fam.Code §§ 6323; 6252; 6340(a)

I don't have a lawyer but I am afraid to face the abuser in court by myself. What can I do?

You don’t have to go to court alone. You can bring a “support person” with you so that you feel safe. A support person can be a friend, neighbor, church official, family member, or anyone else that you would like to have in court with you to help give you moral support. There is no training or certification necessary to become a support person, so whoever you choose does not need to take any sort of class before attending court with you.

Your support person can go with you to court to get a protective order, and if you don’t have a lawyer, s/he can sit beside you at the table where the lawyer would normally sit.1

1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6303

Who can get a DVRO

Am I eligible to file for a DVRO?

You can file for a domestic violence restraining order if you or your minor child have been the victims of domestic violence from:

  • a spouse or former spouse;
  • a person you are dating or used to date, including a same-sex partner;
  • the mother or father of your child;
  • a person related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption (such as a mother, father, child, brother, sister, grandparent, or in-law);
  • a "cohabitant," who is someone who regularly lives/lived in your home.1 Generally, a cohabitant is someone closer to you than just a "roommate."

The law defines a "dating relationship" as "frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affection or sexual involvement."2

Even if the most recent act of abuse happened some time ago, the length of time between the most recent act of abuse and the date you filed your petition should not be the determining factor that a judge uses to determine if you can get an order. The judge is supposed to consider the totality of the circumstances (the "whole picture") in determining whether or not to grant you a DVRO.3

Minors who are 12 years old or older can file for restraining orders without the assistance of a parent or guardian. However, if you are under 18 and living with a parent or guardian, a copy of the restraining order must be sent to at least one parent or guardian, unless the judge determines that doing so would not be in your best interest.4

1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6211; 6209
2 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6210
3 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6301(c)
4 Ann.Cal. C.C.P. § 372(b)(1), (b)(2)

Can I get a DVRO against a same-sex partner?

In California, you may apply for a domestic violence restraining order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Am I eligible to file for a DVRO?  You must also be the victim of an act of domestic violence, which is explained here What is the legal definition of domestic violence in California?

You can find information about LGBTQIA victims of abuse and what types of barriers they may face on our LGBTQIA Victims page.

Can a minor file for a DVRO?

Minors who are 12 years old or older can file for restraining orders without the assistance of a parent or guardian. However, if you are under 18 and living with a parent or guardian, a copy of the restraining order must be sent to at least one parent or guardian, unless the judge determines it is not in your best interest to do so.1

1 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 372(b)(1) & (2)

If I qualify for both a DVRO and a CHO, which one should I apply for?

If the person harassing you is an intimate partner or family or household member, you will likely want to file for a domestic violence restraining order ("DVRO") instead of a civil harassment order ("CHO") for the following reasons:

  1. There is a lower burden of proof to get a DVRO versus a CHO ("preponderance of the evidence" versus "clear and convincing evidence").1 In other words, it is easier for a judge to grant you a DVRO than it is for the judge to grant you a CHO.
  2. There is a broader definition of what is considered "abuse" in a DVRO than in a CHO. So, let's say you believe the acts committed against you come are harassment so you file for a CHO. But, then it turns out that the incidents don't actually meet the legal definition for harassment. If you applied for a CHO and can't prove harassment, the order would be denied. If you applied for a DVRO, however, it's possible that the acts may come under one of the other legal grounds for which you can get a DVRO, such as "disturbing your peace" or "destroying your property."2
  3. There are additional protections available in a DVRO that you cannot normally get in a CHO, such as:
    • having the abuser removed from the home you are both living in together even if you do not own the home or you are not the tenant;3
    • granting you child support and spousal support (if you are married);4
    • granting you temporary possession of things that you own together such as a second home, a car, a computer, etc. The judge can also order the abuser to pay ongoing debts associated with those items;5
    • ordering the abuser to pay back money you lost for missing work or other expenses (such as ambulance, medical, dental, shelter, counseling fees) that resulted from the abuse;6
    • ordering the abuser to attend a batterer's treatment program or other counseling service;7
    • transferring a shared cell phone account into your name alone so that you can keep your existing wireless telephone number and the wireless numbers of any minor children in your care;8 and
    • giving you temporary child custody and making an order for visitation.9
  4. To get a temporary CHO, you need to prove that there is a likelihood of future harm. To get a temporary DVRO, you do not need to prove this.10

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 526.7(i); Gdowski v. Gdowski, 175 Cal.App.4th 128 (2009)​
2 Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6203; 6320(a)
3 Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6321(a); 6340(c)
4 Cal.Fam.Code § 6341
5 Cal.Fam.Code § 6324
6 Cal.Fam.Code § 6342
7 Cal.Fam.Code § 6343
8 Cal.Fam.Code § 6347(a)
9 Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6323; 6252; 6340(a)
10 Cal.C.C.P. § 526.7(d)

How much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?

 There are no fees for filing for a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO).

You do not need a lawyer to file for a DVRO.  However, you may wish to have a lawyer, especially if the abuser has a lawyer.  Contacting a lawyer can help you to make sure that your legal rights are protected.

If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find contact information for legal assistance on the CA Finding a Lawyer page.  Domestic violence organizations in your area also may be able to help you through the legal process and may have lawyer referrals.  Go to CA Advocates and Shelters to find organizations near you.

 

Can I get financial support when I file for a DVRO?

Sometimes. If there is no current child support order and your child is living with you, the judge may order the abuser to pay you child support. However, you have to request it, and there are additional forms you have to fill out. You can find those forms on the CA Courts website or in court. In deciding whether to grant child support in domestic violence situations, the judge also considers whether a lack of support would put you and your child in danger.1

You may also be able to get spousal support if you are married to the abuser and no spousal support order exists. You will have to fill out additional forms, which can be found on the CA Courts website or in court. When deciding whether or not to order the abuser to pay spousal support, the court considers whether the lack of support would put you in danger (including safety concerns related to your financial needs).2

1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6341(a)
2 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6341(c)

The steps for getting a DVRO

Step 1 - Get the request (application).

You can get the request (application) for a domestic violence restraining order from the court clerk.  To find the courthouse in your county, go to CA Courthouse Locations.

Step 2 - Fill out the forms.

In the court clerk's office, ask for all the forms that you will need to file for a domestic violence restraining order.  You can also find links to forms online on our CA Download Court Forms page.  Be sure to tell the clerk if you think you need protection right away and want a Temporary (ex parte) Restraining Order.  You should be given an instruction booklet in court (called "DV-150") for line-by-line instructions on how to fill out the forms.

Step 3 - Give the completed forms to the clerk and get a court hearing date.

Give your forms to the clerk. S/he will then give them to the judge who may or may not want to speak to you. Only a judge can review your application for (and give you) a temporary (ex parte) restraining order. The judge may give you the order the same day you ask for it, but if you file in a really busy court or if you file late in the day, the order might not be signed until the next court day. If you get a temporary restraining order, it will last from the time you file for your restraining order until your full court hearing.

Whether or not you get a temporary order, the clerk will tell you when to come back for your court hearing, generally about three weeks later. The clerk should write down when and where your hearing will be on the copies of your court forms.

Note: You must go to the scheduled court hearing. If you do not go, the judge may dismiss (throw out) your case. If you absolutely cannot go for some reason, call the court clerk to find out how to get a continuance (this is when the hearing is rescheduled for a later date) and have the temporary order reissued. According to the law, either party may request a continuance of the hearing, which the judge should grant if there is "good cause" to do so. The request may be made in writing before or at the hearing or orally at the hearing.1

1 CA Civil Code §§ 245; 240

Step 4 - Service of process

The law requires that the abuser be given formal notice that you have filed for a restraining order. Your forms can be personally served by anyone over 18 years of age who is not involved in your case,1 such as a friend, a relative, law enforcement or a professional process server. You cannot be the one to give these forms to the abuser. (If you want the sheriff to serve the papers, go to the CA Sheriff Departments to locate a sheriff near you.) The court will decide how many days before the court date the abuser has to be served.

You do not have to pay to have the court forms served on the abuser if law enforcement serves the papers. The sheriff or marshal can serve domestic violence restraining orders for free2 but your county may require that you fill out a "fee waiver application" first. If you hire a professional process server to serve the abuser, you must pay him/her on your own.

If you were not able to have the abuser served before the court date, you can ask the judge for a new hearing date and another temporary restraining order. There is a specific form that will need to be filled out to request that the hearing is continued and it must be done before the hearing. You can go to the CA Courts website for more information and links to all of these forms or ask the court clerk. If the judge believes that you made a "diligent effort" to accomplish personal service, the judge can allow an alternative method of service if there is reason to believe that the abuser is purposefully avoiding (evading) service. Alternative methods of service include, but are not limited to:

  1. service by publication, which is when the summons is published in a newspaper that is most likely to give actual notice to the party to be served and a copy is mailed to the abuser's address (if known)
  2. service by mail, return receipt requested, to the most current address for the abuser; or
  3. delivering a copy of the court papers to the respondent's home or place of employment in care of someone who is at least 18 years old and then mailing a copy to the address where it was delivered.3

Whoever serves the court papers on the abuser will have to fill out a proof of service form. This form will let the judge know that the abuser was served with the forms. Make sure that you get this form back after it is filled out because it is your responsibility to file it in court. Before filing the proof of service form in court, make five copies of it – then bring the original and five copies to court. The clerk will keep the original and give you back the copies stamped “Filed.” Take a copy to your hearing and attach another copy to the restraining order that you carry with you as proof that it was served.2

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 414.10
2 See California Courts Self-Help Center
3 Cal. Fam. Code § 6340(a)(2)(A); Cal. C.C.P. §§ 415.50(b); 415.20

Step 5 - Go to your court hearing.

To get a final restraining order, you must go to the court hearing and prove that the abuser has committed an act(s) of domestic violence (as defined by the law) against you or your children.  It would likely be best if you had a lawyer with you to represent you at the hearing.  If you can’t get a lawyer before your court date, you can ask the judge for a "continuance" to set a later court date so you can have time to find a lawyer.  It is up to the judge whether or not to grant your request.  According to the law, either party may request a continuance of the hearing, which the judge should grant if there is "good cause" to do so.  The request may be made in writing before or at the hearing or orally at the hearing.1  Go to CA Finding a Lawyer to find legal help.

Here are some tips to remember when going to court for the hearing:

  • Get to court on time (or, even better, get there early);
  • Bring copies of all of the forms that you already filed in court or that you have to file; evidence that will help you prove that you need the DVRO, such as witnesses who saw the abuse, photos of any injuries; medical, repair, or other bills that are related to the domestic violence you suffered; relevant police reports; and other papers that are important to your case.  (For any document you want the judge to look at, bring the original and two copies. Give the court clerk or bailiff one copy to give to the abuser.)  If you are asking for child support, you can try to meet with the court’s family law facilitator to find out how much child support you could get, and take these documents to court as well:
    • Your last three pay stubs;
    • Your most recent federal and state tax returns; and
    • Proof of child care or uninsured health care expenses for the child.
  • If at all possible, arrange for someone to watch your child while you go to court.  If that is not possible, some courthouses have children’s waiting rooms but you should call your courthouse to find out if this is an option before you go to court.  For contact information, go to CA Courthouse Locations.
  • If your child has important information about the violence or threats, ask an attorney, a victim witness counselor, or the domestic violence counselor about how to have the judge hear from your child.  (To find someone who can help you with this, go to CA Advocates and Shelters.)
  • Check in with the clerk or bailiff as soon as you get to court.  If the abuser is also at the court, and you are worried about your safety, tell the clerk or bailiff so that they can help you.  After you have checked in, take a seat and wait until your case is called.

Note: Even if you cannot find an attorney to represent you, you may want to try to talk to an attorney to get advice as to what types of evidence you can bring to court and other ways to represent yourself.  You can also go to our Preparing Your Case page for more information when representing yourself.

1 CA Civil Code §§ 245; 240

Step 6 - After the hearing

Once the judge has signed the restraining order after hearing form, take all the copies to the clerk's office so they can be stamped and returned to you.

You are entitled to three free certified copies of the DVRO from the court clerk.1 Your order does not have to be certified to be enforced, but in some counties, law enforcement demand a certified copy anyway. You will need one copy of the final court order for each law enforcement agency you want to give the order to, the abuser, your children's school or daycare provider, and others who will help enforce the court order, and two copies for yourself. The court may charge a fee if you need more than three certified copies of your DVRO.

If you get confused about exactly what the judge has ordered, you can ask for a copy of the "minute order," which is usually available from the court clerk a few days after the hearing. The minute order is what the court clerk writes down as the judge tells what order is s/he granting. You can also purchase a copy of the transcript from the court reporter, which will include everything that was said during the hearing. (The transcript can be very expensive, so ask for an estimate before requesting one.) However, the information in the transcript or minute order will not be looked at by the police when enforcing the DVRO. Only the terms written in the order will be enforced, so please be sure that you read the order carefully before leaving court to make sure that it has the terms in it that you expected it to have.

1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6387

After the hearing

Can the abuser have a gun?

Once you get a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO), there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession.  There are a few places where you can find this information:

  • first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in California have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
  • second, read the Gun Violence Restraining Orders page to learn about other situations where an abuser's access to guns can be restricted;
  • third, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
  • fourth you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal laws that apply to all states.

You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website

What should I do when I leave the courthouse?

These are some things you may want to consider after you have been granted a restraining order. Depending on what you think is safest in your situation, you may do any or all of the following: 

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse.  If you have any questions about it, be sure to ask the judge or clerk.
  • Make several copies of the restraining order as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you all of the time.
  • Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks and your phone number.

If the abuser did not come to the hearing, you must have the new DVRO served on him/her again.  You can find contact information on our CA Sheriff Departments page.

You may also wish to make a safety plan.  Women can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school.  Many batterers obey protective orders, but some do not and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  Click on the following link for suggestions on Safety Tips.

What if I received a child support order with my DVRO?

If the judge ordered the abuser to pay child support, you will need to fill out and have the judge sign several more forms. You may be able to get free help with all of these forms from the family law facilitator in court or from the Self-Help Center in the courthouse.1

1CA Courts website

How do I get child support through wage assignment?

There are various forms that need to be filled out to get the child support to be taken directly out of the abuser’s wages. The CA Courts website gives step-by-step instructions on what to do. Click here to read all of the steps.

I was not granted a DVRO. What are my options?

If you were not granted a DVRO, there are still some things you can do to stay safe.  It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic violence resource centers in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe.  They can help you develop a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need.  For safety planning help, ideas, and information, go to our Staying Safe page.  You will find a list of CA resources on our CA Places that Help page.

If you were not granted a DVRO because your relationship with the abuser does not qualify you for one, you may be able to seek protection through a civil harassment order.  You will find more information about this process in Civil Harassment Orders.

You can also reapply for a DVRO if a new incident of domestic abuse occurs after you are denied the order.

If you believe the judge made an error of law, you can talk to a lawyer about the possibility of an appeal.  Generally, appeals are complicated and you will most likely need the help of a lawyer.  Also, there is a limited amount of time to file an appeal after the judge denies you the DVRO so please talk to a lawyer immediately if you want to explore this option.  Go to CA Finding a Lawyer for legal referrals.
 

What if the abuser violates the order?

Violating a DVRO is against the law. There are 2 ways to get help if the abuser violates the DVRO.

Through the police or sheriff
If the defendant violates the DVRO, you can call 911 immediately. In some cases, the defendant can be arrested right away.1 Tell the officers you have a DVRO and the defendant is violating it. Always have both a certified copy (that you got from the court clerk) of your Restraining Order After Hearing (CLETS)2, Form DV-130 (with any attachments) and your filed copy of the Proof of Service, showing that the abuser was served with the Restraining Order After Hearing (Form DV-140) with you at all times.3

If the abuser is arrested and criminal charges are filed, you may be asked to go to court to tell what happened. It may be several weeks or months before the criminal case is called and you are asked to tell about what happened. It will be easier to remember things for your hearing if you write down everything that happened right after it happens.

Through the civil court
You may file for civil contempt for a violation of the order. The abuser is in "civil contempt" if s/he does anything that your DVRO orders him/her not to do. To file for civil contempt, go to the clerk's office.

If the abuser is found to be in civil contempt, s/he could be fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned for up to 5 days.4

If the abuser does not follow other parts of the order (such as the child support order), you can also contact the family law facilitator, the family support office of the district attorney, or a private attorney for more information on how to enforce the order. (For court information, go to: CA Courthouse Locations.)

1 See Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6388
2 See Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6387
3 See Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6385
4 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 1218

How do I change or extend my order?

Either you or the abuser can file to change (modify) your domestic violence restraining order. The California Courts website has the forms that you need to fill out to modify the order as well as information on how to respond to a motion to modify the order if the other party files.

If you want your restraining order to last longer, you will likely want to file for the extension one to two months before your order expires to make sure that you will have your hearing before the order ends. You will need to fill certain forms to renew your order. The judge can make your DVRO last for five more years or permanently with no expiration date. You do not have to prove that there has been further abuse to get the extension.1

The court clerk, a private attorney, or a domestic violence counselor should have the forms you will need to have your order continued. You will also find links to online forms on our CA Download Court Forms page. You will need to have the abuser served with these forms and attend a hearing. The California Courts website gives step-by-step instructions as to what to do after you fill out the forms - click here to read it.

1 Cal.Fam.Code § 6345(a)

What happens if I move?

If you move within California or to another state, your order will still be valid and enforceable.  Federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. Territories and tribal lands.1

Different states may have different rules for enforcing out-of-state restraining orders.  If you are moving out of state, you may want to call a domestic violence program in the state where you are going to find out if there are any special regulations regarding out-of-state orders.

Please see our Places that Help pages for your state for more information.  You may also want to call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111 x 2) to find out this information.

Note: For information on enforcing a military protection order (MPO) off the military installation or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 See 18 U.S.C. § 2265

Civil Harassment Orders

This civil order provides protection from harassment from someone with whom you do or do not have a relationship.

Basic info

What is the legal definition of harassment in California?

For the purposes of getting a civil harassment order, harassment is defined as:

  • Unlawful violence, such as:
    • assault (attempting to cause a violent injury to you)
    • battery (use of force against you) or
    • stalking (repeatedly following or harassing you with the intent to place you in reasonable fear for your safety or your immediate family's safety);1
  • A credible threat of violence (a statement or actions that reasonably place you in fear for your safety, or the safety of your immediate family); or
  • Repeated actions (such as following you, making harassing telephone calls, or sending harassing emails) that seriously alarm, annoy, or harass you, and that serve no legitimate purpose and cause you to be extremely emotionally upset (distressed).2

1 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(b); Ann.Cal.Penal Code §§ 240, 242, 646.9
2 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(b)

What types of civil harassment orders are there? How long do they last?

You may receive a temporary order if you show reasonable proof of harassment and that you will suffer great or irreparable harm.1 A temporary order will last until you can have a full court hearing (usually within 21 - 25 days).2 An order after hearing will last up to five years and can be extended for up to an additional five years. If the order does not have an expiration date on it, this means that it will last for three years from the date it was issued.3

1 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(d)
2 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(f)
3 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(j)

How does a judge decide whether or not to turn my temporary CHO to a final CHO?

The judge will hold a hearing within 21 to 25 days from when the temporary order was issued to decide whether or not to extend your order. However, the respondent is entitled to one continuance, for a reasonable period, to respond to the petition. In addition, either party may request a continuance of the hearing, which the judge can grant if there is "good cause" to do so.

During this hearing, the harasser can respond to the allegations of harassment that you told the judge to get the temporary order and can try and explain, excuse, justify, or deny the harassment. The judge will then consider all of the evidence and decide whether or not the harassment actually occurred. If the judge decides that the harassment did occur, then s/he should grant you a final order, known as an order after hearing.1

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(f)-(j), (o), (p)

What protections can I get in a civil harassment order?

A temporary ex parte order or an order issued after a hearing can do any of the following:

  • prohibit the harasser from harassing, intimidating, molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, abusing, and telephoning you (including, but not limited to, making annoying telephone calls);
  • prohibit the harasser from destroying your personal property or disturbing your peace;
  • prohibit the harasser from contacting you, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise;
  • order the abuser to stay a specified distance away from you;
  • give you exclusive care, possession, or control of any animal that you own, possess, or that lived in your household; and
  • order the respondent to stay away from the animal and to not take, transfer, hide, attack, hit, threaten, harm, or get rid of the animal;
  • order the harasser to pay your court costs and attorney's fees if you win the case; and
  • order the harasser to give up (relinquish) any firearms that s/he owns or possesses. Note: Even if the judge doesn't specifically order this, it is illegal for anyone who has a civil harassment order issued against him/her to own, possess, purchase, receive, or attempt to purchase or receive a firearm or ammunition while the protective order is in effect.1

If the judge believes there is a good reason to do so, you may be able to include other family or household members as additional protected parties on the order.2

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(a)(6), (s), (u)
2 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(c)

Who is eligible for an order and how to get one

Am I eligible to file for a civil harassment order? Who can I file against?

If you suffered harassment or stalking (as defined by law) by anyone, you can apply to the court for a civil harassment order against him/her. It does not matter who the person harassing you is.1 However, if the person harassing you is an intimate partner or family or household member, you will likely want to file for a domestic violence restraining order ("DVRO") instead of a civil harassment order ("CHO"). See If I qualify for both a civil harassment order and a domestic violence restraining order, which one should I file for?

1 See Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6

If I qualify for both a CHO and a DVRO, which one should I apply for?

If the person harassing you is an intimate partner or family or household member, you will likely want to file for a domestic violence restraining order ("DVRO") instead of a civil harassment order ("CHO") for the following reasons:

  1. There is a lower burden of proof to get a DVRO versus a CHO ("preponderance of the evidence" versus "clear and convincing evidence").1 In other words, it is easier for a judge to grant you a DVRO than it is for the judge to grant you a CHO.
  2. There is a broader definition of what is considered "abuse" in a DVRO than in a CHO. So, let's say you believe the acts committed against you come are harassment so you file for a CHO. But, then it turns out that the incidents don't actually meet the legal definition for harassment. If you applied for a CHO and can't prove harassment, the order would be denied. If you applied for a DVRO, however, it's possible that the acts may come under one of the other legal grounds for which you can get a DVRO, such as "disturbing your peace" or "destroying your property."2
  3. There are additional protections available in a DVRO that you cannot normally get in a CHO, such as:
    • having the abuser removed from the home you are both living in together even if you do not own the home or you are not the tenant;3
    • granting you child support and spousal support (if you are married);4
    • granting you temporary possession of things that you own together such as a second home, a car, a computer, etc. The judge can also order the abuser to pay ongoing debts associated with those items;5
    • ordering the abuser to pay back money you lost for missing work or other expenses (such as ambulance, medical, dental, shelter, counseling fees) that resulted from the abuse;6
    • ordering the abuser to attend a batterer's treatment program or other counseling service;7
    • transferring a shared cell phone account into your name alone so that you can keep your existing wireless telephone number and the wireless numbers of any minor children in your care;8 and
    • giving you temporary child custody and making an order for visitation.9
  4. To get a temporary CHO, you need to prove that there is a likelihood of future harm. To get a temporary DVRO, you do not need to prove this.10

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 526.7(i); Gdowski v. Gdowski, 175 Cal.App.4th 128 (2009)​
2 Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6203; 6320(a)
3 Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6321(a); 6340(c)
4 Cal.Fam.Code § 6341
5 Cal.Fam.Code § 6324
6 Cal.Fam.Code § 6342
7 Cal.Fam.Code § 6343
8 Cal.Fam.Code § 6347(a)
9 Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6323; 6252; 6340(a)
10 Cal.C.C.P. § 526.7(d)

What are the steps involved with getting a CHO?

How much does a civil harassment order cost?

If you are requesting the civil harassment order against a person who was violent, threatened you with violence, stalked you, or acted or spoken in any other way that made you reasonably fear violence, there is no fee for filing or serving the order, for a subpoena related to the case, or to respond to a petition based on these acts. In other cases, you may have to pay a fee unless you qualify for a fee waiver.1

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(x),(y)

Will the harasser be notified that I am trying to get a civil harassment order against him/her?

Yes. The harasser must be personally served with a copy of your petition and the temporary restraining order (if there is one) as well as notice of the hearing where the judge will decide whether or not to grant you a final civil harassment order. The harasser must be served at least 5 days before the hearing unless the judge decides there is good reason to shorten that time.1 Your forms can be personally served by anyone over 18 years of age who is not involved in your case,2 such as a friend, a relative, law enforcement or a professional process server.

1 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(m)
2 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 414.10

I don’t have a lawyer but I am afraid to face the harasser in court by myself. What can I do?

You don’t have to go to court alone. You can bring a “support person” with you so that you feel safe. A support person can be a friend, neighbor, church official, family member, or anyone else that you would like to have in court with you to help give you moral support. There is no training or certification necessary to become a support person, so whoever you choose does not need to take any sort of class before attending court with you. Your support person can go with you to court to get a civil harassment order, and if you don’t have a lawyer, s/he can sit beside you at the table where the lawyer would normally sit.1

1 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(l)

After the hearing

Can I file to extend my final civil harassment order beyond five years?

Yes, you can apply to extend it and you do not have to show any further harassment since the original order was issued. At any time within the 3 months before the civil harassment order will run out, you can apply for a renewal of up to an additional five years. To file for a renewal, you must file a new petition for a civil harassment order (you basically take the same steps that you took to get the order that is currently in place) and it is up to the judge to decide whether or not to extend it.1

1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(j)(1)

What if the harasser owns a gun?

Anyone who has a civil harassment order against him/her cannot legally own, possess, or buy a gun or ammunition.1 If the harasser owns a gun, s/he must either give it to the police or sell it to a licensed gun dealer within 24 hours of the order being granted.2 If the harasser keeps the gun or ammunition in spite of the order, s/he could be guilty of a public offense, which could be punished by imprisonment in a county jail or state prison for up to one year, by a fine up to $1,000, or both.3

1 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(u)(1)
2 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 5.27.6(u)(2)
3 AnnCal.C.C.P. § 527.6(u)(3) & Ann.Cal.Penal Code § 29825(a)

What happens if the harasser violates the order?

A violation of a temporary or final civil harassment order can be a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment in a county jail for up to 1 year, or both. If the violation results in you being physically injured, the fine can go up to $2,000.1

1 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(t); Ann.Cal.Penal Code § 273.6(a),(b)

Restraining Orders to Prevent Elder or Dependent Adult Abuse

Basic info and definitions

What is a restraining order to prevent elder or dependent adult abuse?

You can get a restraining order to prevent elder or dependent abuse if you are the victim of abuse and you are elderly (65 or older) or you are a dependent adult.1  You do not have to have a specific relationship with the abuser to get an order.

1 Cal Wel. & Inst. Code §§ 15657.03(a)(1), 15610.27

What is the legal definition of elder or dependent adult abuse?

For the purposes of getting a restraining order to prevent elder or dependent adult abuse, “abuse” is defined as:

  • physical abuse;
  • neglect;
  • abandonment;
  • isolation;
  • abduction;
  • other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering;
  • a caregiver withholding goods or services that are necessary to avoid your physical harm or mental suffering;
  • financial abuse (as defined in Section 15610.30).1

 1 Cal Wel. & Inst. Code § 15610.07(a)

What types of restraining orders to prevent elder or dependent adult abuse are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of orders: a temporary ex parte order and a final order.

If you ask for a temporary ex parte restraining order, the judge will decide whether or not to issue the order on the same day that you file for it (or, if it’s filed too late in the day, on the next day the court is in session).1 If the judge grants you a temporary order, it will last until your hearing date for a final order, which is generally within 21 days (but could be within 25 days if there is “good cause”).2 At your final hearing date, the judge will decide to continue or cancel the order. If the judge grants you a final order, it could last for up to five years.3

1 Cal Wel. & Inst. Code § 15657.03(e)
2 Cal Wel. & Inst. Code § 15657.03(f)
3 Cal Wel. & Inst. Code § 15657.03(i)(1)

Am I eligible for a restraining order to prevent elder or dependent adult abuse?

If you are 65 years old or older (an “elder”) or a dependent adult who is being abused, you can apply for a restraining order to prevent elder or dependent adult abuse.1 A dependent adult is a person between the ages of 18 and 64 who has physical or mental limitations that restrict his/her ability to carry out normal activities or to protect his/her rights or who is admitted as an inpatient to a 24-hour health facility.2

You can also file for a restraining order on behalf of an abused elder or dependent adult if you are:

  • his/her conservator or trustee;
  • his/her attorney-in-fact, acting within the authority of the power of attorney;
  • appointed as a guardian ad litem for the elder or dependent adult; or
  • any other person legally authorized to seek such relief.3

1 Cal Wel. & Inst. Code §§ 15657.03(a)(1), 15610.27
2 Cal Wel. & Inst. Code § 15610.23(b)
3 Cal Wel. & Inst. Code § 15657.03(a)(2)

Getting the order

What are the steps to get a restraining order to prevent elder or dependent adult abuse?

How much do they cost?

There is no fee to file a petition for a restraining order to prevent elder or dependent abuse or to later modify, reissue or enforce the order. You also do not need to pay a fee for law enforcement to serve any order issued in your case.1

1 Cal Wel. & Inst. Code § 15657.03(q),(r)

What protections can I get in a restraining order to prevent elder or dependent adult abuse?

A temporary ex parte order or an order issued after a hearing can do any of the following:

  1. prohibit the abuser from harassing, intimidating, molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, abusing, and telephoning you (including, but not limited to, making annoying telephone calls);
  2. prohibit the abuser from destroying your personal property or disturbing your peace;
  3. prohibit the abuser from contacting you, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise;
  4. order the abuser to stay a specified distance away from you; and
  5. make the abuser move out of the home you share if certain conditions are met.1

Note: The protections in numbers 1 – 4, above, can also apply to the victim’s family or household members or to the conservator upon showing that there is “good cause” to include them.2

1 Cal Wel. & Inst. Code § 15657.03(b)(3),(d)
2 Cal Wel. & Inst. Code § 15657.03(b)(3)(A)

Gun Violence Restraining Orders

A gun violence restraining order temporarily restricts a respondent's access to guns in certain situations to protect him/her and others.

Basic info

What is a gun violence restraining order?

A gun violence restraining order is a civil court order that prohibits an individual (called the respondent) from having firearms or ammunition in his/her custody or control or from or attempting to purchase or receive a firearm or ammunition.

Who can file for a gun violence restraining order?

You can file for a gun violence restraining order if you are the respondent’s immediate family member.1 You are considered an immediate family member if you are the respondent’s:

  • spouse (including a common law spouse if established in a state that recognizes common law marriage);
  • domestic partner;
  • parent;
  • child;
  • second-degree relative (such as an uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, grandchild, etc.); or
  • current household member or regularly lived in the respondent’s household within the previous 6 months before filing.2

Law enforcement officers can also request gun violence restraining orders.3Note: You can request that a law enforcement officer file a petition even if you are not the respondent’s immediate family member.

1 Cal. Penal Code § 18105(a)(1),(2)
2 Cal. Penal Code § 422.4(b)(3)
3 Cal Penal Code § 18105(a)(1)

What types of gun violence restraining orders are there? How long do they last?

There are three types of gun violence restraining orders: temporary emergency orders (ex parte orders that may be filed by law enforcement only), emergency (ex parte) gun violence restraining orders and gun violence restraining orders issued after notice and a hearing.

Temporary Emergency (ex parte) Gun Violence Restraining Order – Law enforcement (but not immediate family members) may ask a judge, orally or in writing, to issue a temporary emergency order any time of the day or night. The respondent does not need to be in the courtroom or have notice of the case for the judge to issue the order. This type of order remains in effect for up to 21 days after it is issued.1

Emergency (ex parte) Gun Violence Restraining Order - Law enforcement officers or the respondent’s immediate family member can file a petition to request that the judge issue an emergency ex parte gun violence restraining order.2 The respondent does not need to be in the courtroom or have notice of the case for the judge to issue an emergency ex parte order. Emergency ex parte orders last for up to 21 days.3

To issue an emergency ex parte gun violence restraining order, the judge must find that:

  • the respondent poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to himself/herself or another person by having in his/her custody or control, owning, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm or ammunition; and
  • a gun violence restraining order is necessary to prevent personal injury to the respondent, you, or another person because less restrictive methods either have been tried and did not work or are inappropriate for the circumstances.4

Gun Violence Restraining Order after Notice and Hearing - Before the emergency ex parte order expires, the court sets a date for a hearing at which the respondent has the opportunity to be present and object to the order being issued. If the judge issues a gun violence restraining order after the respondent has notice and the opportunity to appear, the judge can issue the order for one year.5

1 Cal. Penal Code § 18125
2 Cal. Penal Code § 18150(a)(1)
3 Cal. Penal Code §§ 18125(a),(b); 18165
4 Cal. Penal Code § 18125(a)(2)
5 Cal. Penal Code § 18175(d)

What protections can I get in a gun violence restraining order?

A gun violence restraining order can require that the respondent:

  • not have a gun or ammunition;
  • not buy or attempt to buy a gun or ammunition; and
  • turn in any guns and ammunition to the police or sell them to (or store them with) a licensed gun dealer.1

1 Cal. Penal Code §§ 18100; 18125(b); Petition for Firearms Restraining Order

Getting the order

How do I get a gun violence restraining order?

The steps to get a gun violence restraining order are similar to the steps to get a domestic violence restraining order, but you will fill out different forms. When filing a petition for a gun violence restraining order, you must describe the number, types, and locations of any firearms and ammunition you believe the respondent currently possesses or controls.1

1 Cal. Penal Code § 18107

How will the judge make a decision?

In deciding whether to grant a gun violence restraining order, the judge must consider the following evidence:

  • a recent (within 6 months) threat of violence, or act of violence by the respondent, either self-inflicted or to others;
  • a violation of a current domestic violence emergency protective order or an emergency stalking protective order;
  • a recent violation of an unexpired domestic violence protective order, a civil harassment order, a protection order prohibiting intimidation of witnesses, or a restraining order to prevent elder or dependent adult abuse;
  • a conviction for a crime that prohibits purchase and possession of firearms under California law; and
  • a pattern of violent acts or threats within the past 12 months by the respondent directed toward
  • himself/herself or to others.1

The judge may also consider any other relevant evidence that indicates an increased risk for violence, such as:

  • the respondent’s unlawful and reckless use, display, or brandishing (flaunting) of a firearm;
  • the respondent’s history of use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against another person;
  • the respondent’s prior arrest for a felony offense;
  • the respondent’s history of a (non-recent) violation of a domestic violence emergency protective order or stalking emergency protective order;
  • the respondent’s history of a (non-recent) violation of a domestic violence protective order, a civil harassment order, a protection order declaring a minor child a dependent child, a protection order prohibiting intimidation of witnesses, or a restraining order to prevent elder or dependent adult abuse;
  • police reports and conviction records of the respondent’s recent criminal offenses that involve controlled substances or alcohol;
  • documentary evidence of ongoing abuse of controlled substances or alcohol; and
  • evidence of the respondent recently gaining access to firearms, ammunition, or other deadly weapons.2

1 Cal. Penal Code § 18155(b)(1)
2 Cal. Penal Code § 18155(b)(2)

Can a gun violence restraining order be renewed?

Yes. A gun violence restraining order issued after a hearing can be issued for up to one year. You or a law enforcement officer can request that the judge renew the order if you (or the officer) make that request within 3 months of the order expiring.1

1 Cal. Penal Code § 18190

Workplace Violence Restraining Orders

In California, an employer can file for a workplace violence restraining order to protect an employee from experiencing violence or threats of violence in the workplace. If you are experiencing violence, you may be able to ask that your employer file for a workplace violence restraining order to protect you or you may consider filing for a domestic violence restraining order on your own. If you decide to ask an employer to file for a workplace violence restraining order on your behalf, you may want to speak with a lawyer for legal advice about any possible advantages or disadvantages to doing so. A workplace violence restraining order can also protect your family or household members and other employees at your workplace or any other workplaces of the employer.1

A workplace violence restraining order must be requested by the employer. If you are an employer and you have and employee experiencing violence, you may consider filing for an order to protect your employees.

When requesting a workplace violence restraining order, your employer must show that:

  • you have suffered unlawful violence or a credible threat of violence;
  • the unlawful violence or threat of violence could reasonably be construed (understood) to be carried out or to have been carried out at the workplace; and
  • the abuser’s behavior has no other lawful purpose.

Through a workplace violence restraining order, the judge can order that the abuser not:

  • contact you, any member of your household, or other employees;
  • come near you, your children, your household members, or other employees;
  • come near your work, school, or children’s schools; and
  • have a gun.2

A workplace violence restraining order can be issued for up to three years. You can learn more about workplace violence restraining orders by reading the statute on our website and by visiting the California Courts website.

Note: Although an employee is not eligible to file for this type of order, you may qualify for a different type of restraining order in your state if you are experiencing violence or harassment.

1 California Courts website
2 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.8

Moving to Another State with a Restraining Order

If you are moving out of state or are going to be out of the state for any reason, your restraining order can still be enforceable.

General rules

Can I get my DVRO from California enforced in another state?

Yes.  Federal law states that all valid DVROs granted in the United States receive "full faith and credit" in all state and tribal courts within the US, including US territories.1  See How do I know if my DVRO is good under federal law? to find out if your DVRO qualifies.

If you have a valid California DVRO that meets federal standards, it can be enforced in another state.  Each state must enforce out-of-state DVROs in the same way it enforces its own orders.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265

How do I know if my DVRO is good under federal law?

A DVRO is good anywhere in the United States as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story. It doesn’t matter if he actually showed up in court; just that he had the opportunity to do so.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled within a "reasonable time" after the order is issued.2

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)(A)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a) & (b)

I have a temporary ex-parte restraining order. Can it be enforced in another state?

Yes. An ex parte temporary order can be enforced in other states as long as it meets the requirements listed in How do I know if my DVRO is good under federal law?1

Note: The state where you are going generally cannot extend your ex parte temporary order or issue you a permanent order when the temporary one expires. If you need to extend your temporary order, you will have to contact the state that issued the order and arrange to be at the hearing in person or by telephone (if that is an option offered by the court). However, you may be able to reapply for one in the new state that you are moving to if you meet the requirements for getting a protective order in that state – but, if you apply for one in a new state, the abuser would know what state you are living in, which may put you in danger.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(b)(2)

Getting your California restraining order enforced in another state

How do I get my DVRO enforced in another state?

Federal law does not require you to take any special steps to get your domestic violence retraining order (DVRO) enforced in another state.

Many states do have laws or regulations (rules) about registering or filing of out-of-state orders, which can make enforcement easier, but a valid DVRO is enforceable regardless of whether it has been registered or filed in the new state.1 Rules differ from state to state, so it may be helpful to find out what the rules are in your new state. You can contact a local domestic violence organization for more information by visiting our Advocates and Shelters page and entering your new state in the drop-down menu.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(d)(2)

Do I need anything special to get my DVRO enforced in another state?

In some states, you will need a certified copy of your DVRO. A certified copy says that it is a "true and correct" copy; it is signed and initialed by the clerk of court that gave you the order, and usually has some kind of court stamp on it. In California, a certified order is stamped with a seal and endorsed by the court clerk.1

The 5 copies you originally received in court when you got your DVRO should have been certified copies. If you no longer have a certified copy, go to the court that gave you the order and ask the clerk's office for a certified copy. Although you cannot be charged a fee when you initially received the 5 certified copies,1 it is possible that for additional certified copies there may be a charge.

Note: It is a good idea to keep a copy of the order with you at all times. You will also want to bring several copies of the order with you when you move. Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children's school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on. Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser. Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.

1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6387

Can I get someone to help me? Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer to get your DVRO enforced in another state.

However, you may want to get help from a local domestic violence advocate or attorney in the state that you move to.  A domestic violence advocate can let you know what the advantages and disadvantages are for registering your DVRO, and help you through the process if you decide to do so.

To find a domestic violence advocate or an attorney in the state you are moving to, select your state from the Places that Help tab on the top of this page and then click on Advocates and Shelters to find an advocate or click on Finding a Lawyer to find legal help.

Do I need to tell the court in California if I move?

It may be a good idea to contact the court if you are moving since the court that gave you your DVRO may need to have an up-to-date mailing address for you in case the abuser asks the court to dismiss the order or change it in any way. However, before giving your new address, if it is a confidential one, make sure that the court will keep it confidential from the abuser. If you feel unsafe giving your new address, you may want to use the address of a trusted friend or a P.O. box instead.

Enforcing custody provisions in another state

I was granted temporary custody with my DVRO. Can I take my kids out of the state?

Maybe.  It will depend on the exact wording of the custody provision in your DVRO.  You may have to first seek the permission of the judge before leaving.  If the abuser was granted visitation rights with your children, then you may have to have the order changed, or show the judge that there is a fair and realistic alternative to the current visitation schedule.

To read more about custody laws in California, go to our Custody page.

If you are unsure about whether or not you can take your kids out of the state, it is important to talk to a domestic violence advocate or lawyer who understands domestic violence and custody laws, and can help you make the safest decision for you and your children. You can find contact information for local domestic violence organizations and legal assistance in the CA area on our CA Places that Help page.

I was granted temporary custody with my DVRO. Will another state enforce this custody order?

Yes. Custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in a DVRO can be enforced across state lines. Law enforcement and courts in another state are required by federal law to enforce these provisions.1

1 18 U.S.C. §§ 2266(5); 2265

Enforcing your Out-Of-State Order in California

If you are planning to move to California or are going to be in California for any reason, your protection or restraining order can be enforced.

General rules for out-of-state orders in California

Can I get my out-of-state protection order enforced in California? What are the requirements?

Yes.  Your out-of-state protection order can be enforced in California as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case.  (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.) and
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled within a "reasonable time" after the order is issued.2

Your protective order from a different state can be enforced both by judges as well as police officers in California.3  A judge is required to even enforce parts of your order that could not legally be included in a California DVRO.4  A California police officer can immediately enforce a protective order from another state so long as you have a copy that the officer believes is legitimate (valid).5  So, it’s a good idea to always keep a copy of your order on you so that you can show it to a police officer if you need to.

Note: For information on enforcing a military protection order (MPO) off the military installation or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)(A)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a) & (b)
3 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6402; 6403
4 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6402
5 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6403

Can I have my out-of-state protection order changed, extended, or canceled in CA?

No.  Generally, only the state that issued your protection order can change, extend, or cancel the order.  You cannot have this done by a court in California.

To have your order changed, extended, or canceled, you will have to file a motion or petition in the court where the order was issued.  You may be able to request that you attend the court hearing by telephone rather than in person, so that you do not need to return to the state where the abuser is living.  To find out more information about how to modify a restraining order, see the Restraining Orders page for the state where your order was issued.

If your order does expire while you are living in California, you may be able to get a new one issued in California but this may be difficult to do if no new incidents of abuse have occurred in California.  To find out more information on how to get a protective order in California, visit our CA Restraining Orders page.

I was granted temporary custody with my protection order. Will I still have temporary custody of my children in CA?

Yes.  As long as the child custody provision complies with certain federal laws,1 CA can enforce a temporary custody order that is a part of a protection order.

To have someone read over your order and tell you if it meets this legal standard, contact a lawyer in your area.  To find a lawyer in your area, select the state you are in from the Places that Help page and then click Finding a Lawyer.

You can also register your custody order from a different state in California.  To do so, you should send all of the following to the court in your county:

  • A letter requesting registration;
  • Two copies (one has to be certified- that means that it has to be an official copy from the clerk of the court, and usually has some sort of seal or stamp on it) of your custody judgment and a sworn statement that to the best of your knowledge, the order has not been modified;
  • Your name and address (although when there has been domestic violence, you don’t have to give your address to the court).

An out-of-state custody order that is registered in CA can be enforced as if the order were issued by a CA court.  However, the abuser will be notified of the registration and have the chance to contest it being registered in your new state.2  If you are trying to keep your location confidential from the abuser, registering the order would likely not be a good idea since it will let him know what county in CA you are living in.

1 The federal laws are the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and it must be consistent with the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980; see also Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 3443 & 28 U.S.C. § 1738A
2 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 3445

Registering your out-of-state order in California

If I don’t have a hard copy of my out-of-state order, how can law enforcement enforce it?

To enforce an out-of-state order, law enforcement typically may rely on the National Crime Information Center Protection Order File (NCIC-POF). The NCIC-POF is a nationwide, electronic database that contains information about orders of protection that were issued in each state and territory in the U.S. The Protection Order File (POF) contains court orders that are issued to prevent acts of domestic violence, or to prevent someone from stalking, intimidating, or harassing another person. It contains orders issued by both civil and criminal state courts. The types of protection orders issued and the information contained in them vary from state to state.1

There is no way for the general public to access the NCIC-POF. That means you cannot confirm a protection order is in the registry or add a protection order to the registry without the help of a government agency that has access to it.

Typically, the state police or criminal justice agency in the state has the responsibility of reporting protection orders to NCIC. However, in some cases, the courts have taken on that role and they manage the protection order reporting process.2 NCIC–POF is used by law enforcement agencies when they need to verify and enforce an out-of-state protection order. It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.

However, not all states routinely enter protection orders into the NCIC. Instead, some states may enter the orders only in their own state protection order registry, which would not be accessible to law enforcement in other states. According to a 2016 report by the National Center for State Courts, more than 700,000 protection orders that were registered in state protection order databases were not registered in the federal NCIC Protection Order File.2 This means that if a law enforcement officer is trying to enforce a protection order from another state that is missing from the NCIC, the victim would likely need to show the officer a hard copy of the order to get it immediately enforced. If you no longer have a copy of your original order, you may want to contact the court that issued the order to ask them how you can get another copy sent to you.

1 National Center for Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit
2 See State Progress in Record Reporting for Firearm-Related Background Checks: Protection Order Submissions, prepared by the National Center for State Courts, April 2016

How do I register my protection order in California?

Registration of your protection order is voluntary and will be done by the court upon request.  The benefit is that once you register it, it can be entered in the Domestic Violence Restraining Order System, which may make police enforcement of it easier.  In most counties, the clerk will take care of registering it in the System; however, in some counties, you may have to take a copy of the registered order to the police yourself for them to put it in the System.  To find out how your county handles this, ask the court clerk. 1

To register your order, you will need to:

  1. Fill out and sign the Register Out-of-State Restraining Order form (DV-600), which is available on the California Courts Self Help Center website or at the courthouse;
  2. Attach a certified copy of your order to the form; and
  3. Bring it to the court clerk. There is no fee for registering your out-of-state protection order in California.2

If you need help registering your protection order, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in California for assistance.  You can find contact information for organizations in your area here on our CA Advocates and Shelters page.

1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6404(a)
2 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6404(b)

Do I have to register my protection order in California to get it enforced?

No. California state law gives full protection to an out-of-state protection order and allows the courts to enforce the order even if it contains provisions that could not be included in a California DVRO.1

Police officers also have to enforce out-of-state protection orders as long as you can show the officer a copy (it does not have to be a certified copy, and can be an electronic copy) of the order and can truthfully tell the officer that you believe the order is still in effect.2 The order does not have to be entered into the state or federal registry in order to be enforced by a California police officer, but the officer does need to believe that it is a valid (real) order.3

1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6402(a)
2 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6403(a)
3 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6403

Will the abuser be notified if I register my protection order in CA?

Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which applies to all U.S. states and territories, the court is not permitted to notify the abuser when a protective order has been registered or filed in a new state unless you specifically request that the abuser be notified.1  However, you may wish to confirm that the clerk is aware of this law before registering the order if your address is confidential.

However, remember that there may be a possibility that the abuser could somehow find out what state you have moved to.  It is important to continue to safety plan, even if you are no longer in the state where the abuser is living.  We have some safety planning tips to get you started on our Staying Safe page.  You can also contact a local domestic violence organization to get help in developing a personalized safety plan. You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our CA Advocates and Shelters page.

1 18 USC § 2265(d)

What if I don't register my protection order? Will it be more difficult to have it enforced?

Maybe.  While neither federal law nor state law requires that you register your protection order  to get it enforced, if your order is not entered into the state registry, it may be more difficult for a CA law enforcement official to determine whether your order is real, so it could take longer to get your order enforced.  However, the officer is required to enforce the order if you can show him a copy that appears to be a valid order.1

If you are unsure about whether registering your order is the right decision for you, you may want to contact a local domestic violence organization in your area.  An advocate there can help you decide what the safest plan of action is for you in California.  To see a list of local domestic violence organizations in CA, go to our CA Advocates and Shelters page.

1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6403(a)

Does it cost anything to register my protection order?

No. There is no fee for registering your protection order in California.1

1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6404(b)