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:
- 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.
- 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
- 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;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 that resulted from the abuse, such as ambulance, medical, dental, shelter, counseling fees;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
- 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?
The steps to get a civil harassment order are similar to the steps to get a domestic violence restraining order. If you have any questions, call the clerk of court. You can find the contact information for your clerk on the CA Courthouse Locations page.
To see the necessary forms to fill out, please visit the California Courts Self Help Center.
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?
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 five 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.
If you have been unable to get the harasser served in person, and there is reason to believe that the harasser is avoiding (evading) service or cannot be located, then the judge can allow a different method of service that is “reasonably calculated” to actually notify the harasser.3
1 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(m)(1)
2 Cal.C.C.P. § 414.10
3 Cal.C.C.P. § 527.6(m)(2)
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)