WomensLaw serves and supports all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

Legal Information: California

Restraining Orders

View all
Laws current as of January 11, 2024

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 question on this page to see if judges in California have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
  • second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
  • third, 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. Survivors 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 Planning.

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.

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 California Courts website gives step-by-step instructions on what to do.

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 California 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 two 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 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 five days. If s/he violates the DVRO multiple times, the jail time can increase up to 10 days. Alternatively, the judge could order probation or a conditional sentence for a up to one year upon a first finding of contempt, up to two years upon a second finding of contempt, and up to three years upon a third or any subsequent finding of contempt.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 more, or permanently with no expiration date. You do not have to prove that there has been further abuse to get the extension. You can file for a renewal more than once.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

If I get a protection order, will it show up in an internet search?

According to federal law, which applies to all states, territories, and tribal lands, the courts are not supposed to make available publicly on the internet any information that would be likely to reveal your identity or location. This applies to all of these documents:

  • the petition you file;
  • the protection order, restraining order, or injunction that was issued by the court; or
  • the registration of an order in a different state.1

1 18 USC § 2265(d)(3)

Is there anything I can do if my abusive partner continually files court proceedings against me?

Abusers often misuse court proceedings in order to continue the abuse. This is called vexatious litigation under California law, but is commonly referred to as litigation abuse. If you are the victim of vexatious litigation, you can ask the judge to dismiss the abuser’s case. See our Litigation Abuse section for more information on how to do this.