Legal Information: California

Restraining Orders

View all
Updated: 
January 11, 2024

What is the legal definition of domestic violence in California?

This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO).

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, 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,” which refers to conduct that destroys your mental or emotional calm, including coercive control.2 Note: Coercive control is a pattern of behavior that interferes with your free will and personal liberty. Some examples of coercive control include:
    • isolating you from your friends, family, and other forms of support;
    • depriving you of your basic needs;
    • controlling, regulating, or monitoring your movement, communications, daily activities, and finances;
    • by force, threat of force, or intimidation, including threats based on actual or suspected immigration status, making you do something that you have the right not to do or making you not do something that you have a right to do; or
    • reproductive coercion, which is when the abuser takes control over your reproductive autonomy through force, threat of force, or intimidation. Some examples of this are unreasonably pressuring you to become pregnant, deliberately interfering with contraception use or access to reproductive health information, or using coercive tactics to control, or attempt to control, pregnancy outcomes.2

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. See Restraining Orders to Prevent Elder or Dependent Adult Abuse for more information.

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

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