How much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?
There are no fees for filing for a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) or for any forms related to the petition.1You 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.
If you have to pay for a lawyer, you could ask the judge to order the abuser to pay your attorney’s fees, as long as you win the case. If the abuser wins the case, s/he can also ask the judge to order you to pay his/her attorney’s fees. However, a judge would only order that if the abuser proves that your petition was frivolous or that you filed the petition only with the intention to abuse, intimidate, or cause unnecessary delay. Before the judge awards attorney’s fees and costs to either party, the judge must first decide if the party has the ability to pay.2
If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.
1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6222
2 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6344
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
Can I get financial support when I file for a DVRO?
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 may be additional forms you have to fill out. 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 may have to fill out additional forms. 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 Cal.Fam.Code § 6341(a)
2 Cal.Fam.Code § 6341(c)