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