Step 5 - Go to your court hearing.
To get a final restraining order, you must go to the court hearing and prove that the abuser has committed an act(s) of domestic violence (as defined by the law) against you or your children. It would likely be best if you had a lawyer with you to represent you at the hearing. If you can’t get a lawyer before your court date, you can ask the judge for a "continuance" to set a later court date so you can have time to find a lawyer. It is up to the judge whether or not to grant your request. According to the law, either party may request a continuance of the hearing, which the judge should grant if there is "good cause" to do so. The request may be made in writing before or at the hearing or orally at the hearing.1 Go to CA Finding a Lawyer to find legal help.
Here are some tips to remember when going to court for the hearing:
- Get to court on time (or, even better, get there early);
- Bring copies of all of the forms that you already filed in court or that you have to file; evidence that will help you prove that you need the DVRO, such as witnesses who saw the abuse, photos of any injuries; medical, repair, or other bills that are related to the domestic violence you suffered; relevant police reports; and other papers that are important to your case. (For any document you want the judge to look at, bring the original and two copies. Give the court clerk or bailiff one copy to give to the abuser.) If you are asking for child support, you can try to meet with the court’s family law facilitator to find out how much child support you could get, and take these documents to court as well:
- Your last three pay stubs;
- Your most recent federal and state tax returns; and
- Proof of child care or uninsured health care expenses for the child.
- If at all possible, arrange for someone to watch your child while you go to court. If that is not possible, some courthouses have children’s waiting rooms but you should call your courthouse to find out if this is an option before you go to court. For contact information, go to CA Courthouse Locations.
- If your child has important information about the violence or threats, ask an attorney, a victim witness counselor, or the domestic violence counselor about how to have the judge hear from your child. (To find someone who can help you with this, go to CA Advocates and Shelters.)
- Check in with the clerk or bailiff as soon as you get to court. If the abuser is also at the court, and you are worried about your safety, tell the clerk or bailiff so that they can help you. After you have checked in, take a seat and wait until your case is called.
Note: Even if you cannot find an attorney to represent you, you may want to try to talk to an attorney to get advice as to what types of evidence you can bring to court and other ways to represent yourself. You can also go to our Preparing Your Case page for more information when representing yourself.
1 CA Civil Code §§ 245; 240