Am I eligible to file for a DVRO?
You can file for a domestic violence restraining order if you or your minor child has been the victim of domestic violence from:
- a spouse or former spouse;
- a person you are dating or used to date, including a same-sex partner;
- the mother or father of your child;
- a person related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption (such as a mother, father, child, brother, sister, grandparent, or in-law);
- a “cohabitant,” who is someone who regularly lives/lived in your home.1 Generally, a cohabitant is someone closer to you than just a “roommate.”
The law defines a “dating relationship” as “frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affection or sexual involvement.”2
Even if the most recent act of abuse happened some time ago, the length of time between the most recent act of abuse and the date you filed your petition should not be the determining factor that a judge uses to determine if you can get an order. The judge is supposed to consider the totality of the circumstances (the “whole picture”) in determining whether or not to grant you a DVRO.3
Minors who are 12 years old or older can file for restraining orders without the assistance of a parent or guardian. However, if you are under 18 and living with a parent or guardian, a copy of the restraining order must be sent to at least one parent or guardian, unless the judge determines that doing so would not be in your best interest.4
1 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6211; 6209
2 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6210
3 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6301(c)
4 Ann.Cal. C.C.P. § 372(b)(1), (b)(2)
Can I get a DVRO against a same-sex partner?
In California, you may apply for a domestic violence restraining order against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Am I eligible to file for a DVRO? You must also be the victim of an act of domestic violence, which is explained here What is the legal definition of domestic violence in California?
You can find information about LGBTQIA victims of abuse and what types of barriers they may face on our LGBTQIA Victims page.
Can a minor file for a DVRO?
Minors who are 12 years old or older can file for restraining orders without the assistance of a parent or guardian. However, if you are under 18 and living with a parent or guardian, a copy of the restraining order must be sent to at least one parent or guardian, unless the judge determines it is not in your best interest to do so.1
1 Ann.Cal.C.C.P. § 372(b)(1) & (2)
If I qualify for both a DVRO and a CHO, which one should I apply for?
If the person harassing you is an intimate partner or family or household member, you will likely want to file for a domestic violence restraining order (“DVRO”) instead of a civil harassment order (“CHO”) for the following reasons:
- There is a lower burden of proof to get a DVRO versus a CHO (“preponderance of the evidence” versus “clear and convincing evidence”).1 In other words, it is easier for a judge to grant you a DVRO than it is for the judge to grant you a CHO.
- There is a broader definition of what is considered “abuse” in a DVRO than in a CHO. So, let’s say you believe the acts committed against you come are harassment so you file for a CHO. But, then it turns out that the incidents don’t actually meet the legal definition for harassment. If you applied for a CHO and can’t prove harassment, the order would be denied. If you applied for a DVRO, however, it’s possible that the acts may come under one of the other legal grounds for which you can get a DVRO, such as “disturbing your peace” or “destroying your property.”2
- There are additional protections available in a DVRO that you cannot normally get in a CHO, such as:
- having the abuser removed from the home you are both living in together even if you do not own the home or you are not the tenant;3
- granting you child support and spousal support (if you are married);4
- granting you temporary possession of things that you own together such as a second home, a car, a computer, etc. The judge can also order the abuser to pay ongoing debts associated with those items;5
- ordering the abuser to pay back money you lost for missing work or other expenses (such as ambulance, medical, dental, shelter, counseling fees) that resulted from the abuse;6
- ordering the abuser to attend a batterer’s treatment program or other counseling service;7
- transferring a shared cell phone account into your name alone so that you can keep your existing wireless telephone number and the wireless numbers of any minor children in your care;8 and
- giving you temporary child custody and making an order for visitation.9
- To get a temporary CHO, you need to prove that there is a likelihood of future harm. To get a temporary DVRO, you do not need to prove this.10
1 Cal.C.C.P. § 526.7(i); Gdowski v. Gdowski, 175 Cal.App.4th 128 (2009)
2 Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6203; 6320(a)
3 Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6321(a); 6340(c)
4 Cal.Fam.Code § 6341
5 Cal.Fam.Code § 6324
6 Cal.Fam.Code § 6342
7 Cal.Fam.Code § 6343
8 Cal.Fam.Code § 6347(a)
9 Cal.Fam.Code §§ 6323; 6252; 6340(a)
10 Cal.C.C.P. § 526.7(d)
How much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?
There are no fees for filing for a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO).
You 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 are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.
Can I get financial support when I file for a DVRO?
Sometimes. 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 are additional forms you have to fill out. You can find those forms on the CA Courts website or in court. 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 will have to fill out additional forms, which can be found on the CA Courts website or in court. 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 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6341(a)
2 Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 6341(c)