Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
Domestic violence is undoubtedly a scourge on society, with an estimated 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experiencing severe intimate partner physical violence. Despite the frequency with which acts of domestic violence occur, experts believe that the true number of victims is far greater, due mostly to a lack of reporting. Studies have shown that many victims of domestic violence do not report their abuser’s conduct due to a fear of not being believed. However, reporting domestic abuse and securing a Domestic Violence Restraining Order is of critical importance,
At Power Trial Lawyers, our Los Angeles DV restraining order attorneys are committed to helping our clients obtain legal protection from domestic violence and other forms of abuse. We understand the substantive legal doctrines that come into play, and we have the practical knowledge of the Los Angeles court system to ensure your petition receives the attention it deserves. We take an all-hands-on-deck approach to every Domestic Violence Restraining Order we handle, taking as much time as we need to understand what you’ve been through before developing a customized strategy designed to best serve your needs and protect your interests.What Is a Domestic Violence Restraining Order?
In California, a Domestic Violence Restraining Order DVRO) is a legal order issued by a court to protect individuals from abuse or threats of abuse from someone with whom they have a close relationship. DVROs are unique among California restraining orders because they only apply where there is a prior romantic or familial relationship, unlike Civil Harassment Restraining Orders, Elder Abuse Restraining Orders and Workplace Violence Restraining Orders.Who Can a DVRO Be Issued Against?
Domestic Violence Restraining orders offer protection from those with whom you have or have had a familial or romantic relationship. Thus, you can request a domestic violence restraining order if you have been abused by someone with whom you have a close relationship, including:
- A current or former spouse,
- A current or former domestic partner,
- Someone you are currently dating or used to date,
- A close relative (such as a parent, child, brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather, in-law, etc.), or
- Someone with whom you share a child in common.
To get a Los Angeles Domestic Violence Restraining Order, you must be able to establish that the other party engaged in “a past act or acts of abuse.” In this context, abuse is broadly defined to include any acts of violence, whether they be verbal, psychological, physical or sexual. For example, abuse includes, but is not limited to, the following types of acts:
- Physical assault,
- Sexual assault,
- Threatening your safety or the safety of your loved ones,
- Choking or strangling,
- Abusing your children,
- Destroying your property,
- Harming your pets,
- Forcing you to do something you do not want to do.
- Contacting you repeatedly without your consent,
- Placing a tracking device on you or your belongings without consent,
- Prevented you from getting food or water,
- Isolating you from your friends or family members,
- Making threats to call the immigration authorities on you or your family,
- Limiting your access to or ability to earn money, and
- Interfering with your contraception or birth control.
California Family Code § 6320 also gives the court the ability to prevent the other party from “disturbing the peace.” This is another broad term that encompasses a range of controlling and abusive behavior, such as isolating you from your friends and family, controlling your finances or access to money, depriving you of the basic necessities, controlling or monitoring your movements, and engaging in reproductive coercion, which is essentially exercising control over the reproductive autonomy.
Unlike other types of restraining orders, California Family Code § 6300 makes clear that a single incident of abuse is sufficient to establish the requisite abuse. While the length of time that has passed since the most recent incident of abuse is a relevant factor in the court’s analysis, the court must consider the totality of the circumstances in determining whether to grant or deny a DVRO petition.What Can a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Do?
If the court issues a permanent Domestic Violence Restraining Order, the court will issue the relief it deems appropriate based on the allegations presented in the petition and the evidence presented.
California Family Code § 6320 provides the following non-exhaustive list of actions that a DVRO can prohibit, which includes molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, credibly impersonating, harassing, telephoning, destroying personal property, or contacting you without your permission or consent.
Additionally, a DVRO can provide the following protections:
- Prevent the other person from having any contact with you, including in-person, over the phone, and through email and social media,
- Prevent the other person from visiting your home, work, or school,
- Ordering the other person to move out of a shared home,
- Entering a child custody and visitation arrangement,
- Prevent the other person from owning, using, or possessing a gun.
Los Angeles courts can also issue orders outlining who will have possession of personal property and who will be responsible for making any payments on loans secured by that property. For example, if a couple owns a single car, the court may award the petitioner the vehicle but require the respondent to continue making payments on the car loan.How Can You File for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order?
To obtain a Domestic Violence Restraining Order, you must request one from the court, usually in the county where the conduct occurred. To initiate this process, you’ll need to complete a Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Orders (form DV-100). This form asks you to provide basic information about yourself, the party whose behavior you are seeking to stop, and your current relationship with them.
However, perhaps the most important part of Form DV-100 is the “description of abuse” section (Section 5). Here, you are given the opportunity to provide a detailed account of the abuse that has been committed against you. For example, you will need to indicate the last date abuse occurred, whether anyone else was present at the time, whether the other party had or threatened to use a firearm, whether you suffered physical injury and whether the police were notified. Here, you can also indicate whether you would like the DVRO to provide protection for any other individuals, such as minor children in your custody.
While DV-100 Section 5 does not provide you with more than a few lines to describe the abuse, you can attach a separate document titled “DV-100 - Description of Abuse.” Here, you can elaborate in as much detail as possible. However, it is important to remember that the most compelling allegations are those that can be supported by evidence. That said, your testimony is considered evidence and, under California Family Code § 6300, “The court may issue an order under this part based solely on the affidavit or testimony of the person requesting the restraining order.” Thus, while supporting evidence is helpful, the court understands that abusers may have made it exceptionally difficult for victims of abuse to obtain proof.
If you are in imminent danger, you can request an Emergency Restraining Order. This is a temporary court order issued by the court outside the presence of the respondent. Emergency Restraining Orders last five court days, or seven calendar days, and are intended to provide immediate protection in the event of a threat of imminent harm.
If you fear that you are in immediate danger and would like the order to become effective as soon as possible, you can request a Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order. Essentially, this is asking whether you would like the judge to hold a hearing before the final hearing to determine if a Temporary Restraining Order is appropriate. A temporary restraining order takes effect once the judge issues it and lasts about 20 – 25 days or until the judge rules on the merits of your petition. The burden of proof for obtaining a Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order is lower than for a permanent Restraining Order. The judge overseeing your petition can order nearly identical forms of relief through a Temporary DVRO.
Regardless of whether you seek or obtain a Temporary Restraining Order, the court will schedule a hearing. At the hearing, the court will hear the merits of your case. This is your opportunity to tell the court why a Domestic Violence Restraining Order is necessary and to present evidence substantiating your petition.What Evidence Is Admissible in a Hearing for a DVRO?
Los Angeles courts follow the California Rules of Evidence when hearing Domestic Violence Restraining Order cases. However, the Rules of Evidence leave significant room for interpretation, and, as a result, there is broad discretion involved in interpreting the Rules. Not surprisingly, evidentiary rulings are often contested, and you should expect the other side to challenge the admissibility of evidence—especially evidence that is harmful to their case.
However, as a general rule, non-hearsay evidence such as text messages, emails and photographs are admissible. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to testify, and you can also call other witnesses. While calling witnesses in a DVRO case can be an extremely strong strategy, it is important to select the right type of witnesses. For example, judges prefer to hear from witnesses who personally observed the abusive acts and who can provide meaningful testimony that helps the judge make the decisions they need to make. For example, while character witnesses can be crucial, generally speaking, a witness should be able to testify to more than your good character or the respondent’s bad character.Contact Power Trial Lawyers to Discuss the Next Steps Towards Obtaining a Los Angeles Domestic Violence Restraining Order
If you are involved in an abusive relationship or a former partner has acted violently towards you since the end of the relationship, the dedicated Los Angeles DVRO lawyers at Power Trial Lawyers can help. At Power Trial Lawyers, we will firmly stand beside your side at every step of the process as we work together toward the ultimate goal of a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. We believe in taking as much time as is necessary to understand what you’ve been through so we can convey the seriousness of the situation to the court. We also make ourselves available whenever you need us, answering any questions you have along the way. To learn more about Domestic Violence Restraining Orders and to schedule a no-obligation consultation with Matthew Barhoma or another attorney at Power Trial Lawyers, call (213) 800-7664, or connect with us through our online contact form.