“How Do Family Law Restraining Orders Work In California?”

Family law restraining orders are meant to provide protection, both temporary and long-term, for a party to a marriage or relationship who has been abused or harassed.

Restraining orders can be very powerful: they can remove you from a residence, prevent you from owning a firearm, determine temporary custody orders, and even set child support.

They are also unique in that they are submitted with only one party’s input. The forms that go in have details of what has occurred and what actions the requesting party would like the judge to take. The judge then reads the paperwork, and either grants or denies each requested order on a temporary basis. These then become actual court orders until the hearing on the restraining order and if you are served with such orders, you must follow them.

Because the party who is being filed against has no notice or opportunity to respond to the requests, the judge has to go solely on the paperwork presented. This means that sometimes restraining orders are granted, on a temporary basis, but are then denied after a full hearing. If there is enough information in the paperwork to support granting a restraining order, it will be granted until the hearing. If you do not put enough details and sufficient information into your paperwork, it can be denied even though a full presentation of the merits of the case might result in a restraining order at the hearing.

The court will set a restraining order hearing which will be written on the temporary order papers. You can (and usually should) file a response to the restraining order and appear at the hearing to present your evidence. If you do not appear, the restraining order will most likely be granted in your absence.

Generally, restraining orders last between one year and five years, and may be extended upon request to the court and a showing of good cause.
Because of the firearms restrictions for a restraining order (as well as other collateral effects of a Domestic Violence Prevention Act Restraining Order—often called DVPA orders) courts sometimes issue what are called “family law stay away orders.” These orders, while legally enforceable, do not carry the same terms as a DVPA orders, and can be a good way to ensure safety without all the other effects. These can be especially useful when the restrained party has a job that requires the carrying of a firearm, such as law enforcement officers, security guards, or prison guards. There are also special provisions allowing an exception to DVPA orders for law enforcement officers, but they require a mental exam and a finding by the judge that the restrained person does not constitute a threat to others.
At a DVPA hearing, it is important to have all of your witnesses and evidence to present. You usually only get one chance to present this evidence, and you may end up regretting not having a key witness available if you lose your hearing.

The court can, at the hearing, make temporary orders about custody, visitation, and support. While these orders are not permanent, if they begin to be the “status quo” or “way things have been done” for any period of time, you may have trouble changing them in the normal portion of your family law case. For that reason, requests for temporary orders can be very powerful. In addition, a finding of domestic violence, as is often the case in the granting of a restraining order, results in a presumption that the restrained person is not the proper person to have custody of minor’s. This can be one of the most powerful side-effects of a restraining order filing.

As in all cases, the assistance of an attorney in these matters can be invaluable. There are many pitfalls and unintended consequences of restraining order filings, particularly when there are children involved, or someone whose professional life is in jeopardy.

DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.