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Domestic Violence Restraining Orders (DVROs)

Domestic violence restraining orders (DVROs) are legal commands, given by police officers and judges, to an abusive person (Defendant, Respondent), who is closely related to the person abused (Victim, Petitioner), that are designed to abate the abuse or violence. Violations of domestic violence restraining orders may subject the defendant to civil and criminal penalties.

Abuse, means to annoy, harass, stalk, threaten, intimidate, assault, batter, or molest, whether by direct or indirect contact. This includes intentional destruction of victim's property. 

Closely related means that the victim and defendant are related in any of the following ways:

  • Close family members
  • Current or former spouse
  • Have children in common, or
  • Have dated romantically

Close family members is limited to: spouses, siblings, parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and first degree cousins.

Spouse includes domestic partner & same sex spouse.

Children in common means children born of both the victim and defendant, or born by one party and adopted by the other party. 

Dated romantically is defined as frequent, intimate associations, primarily characterized by the expectation of affection and/or sexual involvement, independent of financial considerations.  

Common Orders: Judges may make any domestic violence restraining order reasonably necessary to protect the victim. Common DVROs include:

  • Order to stay away from the victim
  • No contact or communication order
  • No-negative contact order
  • Order to relinquish, sell, or store a firearm
  • Order to transfer the defendant's phone number
  • Residence exclusivity order
  • Order allowing non-consensual audio recording
  • Order for restitution to victim
  • Order for spousal support (alimony)
  • Order for child support & child custody
  • Order for attorney fees
  • Order to attend domestic violence classes
  • Order for supervised visits
  • Order to attend mediation
  • No travel with children order
  • Order to return property
  • Protection of Pets (dogs, cats, etc.)
  • Order that establishes parentage, and more.

Note: Domestic violence restraining orders issued against a defendant may also include: loss of the firearm rights, loss of license to practice a profession, loss of reputation, loss of immigration status, loss of adoption rights, and more. 

Emergency protective orders: If a person requires emergency protection the police should be contacted without delay. If the police believe emergency protection is needed the police may serve an emergency protective order (EPO) on the defendant. An EPO is the same as a temporary restraining order enforceable by the contempt power of the court; however, EPOs only last a few days before they expire. EPOs are intended to give the victim time to go to court to file a temporary domestic violence restraining order. EPOs are not valid if the defendant is not personally served with the EPO.

Temporary DVROs: A temporary domestic violence restraining order is a court order, issued by a civil or family law judge, that temporarily restrains the defendant's abusive conduct. Temporary domestic violence restraining orders are similar to EPOs except that the orders come from a judge and last up twenty-one days, or until an evidentiary hearing

Evidentiary hearings are hearings where both parties may present evidence in favor of his or her request or defense and after formal notice was given to both parties. 

Formal notice means that the defendant was personally served a copy of the request for a domestic violence restraining order at least five days before the date set for the hearing. Any person over eighteen, who is not a party to the case, may serve a request or response.

Domestic violence restraining orders usually start with a victim filing two requests in family law court. The first request is for the court to grant temporary domestic violence restraining orders. The second request is for the court to hear the first request at an ex parte hearing.

Ex parte hearing means a request for an emergency hearing, to be heard the next business day, with informal notice to the defendant, in order to establish immediate orders of restraint against the defendant, and necessary to prevent imminent and irreparable danger to the victimTemporary DVROs may be granted at an ex parte hearing and without an evidentiary hearing if a victim shows a need for the emergency order and no apparent falsity in the allegations or evidence is presented at the hearing.

Informal notice means that orders may be made against a defendant even if the defendant was not made aware of the court hearing until the day before the hearing and regardless of whether or not the defendant is present at the hearing or is present but has had insufficient time to prepare.

Not every request for a temporary domestic violence restraining order, or a request for an ex parte hearing, is granted. However, even if a temporary DVRO request is denied, or an ex parte hearing is denied, or both, a judge may still hold a subsequent evidentiary hearing for a permanent DVRO. 

Permanent DVROs: A permanent domestic violence restraining order is a restraining order that lasts from one to five years; however, in some cases, a domestic violence restraining order may be renewed for longer.

A permanent domestic violence restraining order may only be issued if the defendant receives formal notice (See above). 

Note: For permanent domestic violence restraining orders, if defendant is formally noticed but does not attend the hearing, then he or she will likely have orders made against him or her. If the victim does not attend the hearing the case is usually dismissed.

Children & DVROs: A domestic violence restraining order may include protection for a victim's close family members. This is true even if the victim's close family members are not facing direct threats from the defendant and even if the victim's close family members are not themselves closely related to the defendant. If the victim and the defendant are married but have children in common then a paternity case may be filed with a request or response to a DVRO. Requests for child custody, child visitation, or child support may also be included in a DVRO.

Restraining orders should be kept with the victim at all times. Copies should be filed with relevant entities (school, day care, doctor, employer, etc.).

Required DVRO forms: Forms required in domestic violence restraining order cases are listed at DVRO forms. Not every form is needed; only the forms that pertain to the facts of the case. For example, if the victim is requesting spousal support, in addition to a domestic violence restraining order, he or she will file FL-150, along with the rest of the required forms.

Caution: Domestic violence restraining order request forms do not provide information on how the victim or defendant should describe any abuse or defense in a declaration. For the victim, always be truthful and descriptive, but be aware that any information stated in a declaration may be used against either side in family or criminal court. For the defendant, never state a defense, beyond general denials, without consulting a family law attorney.

Also, domestic violence restraining orders forms do not provide information on the following: rules of court, legal procedure, rules for introducing or excluding evidence (photos, texts, emails, phone records, medical records, recordings, etc.), rules for examining and impeaching witnesses, etc. Judges are not lenient with the rules of law and legal procedures just because a non-attorney is unaware of them.  

Preparing for DVRO hearings: Arrive early to court; long lines at secured entrances and a lack of good parking cause tardiness. Bring three copies of all paperwork filed and served, including copies of evidence you intend to present at court (photos, text printouts, emails, phone records, video or audio recordings, etc.). Inform the court's deputy if you are afraid of the opposing party and request an escort if you feel threatened. If you do not have a family law attorney to speak for you practice your strongest arguments with an understanding that a judge will not likely entertain more than few minutes of argument at an ex parte hearing. Take notes and do not interrupt the judge or the opposing party (legal objections aside). Business dress: No shorts, tank tops, sandals, spaghetti straps, low cut shirts or skirts, heavy jewelry or heavy makeup.   

Defense in DVRO cases: The defendant must be given an opportunity to respond to a victim's request for domestic violence restraining order and no permanent restraining order may be made against him or her unless the alleged victim proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that the defendant committed the alleged threats or abuse. This burden is relaxed at ex parte hearings for temporary domestic violence restraining orders (see above).

Caution: Never attempt to defend a request for DVRO without a family law lawyer. The allegations in most DVRO requests allege facts that can support criminal charges. For example, the following are common criminal charges related to the accusations in many request for DVROs: stalking, battery, assault, domestic battery, inflict corporal injury on spouse, criminal threats, annoying phone calls, vandalism, false imprisonment, trespass, child endangerment, contempt of court, violate a restraining order, unauthorized audio recording, residential burglary, theft (larceny), elder abuse, etc.

Common defenses in domestic violence restraining order cases include: silence, self defense, defense of others, alibi, lack of evidence, legal justification for conduct, procedural objections to introducing evidence (hearsay, foundation, illegal evidence, privilege, etc.), impeaching evidence or witness (bias, prejudice, memory issues, criminal history, etc.). 

Note: Silence in the face of an accusation may be an implied confession in some cases. Family law attorneys experienced in criminal defense should be retained to defend domestic violence restraining order requests.

Violation of DVROs: Willfull violation of domestic violence restraining orders is a crime. Violating a restraining order is charged as such (PC 273.6), or as a contempt of court (PC 166(a)(4)). Criminal charges connected to domestic violence restraining orders is beyond the scope of this article. For more information, please visit violating a restraining order, or contempt.

False allegations: DVRO requests are sometimes filed fraudulently to gain short-lived legal advantages against a party in family court, especially in child custody cases. Perpetrators of fraud in court are often discovered and thereafter face criminal charges (i.e. perjury, filing false reports).

Immigration and DVROs: Family law judges, deputies, clerks, and staff do not work with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE). Family law legal forms do not inquire into a person's immigration status. However, be aware, statements made in court or on legal forms may be used against a defendant in criminal or immigration court. Non-U.S. citizens filing a request for, or a response to, a domestic violence restraining order, should speak to a family law attorney with immigration and criminal defense experience. 

For further information on DVROs call our divorce & family law lawyers at:


Update 7/16/2021

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