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How do I file a restraining order in California

Recently updated on June 27th, 2024 at 02:27 am


The types are:

Domestic Violence is for situations when the abuser is your current or former romantic partner or family member (not roommate)


Civil harassment is for situations when the abuser is your roommate, neighbor, coworker, total stranger or anyone who is not a romantic partner or close family member.


Elder Abuse: is for situations when a senior citizen or disabled adult is being abused by a caretaker, neighbor or child .

(Not quite ready for online filing)



Gun Violence: is for cops or family members to apply for when an unstable person has a firearm,  and risks hurting themselves or others. The court order requests firearms to be taken away.

(Not quite ready for online filing)


Workplace Violence: An employer usually requests these to protect their employee(s) from a person who has stalked, harassed, been violent or threatened violence at the workplace.

(Not quite ready for online filing)



School Violence is for school officials to get when there's risk of violence against students at a private college or university when the risk of violence is at the on campus.

(Not quite ready for online filing)


Restraining Orders in California are court orders issued in situations such as domestic violence, civil harassment, and vulnerable senior citizen which require the abuser to stay away from, and refrain from contacting the victim. Failure to comply can result in criminal charges and therefore these serve as safeguarding the victims.

Restraining orders are  governed by the California state law (as opposed to US Federal Law). The formal name and fine print of restraining orders varies from state to state but the basic idea is the same: a judge issues an order to an abuser to stay away from and not contact their victim who the abuser is harassing, abusing, threatening, stalking, or physically hurting.  In other words it's a legal warning to stay away or face criminal charges. If the abuser disobeys the restraining order, then the abuser can be formally charged with committing a crime and can be jailed.

Different types of restraining orders apply in situations of domestic violence, stalking, harassment, or situations where there is a credible threat to an individual’s safety.

If a person believes their situation qualifies for restraining order as defined in California Civil Code, they can apply for one through the Superior Court in their county of residence. The process involves filing a set of standard court forms, attending a hearing, and presenting evidence to support the request for the order.



Does my situation even qualify for a Restraining Order 

Before you do all the work of preparing and attempting to file the case documents, here's a summary of the different types of restraining orders and the situations they apply to.  There are a few different types of restraining orders and typically only one of them may apply to your situation. The first step is to see if any of the different types of restraining order applies to your situation or is remotely related as that might help you decide whether to apply .

The types are:

Domestic Violence is for situations involving domestic violence which is when a victim has been abused by a romantic partner (spouse, domestic partner, girlfriend/boyfriend) or a family member. For a complete overview of what is domestic violence please review: What is the legal definition of Domestic Violence in California


Civil harassment applies to situations involving repeated irritating behavior, stalking, abuse, or threatened by someone you are not as close to as is required under domestic violence cases, like a roommate, a neighbor, or more distant family members like cousins, aunts or uncles, or nieces or nephews.


Elder Abuse: A senior citizen (or an adult who cannot function independently) is being abused by a caretaker, neighbor or child .



Gun Violence: Typically, a police officer or sheriff who thinks someone might hurt themselves or someone else with a gun. This can stop that person from buying or owning a gun. It can't order them to stay away from someone.


Workplace Violence: An employer usually requests these to protect their employee(s) from a person who has stalked, harassed, been violent or threatened violence at the workplace.



School Violence involves violence, or threat of, against one or more students of a private postsecondary (after high school) school. This type of restraining order may only be granted if the threat of violence is for an act that would likely take place on the school's campus, and is requested by school official.


What if I am Under 18 years of Age

Restraining orders can be requested by anyone 12 years or older, and without your parent's permission.  If you are under 18, then in some situations , a judge may ask you to have a trusted adult help you in your case after you have filed for the petition. such as a parent a counselor or a neighbor.

If you are under 18, you can go to your local court's Self-Help Center for help. For support and safety tips, you can chat at, text "LOVEIS" to 22522, or call 1-866-331-9474.

If you are 12 or older and someone has asked for a restraining order against you, you can go to court without a parent. In some situations, the judge may ask you to have a trusted adult help you in your case.

Situation Examples

Example 1:  Husband is sexually and verbally abusive, and controlling  

My husband doesn't allow me the option to say no to sex, and often that warning is not explicit but I know bad things will happen if I say no such as bullying, threats and immense tension. As a couple we have been having sex everyday for nearly two decades now.  He verbally abuses me by calling me a whore if I don't sleep with him.  During this time he is intoxicated so I am fearful of having a discussion as his anger will quickly get out of control, and he will hurl things at home thereby inducing more fear in me. Such behavior has been going on for over a decade now so I am not sure about the date of the first incident now. One day I very carefully chose my words and mentioned that maybe we are not a right fit, and should seek counseling. He was enraged and threated me that he will utterly destroy me, my work reputation, and expose some minor things I did to the immigration authorities.  Since about six months, I have been sleeping in a separate room. He comes there routinely and tries to sleep with me forcefully.   Often times I feel that if I resist, or decline his advances that my reputation, our property, or even me life will me in danger.  I feel little, humiliated and disgusted with myself.


Example 2:  Boyfriend blackmails and destroys property to control and induce fear

Today, Michael was armed with a pistol and seemed to be under the influence of an unidentified substance. He made threats to create false narratives with the aim of jeopardizing my 28-year accounting career, stating he would falsely accuse me of engaging in illegal financial activities. His menacing statement, "if you mess with me, I'll retaliate," was accompanied by destructive actions, such as damaging property in my home, including creating a hole in the wall. Michael's behavior becomes particularly alarming when he is under the influence of drugs.


Example 3: Ex-boyfriend stalks 

Jenna's ex-boyfriend shows up at Jenna's work unexpectedly and drives around. Jenna is fearful, and had earlier clearly asked him to leave her alone.

Is a restraining order helpful?

The purpose of a restraining order is to restrict the contact or proximity of one person (the respondent or alleged perpetrator) to another person (the petitioner or victim) in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the petitioner.

The specific terms of a restraining order can vary depending on the circumstances of the case e.g. if the people live together then it might require one party to vacate the place.

Typically, a restraining order may prohibit the respondent from

  1. Approaching or contacting the petitioner including via text or social media
  2. Staying away from the usual places petitioner is at such as home, work or school
  3. Prohibit stalking, or surveillance of any kind
  4. In situations where they lived together, provide custody or access to
    • Children
    • Pets
    • Important documents
    • Personal items such as clothes, medications, cell phones
    • Cars
  5. Extending the protections to others living with the petitioner

Research findings on benefits of restraining orders

Here's the top three findings from a study on domestic violence and restraining orders from the University of New Hampshire

Reduce ViolenceReduce Violence

Civil protective orders (such as a DVRO) are effective in reducing partner violence for many women. For half the women in the sample, a protective order stopped the violence. For the other half, the orders significantly reduced violence and abuse.

Cost Effective

Cost Effective

They are a relatively low-cost solution, particularly when compared with the social and personal costs of partner violence.


Urban Vs. Rural

The impact of civil protective orders on reducing violence and abuse did not differ for rural and urban women. In rural areas where resources and services for partner violence may be more limited, the restraining orders hold greater importance.

Process for getting a restraining order


Step 1: Gather Evidence

The first step is to gather the evidence to support your case. The fallowing are considered as evidence of domestic violence

Evidence Type 1: Pending Criminal Case

Judges are also more likely to issue an order if there is an ongoing criminal case, therefore it's important to call such cases out when seeking a temporary restraining order.

When a judge sees that there's a criminal case happening, they might think it means the police or the district attorney are pretty sure they can prove the crime happened.

Examples of evidence are:

Evidence Type 2: Photos of violence, injuries, damage

These are the most common types of evidence submitted. These can be photos of victim's injuries inflicted by the abuser. It is helpful to add photos next to the related incident description to help create a complete picture for the judge.

Evidence Type 3: Print outs of messages, emails or transcripts of voicemail

You can take screenshots of text messages and attach them. Similarly you can print emails and attach them as pictures or PDF files. While in most cases you cannot submit digital files such as

Evidence Type 4: 911 Calls

Rather than just saying you called 911 or any specific hotline, you can make your case stronger by listing the following items

  • The number dialed in case of the domestic hotline
  • The date and time (or approximate date and time) when the call was made
  • Who made the call
  • What was reported on the call
  • Any specific details of the person who answer the 911 call e.g. male/female voice

Evidence Type 5:  Medical Records

.You can attach documentation of previous medical emergencies or injuries that resulted from the actions of the abuser. These could be hospital visit records, print outs from your hospital portal (E.g. mychart) showing details of your visit.

Evidence Type 6:  Police reports

You can attach a copy of the police reports filed against abuser for domestic violence.

Evidence Type 7:  Testimony

  • A testimony from a witness. The witness can be anyone such as a family member, neighbor a co-worker or a bystander. The testimony is just an essay written describing the incidents witnessed, with as many specifics as possible.

Step 2: Get a copy of court forms 

In order to apply for a civil protection order, you need to fill and submit a specific set of official California court forms. These have questions aimed at understanding your situation and the people involved.

The most important form is the DV-100

Form Name Form Number Purpose Guide
Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DV-100) DV-100 Ask the judge for a restraining order and tell the judge why you need one. Ask for a restraining order
Confidential CLETS Information CLETS-001 The information on this form will help police enforce your restraining order. The court will not use the information on this form and the person you want a restraining order against will not get a copy. Ask for a restraining order
Notice of Court Hearing DV-109 The court will complete most of this form. You only need to complete numbers 1 and 2. Ask for a restraining order
Temporary Restraining Order DV-110 The court will complete most of this form. You only need to complete numbers 1, 2, and 3. Ask for a restraining order
Optional: Income and Expense Declaration  FL-150 Use this form if you are asking for attorney's fees, spousal support, or child support. This form asks how much money you earn and what your expenses are. Attach proof of your income (like paystubs) from the past two months to the form.
Response to Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order DV-120 Leave this form blank. Your server will give this copy to the person you need protection from. Sheriff serves your papers
Proof of Personal Service (CLETS) DV-200 Use this form to prove to the court that the restrained person has been served in person. Your server fills out and signs the form. Sheriff serves your papers


If you have children together, and also want child custody, parenting time, or child support orders:

Form Name Form Number Purpose Guide
Request for Child Custody and Visitation Orders DV-105 Ask the judge for custody orders if you have children with the person you want a restraining order against. Ask for a restraining order
Child Custody and Visitation Order DV-140 On form DV-140, complete items 1 and 2 and the judge will complete the rest of this form. If you are asking for the parent to be supervised during their visits with your child, you will also need form DV-150. Complete items 1 and 2 on form DV-150 and the judge will complete the rest of this form.
Optional: Request for Order: No Travel With Children DV-108 If you believe that the other parent may take your child without your permission, you can ask the court to protect against this. To ask a judge for orders to prevent child abduction, you must complete form DV-108.  This form is optional because you do not have to ask for these orders if you want to ask for custody.
Optional: Request for Order: No Travel With Children DV-145 On form DV-145, complete items 1 and 2. If the judge grants your request, the judge will complete the rest of this form and include it with form DV-110. This form is optional because you do not have to ask for these orders if you want to ask for custody.
 Income and Expense Declaration  FL-150 If you want to ask for child support, check number 13 on form DV-100. Then fill out the FL-150. The FL-150 asks how much money you earn and what your expenses are. Complete this form and attach proof of your income (like paystubs) from the past two months to the form.

The complete set of documents is at the California Courts website. While these forms are used in most courts, certain courts use modified versions of these forms, and its important to uses those versions.

Tip: You can check your local court's website to see the exact versions and set of court forms needed. You need to prepare these forms. Courts also offers a free self help center where you can take forms. Alternatively you can use a free website such as LegalAtoms to prepare the restraining orders paperwork online.


Nothing happens until you file the forms. So its a good idea to step through the forms even if you think you don't plan to file for a protection order right now, to get

You can then file them online when you've thought through all aspects.  There are special protections for victims, and you're protected even if your immigration status is undocumented in United States.


Step 3: File the Court Forms 

The process of submitting  your case documents with a court is called filing. It involves delivering your case documents to the court where the clerk reviews that the documents are correct and complete, and enters them into the court's database, at which point the case is officially filed.


Step 1 Identify the court at your county

In California, one typically file at the Superior Court at county of your residence or where the abuse occurred. For example, if you live in San Francisco city, then the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco.  There can be many special cases and fine print but that is the most common case. Please consult a lawyer if your situation is uncommon e.g. the abuser is overseas or you are overseas and the abuser is in California.

Step 2 Correct sub-location

Within the Superior Court of a county, there may be one location such as Superior Court of San Francisco OR multiple locations such as the one in San Bernardino, and each court has it's own system so that you must file at the correct location.

For example here are some of the locations of the Superior Courts in California at San Bernardino County which are

  • Needles District: 1111 Bailey Ave Needles, CA 92363
  • Rancho Cucamonga District: 8303 Haven Avenue Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
  • Victorville District: 14455 Civic Drive Victorville, CA 92392
  • San Bernardino District: 351 North Arrowhead Avenue San Bernardino CA 92415


Step 3 Identify the methods of Filing

Method # 1: In Person:

Your court location would accept the forms to be submitted in person at the court hours.

Tip: All courts have lunch hours when they are closed for an hour

When you submit your case documents at the court, typically you take 3 copies.

The clerks reviews it, and if everything is ok, they formally enter it into the court system and put a stamp near the top of the documents. That acceptance is called filing.

The stamp may look something like this:


Method # 2:  Electronically via a portal

Some counties now have one or more online portals where you create an account for free, and then you can upload documents and hit submit. You will be required to pay around $5-$10 filing fees.

Method # 3:  Via another person 

Some counties accept filing via a friend or legal courier. These companies or individuals charge a flat or hourly fee and file the documents at the court.


Step 4: Get a Temporary Order 

Depending on the facts and evidence presented, a Judge can issue a restraining order with immediate effect until the hearing, called an Emergency Temporary Order.  In relatively less risky situations, a temporary order is issued in a few days.

If there are no grounds or if the application is incomplete or the jurisdiction is incorrect the application may be rejected.

The temporary order is only valid for about 3 weeks which is the amount of time until the hearing. If the hearing is delayed for any reason, you need to check with the court to ensure the temporary order is renewed until the hearing.

Step 5: Serve the abuser 

If you were successful in getting a temporary order only then this step is necessary, otherwise you will have to wait until you get one.

Youve Been Served GIFs | Tenor

In the California legal system system, whenever one party initiates a restraining order it needs to inform or serve the other party formally by delivering the court documents. That step is called serving the respondent, and is often seen in movies and TV shows as "You've been served".

Under the California law there are multiple ways in which the other party can be served.


You cannot  serve your papers yourself.

Option 1:  Ask a Cop (FREE)

A sheriff or marshal can serve the opposing party for you which is a big help. This service is offered for FREE. You will however need the address of the abuser. To ask the sheriff to serve your papers, you must have an address or location for the other side (restrained person). If the other side is in jail, the sheriff can serve them. If the other side is in prison in California, prison staff, not the sheriff, will serve your papers. Follow the instructions by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for serving someone in prison


Option 2: Ask a friend, relative or any adult (FREE)

You ask someone you know to be your server

  • 18 or over, and
  • not part of your case

Think about safety when choosing your server. Get step-by-step instructions for how to have someone else, not the sheriff, serve your court papers.


Option 3: Hire a specialized courier

You can also hire a courier called professional process server. You can search on Yelp or Google to get a list of options near you. Yelp Example . An example is ABC Legal Services.

You cannot hire regular couriers such as UPS, FedEx or US Postal Service unless in exceptional scenarios where the judge authorizes service by mail, but that's a whole different topic altogether.

Step 6: Present Evidence in a Court Hearing 

Attend a hearing: The court holds a hearing within a couple of weeks where the evidence is examined. If there is sufficient supporting evidence as determined by a Judge, a full restraining order is issued. At this point it becomes a crime for the abuser to break the conditions of the restraining order.


L.A. County court to staff: Get COVID vaccine or get fired - Los Angeles Times


Step 7. Collect the Final Order

After the hearing, a final order may be issued. You can take a paper copy of the order with you. The order is typically valid for five years.


There are no costs associated with a Domestic Violence Restraining Order.

  • FREE forms : You can get the court forms for free, or prepare them using the guided experience below.
  • FREE filing: There is fees for filing. Online filing platforms may charge a service fees


Process Duration

You can get a temporary protection order the same day as you file.

Courts can have a cutoff of around 2 p.m.  for the same day service, so you need to file before then. Otherwise, the order would be issued the following day when courts open.

Courts are generally open Monday-Friday and closed on Saturday-Sunday.

The temporary order is valid until a formal hearing is held in which both parties need to be present. Typically a hearing is scheduled in 2 weeks of filing.

At the hearing a formal order may be issued



It is conceivable that following the submission of a civil protection order, the abuser particularly in domestic violence situations may react with anger due to the perceived loss of control over you and your household. In certain instances, the abuser may portray themselves as the victim and shift blame onto the actual victim they were mistreating.

The response of your abuser after the filing of a protection order is unpredictable. While a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) can provide legal protection, one should not automatically assume that it guarantees safety. The initial weeks post-filing can be particularly precarious, contingent on your abuser's reaction.

Despite the safeguards intended by a DVPO, abusers may retaliate through various means, such as:

  1. Physical assault or violence
  2. Harming or taking away children
  3. Damaging jointly owned property
  4. Disregarding the order and persisting with threats, possibly through intermediaries
  5. Inflicting harm or causing harm to pets
  6. Harassing your loved ones for information
  7. Engaging in stalking behavior
  8. Initiating a retaliatory restraining order against you
  9. Spreading false information about you in court documents, online, or publicly

Following the submission of a domestic violence Protection order, it's important to continuously assess your situation and prepare for the potential escalation of your case into more violent territory.


Prepare your Domestic Violence Restraining Order Documents
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  • Begin by checking your eligibility

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