California law recognizes that sometimes abuse victims need help leaving their current relationship or living situation. This includes protection for themselves and their children from an abuser. An order of protection is one way that the legal system provides help for victims. However, knowing exactly what an order of protection is, how to obtain one, and what it does is imperative to the safety and legal rights of those that need them. An experienced California family lawyer can help you understand the ins and outs of such an order should you need more information.
What is an Order of Protection?
An order of protection, also referred to as a domestic violence restraining order, is a court order that helps protect individuals from threats of abuse or actual abuse from another person they have a close relationship with. You can ask for a domestic violence restraining order if someone you are close to has threatened to abuse you or has already abused you and that person are:
- Dating or previously dated
- Living together or previously lived together as more than just roommates
- Married or registered domestic partners
- Divorced or separated
- Have a child together
- Closely related—such as a parent, child, sister, brother, grandmother, grandfather, or in-laws
If you are a parent of a child who is being abused, you can also file a restraining order on their behalf to protect your child, as well as you and other family members. If your child is 12 or older, they are eligible to file a restraining order on their own.
If you aren’t sure if you qualify to get an order of protection, speak with a California family attorney as soon as possible. They can help you make this determination and recommend your next best steps to help ensure your safety.
If you don’t qualify for a domestic violence restraining order, there are additional types of orders you can ask for:
- A restraining order for civil harassment, which can be used for roommates, coworkers, neighbors, or other distant family members such as cousins, uncles, or aunts
- A dependent adult or elder abuse restraining order, which can be used if the abuse victim is 65 or older; or a dependent adult between the ages of 18 and 64
- A workplace violence restraining order, which can be filed by an employer to protect an employee from stalking, harassment, or violence by another person
Levels of California Protection Orders
California protective order law offers three levels of restraining orders: Emergency Protective Order (EPO), Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), and Permanent Restraining Order (PRO).
Emergency Protective Order (EPO)
An EPO is frequently issued in response to domestic violence calls. Suppose a law enforcement officer responding to the call thinks that one or more individuals require immediate protection from a particular person. In that case, the officer can reach out to a judge who’s on-call to deal with EPOs. If the judge grants it, the EPO will take immediate effect and may last up to seven days.
Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)
A TRO might be appropriate when someone is being harassed by a particular person or is protected by emergency protective orders that are about to expire. It’s common for TROs to last for as many as three weeks.
Permanent Restraining Order (PRO)
The court issues a PRO if it concludes that a person or persons need court-ordered protection for an extended time. They are issued after a court hearing in which both the person seeking the order and the subject of the order can attend to submit evidence for why the order should or shouldn’t be granted. If granted, the judge will determine:
- What the order should include
- How long the PRO should last
These orders can last for as many as five years without being extended by a court. They can cover specific details such as personal distance or whether a restrained person can possess firearms.
How to Obtain an Order of Protection
Suppose you are seeking a domestic violence restraining order in court. In that case, you must file court forms telling the judge what orders you want and why. What happens after is basically the same in any court, although there can be some variations.
File court forms asking for the domestic violence restraining order- note that there is NO fee to file. The judge has up through the next business day to decide if they will grant the order. If the judge grants the order, they will be temporary orders until your court date. Temporary orders can address issues such as:
- Ordering the restrained person to keep away and not contact the protected person or parties
- Child custody
- Who can use the family home
- Who can use other property, like a vehicle
The person seeking the protection order must serve the other person with a copy of all the restraining order papers prior to the court date. Serve means that someone 18 or older who isn’t involved in the case must hand-deliver a copy of all the legal documents to the person the order is against. They have the right to file an answer to the restraining order request, telling their side of the story.
During the hearing, the judge will determine if they should continue or cancel the temporary restraining order. If the person who obtained the restraining order doesn’t attend the hearing, the TRO will typically expire that day. If the restrained person doesn’t attend the hearing, they won’t have any input in the case, and their side of the story will not be taken into account.
Need help with a Protective Order? Call an Experienced California Family Lawyer
Yours and your children’s safety is of utmost importance, especially if you must get the court system involved to protect it. The protective order court process can be confusing and overwhelming. Both people will likely have to see each other in court, and both must describe to the judge details of what happened between them in a public courtroom. However, having the representation of a skilled and compassionate California family attorney can help make the process much easier to handle.