What a DVRO Can and Can’t Do


A domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) is available to help legally protect victims of domestic violence in California. The court issues a DVRO when it determines the order is needed to protect a victim and other family members, and an order can restrict the activities of the accused abuser to help prohibit further domestic violence.

So, what can a DVRO do or not do? Below is some brief information about the functions and limitations of a California restraining order. If you believe you need a DVRO or someone is seeking one against you, reach out to a California attorney who handles domestic violence cases.

What the Order Can Do

The DVRO puts certain limitations on the conduct of the accused domestic abuser and sets out consequences if they violate the terms of the agreement. The court will tailor the terms of your DVRO according to your specific situation, but some of the provisions might include:

  • The abuser cannot threaten, harass, follow, or assault you at home, work, or over the phone or electronic messaging.
  • The abuser must stay a certain distance away from you or your residence, place of work, your child’s school, or other specified locations.
  • You might be temporarily granted total control of certain property you own with the abuser, such as a car, computer, bank accounts, household items, and more.
  • The abuser cannot purchase or possess a firearm and should forfeit any firearms in their possession.
  • The abuser might have to leave the family home (with help from the police if necessary), and you might have police assistance returning to your home.
  • The abuser might still have to pay their portion of a mortgage or other loan payments.
  • The abuser might have to cover certain bills and give you money if they caused you financial losses, including medical bills or lost income from abuse-related injuries.
  • The abuser must return any personal items they have of yours.
  • The abuser might have to participate in a treatment program for domestic violence or undergo other types of counseling.
  • The abuser might have to cover your attorney’s fees.
  • If you have children together, the abuser might lose custody rights of the child, including the right to unsupervised visits or decision-making authority, but they can be ordered to continue paying child support.

If you have concerns that are unique to your situation, your attorney can request that the court include additional terms of the DVRO. A judge should include restrictions that work to keep the petitioner safe if the court deems an order necessary.

If the abuser violates the order, the court can impose consequences. The person who sought the order needs to petition the court to hold their abuser in civil contempt for violating the DVRO. If the court determines there was a violation, it can impose up to $1,000 in fines or imprison the abuser for up to five days. There are increased penalties for multiple violations.

If you call the police because an abuser violates a DVRO, they can arrest the abuser and issue criminal charges, which are separate from a civil contempt order. This can result in additional fines, jail time, and probation.

What the Order Can’t Do

While a DVRO can set out penalties for violating the terms, it cannot physically stop an abuser from violations. It is a piece of paper, so people with DVROs should always remain vigilant and take the steps necessary to keep them and their children safe whenever needed.

The order also cannot serve as grounds for a divorce or to permanently take away child custody from the abusive party. California is a no-fault divorce state, and while domestic violence can play a role in certain aspects of a divorce, it does not automatically give you the upper hand in a divorce case.

Further, a DVRO is a factor that courts will consider when deciding on child custody, but it does not always mean the abuser will lose their parental rights. Courts will determine whether the children experienced abuse, and whether supervised visitation or a similar solution is possible given the circumstances.

Seek Legal Help

If you are seeking a DVRO, you want to fully understand the effect of the order and how it can and cannot protect you and your children. If someone is seeking an order against you, always be aware of how the order restricts your conduct and know the penalties for violations.

In either situation, you should immediately contact a California domestic violence lawyer for the assistance you need.