“You should file a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) to protect yourself.”

Victims of domestic violence — which is a broad category for numerous types of behavior not limited to physical or verbal assault  — often hear this advice from friends and family who mean well.

And while DVRO applications are difficult to complete due to the sheer volume of paperwork associated with them, most litigants who file them are self-represented and do not consult an attorney about what to expect in the process. This can lead to confusing longer-term results for someone who thought it was the best way to achieve protection.

It is important to understand that there is a difference between a “temporary” restraining order, and a “permanent” restraining order.

When a Judge grants an initial request for a DVRO, it is only a temporary order, called a Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order (DVTRO). While obtaining a DVTRO can occur in a matter of, in some cases, less than 6 hours, securing a permanent DVRO doesn’t end there.

For the court to extend the DVTRO out into a permanent DVRO, further proceedings are necessary. Per statute, the court must allow a hearing in court within 16-21 days of the DVTRO being filed, so the restrained party has an opportunity to be heard. Therefore, you may succeed in obtaining temporary orders for a few weeks, but you then must answer to the Judge and meet a certain burden of proof by the time you attend the hearing. Specifically, before granting a “permanent” DVTRO, the court must find that the incident(s) occurred “by a preponderance of the evidence” standard, meaning that they find it is more likely than not that what you claim is true, and that a DVTRO is necessary to protect you under the facts.

Especially if you are asking the court to make immediate custody orders concurrent with your request for protection, you want to be sure the court is convinced by the need for the protection at the time of the hearing. Unfortunately, because some people misuse the system, the court is always looking to confirm that people who request DVTROs really need the protection. If the court believes you are unprepared in court without evidence, their possible doubt of your true intentions could unexpectedly bleed into the custody side of your case, even if custody wasn’t a salient issue in your relationship with the restrained party prior to this.

The bottom line is that you should be prepared at the time of filing to produce corroborating evidence by the time of the hearing, but preferably at the time you file the initial paperwork.

What does the court expect to see at the time of the hearing? If possible, the court wants as much unbiased evidence as possible to support your version of the facts, such as:

  • police reports
  • text messages
  • emails
  • other neutral documentary evidence.

Oral testimony of witnesses is also helpful, but another factor to consider is that most courts do not take testimony from third-party witnesses at the initial hearing.

It is vital to understand how your county treats a first appearance on a DVTRO.

  • Does the Judge just set every case for trial if the restrained party disputes the facts?
  • Does the Judge spend time talking to litigants to resolve the case right then and there?
  • If so, do they take documentary evidence, or allow you to put on witnesses?

Each county, and each Judge, operates differently. Being “prepared” might mean something different for each case, and it will behoove the long-term goals of your case to understand what is expected of you at that initial hearing.

Even if you do not use an attorney to file the paperwork, it is wise to consult an attorney knowledgeable about your county and your Judge prior to filing for a DVRO.

Additional Resources:

FPS Blog: How do DVTROs affect temporary child or spousal support in domestic violence situations?

WEAVE: Legal FAQ

Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento: DVRO Resources Page

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenny E. Bain is a family law attorney with FORESTER PURCELL STOWELL PC, based in Folsom, California. She can be reached at info@foresterpurcell.com or 916 293 4000. This information is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice. Sign up to receive legal updates and announcements from FPS. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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