According to California family law, domestic violence is when one person causes or attempts to cause bodily injury, or sexual assault, or makes another person afraid of serious bodily injury. Domestic violence occurs in intimate relationships, such as between married or divorced couples, boyfriends and girlfriends, same-sex partners, parents who have a child together or parents and their adult children.


Call the Police – Call 911 if you are in danger

When the police arrive, be sure to tell them what happened and show them any injuries (bruises, scrapes, etc.). If you are afraid to show them in front of the person who assaulted you, tell the officer. Make sure to show the polices bruises, etc. on your body under your clothes (stomach, thigh, chest). If you have no injuries, and the abuser is still present, you may still be able to make a private person’s arrest. If bruises show up later, go back to the police department and make sure they take photographs.

Emergency Protective Order- available at any time

This is an order which is issued by a judge at a police officer’s request. The officer may request the order if s/he believes one or both of the following: (1) you are in immediate and present danger of domestic violence, based on your allegation of a recent incident of abuse or threat by the person against whom the order is sought; and/or (2) a child is in immediate and present danger of abuse by a family or household member, based on an allegation of a recent incident of abuse or threat of abuse.

The police officer will request the order ONLY if s/he believes that the order is necessary to prevent the occurrence or recurrence of domestic violence or child abuse. The order tells the abuser to stay away from you and it may also establish temporary custody orders. The fact that you have left the household to avoid abuse will not affect the availability of the order. It is only valid for 5 court days or 7 calendar days, giving you time to get to court and apply for a Temporary Restraining order.

Temporary Restraining Order

When there has been physical or emotional abuse, threats, stalking, harassment, or other acts of violence, you may apply to the Court for a temporary restraining order.

There is no fee for filing the order, it is free. For help filling out the forms to request a Domestic Violence Restraining Order, please go to

Typical restraining orders require that the abuser must do one or more of the following:

  • stop telephoning, striking, harassing or otherwise bothering you, either at your home, your work, or wherever you are;
  • stay a certain distance away (usually 100 yards) from you, your family, your workplace, your children’s school or daycare, your car, etc;
  • leave your residence where he or she was living with you (residence exclusion);
  • comply with certain custody and visitation schedules for children of the relationship;

Private Person’s Arrest

If a police officer at the scene does not make an arrest, you have the right to make a private person’s arrest under certain conditions. If the abuser has left the scene, you may still ask to file a report.

Civil Standby

A civil standby is a service provided by the police department where the police will, upon request, come to a specified address to “standby to keep the peace”. This is often a low-priority call and the officer will only remain at the premises for a limited time (at the officer’s discretion).

Victim Advocates At The District Attorney’s Office

Depending on the severity of the violence committed against you, the police may arrest the abuser and the District Attorney’s office may prosecute. Advocates are available at the District Attorney’s office to answer your questions and concerns about the criminal justice process.


You do not have to tell anyone in the family court your immigration status. You have the right to ask for a restraining order for your protection without being afraid of deportation. However, you should contact an immigration attorney before taking legal action.


Qualifying for the Order

You must meet certain requirements to be able to qualify for a restraining order:

  • (a) the other person must have recently threatened you or a minor with physical harm or actually physically harmed you or the minor; and
  • (b) you have some sort of intimate relationship with the restrained person (married, formerly married, related by blood or marriage or adoption, live together or formerly lived together, have had a dating or engagement relationship, or are parents together of a minor child). If you do not meet these qualifications, you may still be able to obtain a restraining order to prevent “harassment.”

The Sheriff’s Office will provide service of process, free of charge on all restraining orders.

Obtaining the Order

To obtain a restraining order, you must complete the paperwork for the judge’s signature and file the order at the courthouse. The temporary restraining order must be personally served to the restrained person by someone over 18 years but not you or anyone else named in the restraining order. The order is effective as soon as the judge signs it and lasts until the court date (usually three weeks from the filing date).

For help filling out the forms to request a Domestic Violence Restraining Order, please go to Bay Area Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence Restraining Order Clinic.

What Happens at the Court Hearing

You need to attend the hearing, even if the restrained person has said he or she would not attend. You can request that the restraining orders continue for a period of up to three years. In addition to the restraining orders , the court can make orders about child custody and visitation/child support, debt payments, restitution by the restrained person for your lost wages and out-of-pocket expense s related to the violence, attorney’s fees, and batterer’s counseling. The court will make its orders based on your statements in the Temporary Restraining order, other writte statements of both parties, testimony in court, the recommendations of Family Court Services, (if you have minor children in common and there is a dispute about custody and/or visitation), and other evidence either party brings to the hearing, such as photographs.

Enforcing the Order

The orders are valid throughout the State of California. The orders may also be enforced in other states if registered correctly in those other states. You should keep a copy of the orders with you at all times. It is your responsibility to enforce the order by refusing telephone calls from the restrained person, not allowing the restrained person into your home or workplace, and reporting violations to the police. A violation of the restraining order is a misdemeanor and the police may arrest the abuser even if they did not witness the violation. Felony charges may also be brought. You may also file contempt charges in civil court if the restrained person violates the order, in addition to or instead of criminal sanctions.