When a victim of physical abuse leaves the marriage, the risk of violent behavior by his or her spouse increases. A restraining order provides legal protection for you and/or your children when a partner has committed abuse or threatened harm.

Follow these steps to seek a protective order from the California court system.

Review the types of protective orders

California recognizes several types of restraining orders for cases involving domestic violence:

  • Personal conduct orders, which prevent the person from committing specific acts including destroying your property, disturbing the peace, threatening, harassing, assaulting and contacting you
  • Stay-away orders, which prevent the person from coming within a certain distance (usually 50 to 100 feet) of your car, home, residence, school or workplace
  • Residence orders, which require the person to leave your shared residence with only his or her personal belongings and remain away from the home until a scheduled court hearing

Request a restraining order

Visit your local court to file paperwork requesting an order of protection, which does not require a fee. The judge will determine whether to grant the restraining order by the next business day. If he or she issues the restraining order, it is a temporary order pending a scheduled court date.

You must have the court papers hand-delivered to your spouse by someone other than yourself. He or she must be at least 18 and not involved in the case. You can hire a law enforcement officer or professional process server for this purpose.

Attend the hearing

At the court hearing, you and your spouse will both have an opportunity to share your story with the judge. He or she will either dismiss the restraining order or extend the order for up to five years. Bring evidence of abuse to the hearing, including photos, videos, medical reports, police reports and/or written threats.

An attorney can help you prepare for the hearing and speak on your behalf. If you are in immediate danger, call 911 or go to your local law enforcement office to request an emergency restraining order.