How to File For a DV TRO (Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order) in CaliforniaWritten by: Chris Print This Article
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The way that DV TROs are issued varies widely, with every state and nation having somewhat different protocols. This article focuses on how to file a DV TRO in California courts. The general ideas here should apply to most other locations in Western nations, but the rules and especially the forms are going to vary.
Note that I’m not a lawyer in California or anywhere else for that matter. Therefore this is not legal advice. But it should work because this is the process I followed. Unfortunately, I was second to file. I didn’t know about what my ex was doing using false allegations in a TRO to persecute me. She filed first, therefore our children and I have suffered for years as a result. That’s why it is important to be first to file.
Be Honest, and Keep Kids Your Top Priority
It is critically important to be honest in what you write. If you lie or distort, you will undermine your credibility later during hearings to decide if the TRO needs to be made into a permanent restraining order. It may also adversely affect you during child custody evaluations or other legal actions.
Always keep the interests of your kids #1 in your mind. As such, I strongly disagree with banning all communications between your children and your abusive spouse, or even all communications between you and your abusive spouse. I would suggest that you do not allow anything other than email between you and your spouse and consider restricting that communications to deal with childcare and financial matters. Be sure to specifically allow telephone calls between your children and your spouse on at least an every-other-day basis, so long as your spouse does not start to use the phone calls as means to abuse your children or you. Totally cutting your children’s other parent out of their lives is not good for them.
I strongly advise against ever talking in person or on the phone with your abusive spouse again. People who are emotionally abusive and use threats of false police reports are likely to falsely accuse you of harassment (refer to Many DV TROs in the US are Falsely Obtained). Talking with these people is not worth the risk.
Email is a much safer way to communicate as you have a better chance of bringing evidence into court of what has happened. However, even this can be manipulated by a skillful abuser. For instance, if you ask the abusive spouse a question about medical care and don’t get an answer and therefore resend the message a few times, you may be falsely accused of harassment. Expect stunts like this, especially from a spouse with a history of child abuse or mental illness such as a personality disorder.
Before writing your explanation of abusive behaviors in your family, I encourage you to read one of our previous articles entitled Domestic Violence – Are You Being Abused?. Abuse is not simply a disagreement or argument. It is a pattern of hostile and threatening behaviors that make you feel justifiably afraid or cause evident harm.
Recording of Phone Calls
Be sure to request permission to record the telephone calls between your children and your spouse as she is likely to try parental alienation tactics, such as bad-mouthing you or making false allegations, during phone calls with your kids. You may need to be able to prove she is doing this both to protect your children and yourself.
The DV court order forms authorize recording of unlawful communications by default, but there is an obvious problem that how can you start recording only when something unlawful happens and catch the unlawful behaviors on the recording. It would be preferable to get the judge to state for the record that you can record all phone calls between your spouse and your children by explaining that you want to ensure the kids have continuing and frequent contact with their mother, but are concerned that she will continue to try parental alienation and false allegations stunts as she has been doing.
Filling Out the Forms
Filing a DV TRO can be done without an attorney and generally at no cost other than your time and whatever it takes (paper, printer, pens, etc.) to fill out the forms. Filing fees are typically waived for DV TROs, also.
To get started filling out the DV TRO forms, go to the California State Courts forms website. Pick “Domestic Violence Prevention – English” and click “see forms”.
Start reading by reading the documents in the 500 series first to understand what you’re doing.
- DV-500: Can a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Help Me? (Domestic Violence Prevention)
- DV-505: Forms You Need for a Temporary Restraining Order (Domestic Violence Prevention)
- DV-510: I Filled Out the Forms— What Now? (Domestic Violence Prevention)
- DV-520: Get Ready for Your Hearing (For Protected Person) (Domestic Violence Prevention)
- DV-530: How to Enforce Your Order (Domestic Violence Prevention)
You must fill out both “my request” and “court order” versions of the forms with exactly matching information. The judge will look at your request forms, but the ones he or she will sign are the court order versions.
Every California DV TRO filing needs to have these forms filled out:
It will help your case to have more than one abuse event described. Stick with the more serious events. If there are a few serious events and many more minor ones, mention that you are only covering the serious ones now but are many less serious abusive incidents, also.
Form DV-100 has very little space on it for describing the abuses. You can attach more pages and print “see attached pages” on DV-100 and/or use one or more forms DV-101. Focus on documenting the facts first, then the effects on you and our children such as fear, physical injuries, the negative emotional impact on the children, and so forth. It is best if you can present some evidence of the abuse such as medical bills, witness statements, and police reports. But remember that judges will issue DV TROs without any proof. Again, be forewarned that DV TROs are meant as shields to protect, not as swords to harm. So do not file for one of these without just cause, and do not file for one using dishonest misinformation.
You must also fill out the court order version of the form to match your request:
If you have children, you must also fill out forms DV-105 and DV-140:
Fill out DV-105 and DV-140 and make sure you’re not completely blocking out your kids’ time with their abusive parent. At least allow her frequent informally supervised visits supervised by a trusted person who will make sure she won’t hurt the children and who will report it to the police and courts if she does. Small children (perhaps under 6 years old) need to see both their parents multiple times per week, so arrange for visits both on weekends and at least one mid-week visit on an evening or other workable time. Older children may be able to better function with weekend-only visits.
Reducing Child Abduction Risks
If you are concerned about child abduction, be sure to fill out the request form DV-108 and order form DV-145 for preventing her from leaving the county with the kids. Request that the children’s passports, birth certificates, and travel documents be turned in to the court immediately.
If you are worried about her being a flight risk, that she may flee the area with the kids, then request professionally supervised visitation or other safeguards beyond just simple informal supervision to ensure she cannot run off with the children. This is especially important if you have a spouse with relatives outside the United States. If she has relatives in a nation that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on International Parental Child Abduction, be especially cautious. Read this interview by US State Department staff for more information. Personally, I think it is reasonable to always ask for travel restrictions on both parents that they may not leave the county with the children without written permission of the court or other parent.
Use of Supervised Visitation
Except in extreme cases, kids are better off having some safe supervised time to maintain a relationship even with an abusive parent. If you explain to the judge that you are not trying to cut her out of their lives but want to protect the kids and you from her abuse that will help make your case. Always put the kids first.
Keep in mind that professionally supervised visits are expensive. They often cost $30 to even $100 per hour. If there is any way to get adequate safety for the kids without professionally supervised visits, it may be far preferable to the alternative of your children having no time with a parent who doesn’t have the money to pay for them. If you are worried there are no suitable parties for informally supervised visits, mention this concern to the judge and request some guidance as to how to ensure that your kids can still see their problem parent despite the financial obstacles of professionally supervised visitation. You may suggest that a mutually trusted third party supervisor who is not a professional be present at a short distance from the visits (say 30 feet away, within line of sight and within hearing range), so long as they agree to read the court’s visitation supervision rules and sign a written agreement to comply with them. You may also request that the court authorize audio and video recording of visitations by the visitation supervisor with the recordings to be introduced into custody evaluation and court hearings if there is good reason to do so. This is especially easy for the court to authorize if visitations are to be done in public settings such as parks and playgrounds in which such recordings are already legal. Be sure that the visitation supervisor takes a copy of the court orders with him or her in case the problem parent or another party tries to cause trouble with them doing audio or video recording in a public place with kids present.
Judges are used to seeing a lot of vindictive spouses who want to block access to the kids. By being reasonable and making it clear you know that the kids need both parents, you are helping the judge understand that you are not one of these vindictive spouses.
Must Fill Out Both “Request” and “Court Order” Forms
You also have to fill out the “court order” version of these “request” forms to match exactly. The judge will look at your request forms, but the ones he or she will sign are the court order versions. These are:
DV-160 is to be used if you are asking for child or spousal support, but you will also need to file financial forms FL-150 or FL-155 if you do this. It might be better to request that she pay for half of the housing (rent or mortgage) and childcare expenses, those generally don’t need the other financial forms.
You will need to fill out a proof of service form (DV-200), attach copies of the approved orders and a blank DV-120 response form plus any copies of FL-150 and FL-155 you filled out and blank copies of those forms if you did fill them out. You give this packet to the sheriff’s department in the courthouse to serve her with the orders. They will do it for free in most places in California for DV TRO cases.
If you need help filling out the forms, many courthouses have a family law assistance center that provides services on a first-come/first-served basis. You can also try calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (TDD: 1-800-787-3224).
Filing Forms in Court
Fill out the forms and take them to the court arriving first thing in the morning so you can be there to file your ex-parte request for a DV TRO. You should file your paperwork in the business office of the courthouse, getting it stamped by the clerk. You should bring at least four copies of the paperwork for the following parties:
- Court’s copy — they retain it
- Your copy
- Copy for process server or Sheriff’s Department
- Spare copy
After you’ve filed your paperwork with the business office and gotten back stamped copies, the process varies a bit from court to court. Some courts will run the papers over to the judge’s chambers. Others will ask you to take them to the courtroom in which you will appear.
Appearing Ex-Parte for DV TRO Request
As this is likely your first time in court and each courthouse varies a bit, you should arrive in the courtroom and let the court bailiff known that you’re there for an ex-parte DV TRO matter and give him or her the paperwork. It is ideal to arrive before the judge appears in the courtroom as you can more freely talk with the bailiff at that time. If court sessions have already started, you may need to write a note to the bailiff to explain what you are doing as when court is in session, only one person in the room should be speaking at any time.
The court will schedule a hearing to consider your TRO and allow a defense by your spouse. This is usually assigned a date within a month of your filing for the DV TRO.
You must have the proof of service from DV-200 on file when the assigned hearing date arrives. It must have been served on your spouse some days before the hearing, the exact number of days specified by the judge. Often it is five days in advance.
If you have been unable to get the forms served and your abusive spouse doesn’t show up, you may need to request an extension of the DV TRO by using form DV-125 along with the instructions on form DV-126:
If you don’t fill out a DV-125 and submit it to the court clerk for the approval of the judge, the DV TRO may expire.
Enforcing TROs Via Law Enforcement
Be sure to always carry copies of the court-approved TRO documents with you in your car and on your person. You will need to show them to law enforcement if you need them to enforce the court orders due to a violation of the orders by your abusive spouse.