Domestic Violence FAQs

Domestic Violence – Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I want to file a restraining order but the other person does not know my address and I do not want him/her to know. What can I do?

A: You can use a program called Safe at Home. It is run by the California Secretary of State. If you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, the program gives you a secure address to use for your court papers (or for banking and other things) so that you can keep your address confidential.

Q: Do I need a lawyer for my restraining order case?

A: No. But it is a good idea, especially if you have children. Click for help finding a lawyer.

Ask the court clerk about legal services and domestic violence help centers in your county. Find your local court. The clerk can also send you to the family law facilitator for help with child support and spousal/partner support. And the facilitator may also be able to help you with the restraining order.

Q: Will I see the restrained person at the court hearing?

A: If the restrained person comes to the hearing, yes. But that person does not have the right to speak to you. If you are afraid, tell the court officer when you arrive at court. The court officer will make sure you are safe. Read Get Ready for the Court Hearing (Form DV-520-INFO).

Q: Can I bring someone with me to court?

A: Yes. You can bring someone to sit with you during the hearing (a “support person”). But that person cannot speak for you in court. Only you or your lawyer (if you have one) can speak for you.

Q: Can I use the restraining order to get divorced?

A: No. These forms will not end your marriage or your registered domestic partnership. You must file other forms to end your marriage or domestic partnership. Read the Divorce or Separation section to find out more about divorce.

Q: Can the restraining order stop the other person from taking our children away?

A: Yes. The judge can order the person named in the orders not to take the children out of California, or the county you live in, without your written agreement or another court order.

Q: My spouse is abusive but I am trying to get my immigration papers. Is there anything I can do to leave without hurting my chances to get legal papers?

A: There are laws that may protect you if your immigration status depends on your spouse and he or she is abusive toward you. If your immigration status is dependent on your spouse and you are a victim of domestic violence, you may be able to “self-petition” for legal status under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). You can get more information at:

If this is your situation, make sure you talk to an immigration lawyer. Click for help finding a lawyer.

Q: Can I get a restraining order if I do not have a green card?

A: You can still get a restraining order. If you are worried about deportation, talk to an immigration lawyer. Click for help finding a lawyer.

You should be aware of a special provision in the laws governing immigration and naturalization that may apply to you. If your immigration status is dependent on your spouse and you are a victim of domestic violence, you may be able to “self-petition” for legal status under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

You can get more information at:

Q: Someone is asking for a restraining order against me. I do not have a green card. What can I do?

A: You do not need a green card to go to domestic violence court. They will not report you to immigration. BUT having a restraining order against you may affect your immigration status if you are trying to get legal papers. It is VERY important that you talk to an immigration lawyer. Click for help finding a lawyer.

Q: Can the restraining order give me custody of the pets or protect the pets?

A: Yes. In your Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (Form DV-100 | video instructions ), you can ask the judge to give you the custody, care, and control of the pets. You can also ask the judge to order the restrained person to stay away from the pets and not take, sell, hide, threaten, or harm them in any way.

Q: The person abusing me and I only went on 1 date. Does it still qualify as domestic violence?

A: Yes. It does not matter how long or briefly you dated. As long as you went on 1 date, you can file a request for a domestic violence restraining order.

Q: If I move out of California, what happens to the restraining order?

A: Your restraining order works anywhere in the U.S. If you move out of California, contact your new local police so they will know about your orders. If you want to move with your minor children, you need the other parent's permission or a court order. (There are some exceptions. Talk to a lawyer. Click here for help finding a lawyer.)

Q: I have a restraining order from another state and I have moved to California. Is my restraining order good here?

A: Yes. But, if you want, you can register your order with the superior court in the California county where you now live. Fill out and take an Order to Register Out-of-State or Tribal Court Protective/Restraining Order (CLETS) (Form DV-600) to the court. Bring a certified copy of your order with you. Note: You are NOT required to register your out-of-state restraining order. A valid order is enforceable whether or not it has been registered.

Restraining orders get entered into a special computer system at the California Department of Justice. That way, police officers across the state can find out about your order. In some counties, the court sends your order to the state computer for you. Ask the clerk if your court will do this. If not, take a copy of the order to your local police. They can enter your order into the computer. Click for help finding a law enforcement agency.

Q: What if I am deaf and I have to go to court?

A: If you are deaf or hard-of-hearing, contact the clerk at least 1 week before the hearing. Click to find your local court. Ask for a sign language interpreter or other accommodation. For more help, read For Persons With Disabilities Requesting Accommodations: Questions and Answers About Rule of Court 1.100 for Court Users.

Your court's ADA coordinator can also give you more information and help you request accommodations.

Q: What if I have to go to court and I do not speak English?

A: When you file your papers, tell the clerk you will need an interpreter. If a court interpreter is not available, bring someone to interpret for you. Do not ask a child, a protected person, or a witness to interpret for you. Get tips to help you work with a court interpreter.

Q: What if I have to go to court and I need accommodations because I have a disability?

A: If you have a disability, contact the clerk at least 1 week before the hearing to ask for accommodations. Click to find your local court.  For more help, read For Persons With Disabilities Requesting Accommodations: Questions and Answers About Rule of Court 1.100 for Court Users.

Your court's ADA coordinator can also give you more information and help you request accommodations.

Q: What if the restrained person does not obey the order?

A: Call the police. The restrained person can be arrested and charged with a crime. Find out more by reading Enforce a Restraining Order.

Q: What if there is a restraining order against me but the protected person contacts me?

A: No matter what, you have to follow the court order. The order does not affect the protected person. It only affects what you can do.

Q: My restraining order is about to expire but I still want protection. Is there anything I can do?

A: Yes. You can ask the court to “renew” your restraining order. You will have to go to a court hearing and explain to the judge why you still want a restraining order in place. The other side has the right to be there too. The judge will make the decision. Read the section on Renew a Restraining Order for instructions on how to ask the judge to renew your order.

Q: Can I agree with the restrained person to cancel the order?

A: No. Only the judge can change or cancel the order.

Q: I filed for a restraining order and now I want to drop it. Can I?

A: It depends on where you are at in the process. If you have a temporary restraining order and a court hearing coming up, you cannot “drop” the case. But you could just not show up for the court hearing. If you do not go, the restraining order will be dropped.

If you already have a “permanent” restraining order and you want to dismiss (drop) the case or change the restraining order, you must file papers to go to court and ask the judge.

IMPORTANT!  Before you try to drop or undo a restraining order, talk to a domestic violence counselor or a lawyer. Depending on the reasons why you want to drop your restraining order, there may be other options that can address your concerns while leaving the protection of the restraining order in place.

For example, if the reason you want to drop it is that you feel like the order gets in the way of you coparenting with your children’s other parent, there may be changes you can make to the order (especially to the custody and visitation portion) to allow more flexibility when it comes to your children, while continuing the protection that the restraining order can give you.

If you are feeling pressure by the restrained person to drop the restraining order, it is very important you think very seriously about whether dropping the restraining order will be best for you. If you end up having to refile, you will have to start the process all over again. And there may be other ways for you to deal with these pressures. Talk to a domestic violence counselor or a lawyer for help in deciding what to do.

Q: I have a restraining order against me and I have to sell or store my gun. How do I do that?

A: If you decide you want to sell your firearm to a licensed gun dealer, or to store it with a dealer until the restraining order expires, look for a licensed gun dealer in your area.  Search online for "Firearms Dealers" in your area, or look for one in your local phone book's Yellow Pages. Make sure the dealer is licensed.  You will have to give the court paperwork proving that you sold or stored your gun, and only a licensed gun dealer can help you provide this proof. You can use the form Proof of Firearms Turned In, Sold, or Stored (Form DV-800) to file proof with the court.

For more information about selling your firearms, read How Do I Turn In, Sell, or Store My Firearms? (Form DV-800-INFO).

Q: How do I take my gun to law enforcement?

A: Call your local agency to ask about their procedures. Take a copy of the restraining order with you. Go directly to the law enforcement agency and make sure your gun is not loaded. Do not go anywhere else with firearms in your vehicle!

Q: If I turn my gun in to law enforcement, how long will they keep it?

A: They will keep your gun until the court order ends.

Q: After I give my gun to law enforcement, can I change my mind?

A: Yes. You are allowed to make one sale or to store it with a licensed firearms dealer. To do this, a licensed gun dealer must give a bill of sale to your local law enforcement agency or proof of storage. The law enforcement agency will give the licensed gun dealer the firearm you are selling or storing.

Q: Do I have to pay the law enforcement agency to keep my gun?

A: You may have to pay the agency for keeping your gun. Contact your local law enforcement agency and ask if a fee is charged. After your court order ends, the agency will tell you how much you need to pay.

For more information about turning in your firearms, read How Do I Turn In, Sell, or Store My Firearms? (Form DV-800-INFO) and Proof of Firearms Turned In, Sold, or Stored (Form DV-800).

Q: What are the signs that someone is in an abusive relationship?

A: You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship if your spouse/partner:

  • Calls you names, insults you, or criticizes you constantly.
  • Does not trust you and is jealous or possessive.
  • Tries to keep you isolated you from family or friends.
  • Monitors and tries to control where you go, who you call, and who you spend time with.
  • Controls the household finances or withholds money from you
  • Punishes you by withholding affection.
  • Threatens to hurt you, the children, your family, or your pets.
  • Humiliates you in any way.

You may be in a physically abusive relationship if your spouse/partner has ever:

  • Damaged property, like thrown objects, punched walls, kicked doors, and other things.
  • Pushed, slapped, bitten, kicked, or choked you.
  • Used a weapon to threaten or hurt you.
  • Forced you to leave your home.
  • Trapped you in your home or kept you from leaving.
  • Prevented you from calling the police or seeking medical attention.
  • Hurt your children.
  • Used physical force in sexual situations.

Q: What is CLETS?

A: CLETS stands for California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System. It is a statewide computer system that lets police know about the existence of a restraining order, including details about the person protected, the person restrained, and the terms of the restraining order.

Q: I am worried the other parent may kidnap my child. What can I do?

A: First, in your restraining order, you can ask the court for an order that prevents the other parent from leaving the state or the country where you currently live with your children without your consent or a court order. And make sure you tell your custody mediator that you are worried about this.

Also, the U.S. Department of State has a list of precautions that any parent should take if they are worried about the possibility of child abduction:

  • Keep a list of the addresses and telephone numbers of the other parent’s relatives, friends, and business associates both here and abroad;
  • Keep a record of important information about the other parent, including: physical description; passport, social security, bank account, and driver’s license numbers; and vehicle description, vehicle identification number (VIN) and plate number;
  • Keep a written description of your children, including hair and eye color, height, weight, fingerprints, and any special physical characteristics; and
  • Take full-face color photographs or videos of your children every 6 months — a recent photo of the other parent may also be useful. If your children are abducted, this information could be vital in locating them.

In addition, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, at telephone 1-800-843-5678, suggests that you teach your children to use the telephone, memorize your home phone number, and practice making collect calls, and that you instruct them to call home immediately if anything unusual happens. Discuss possible plans of action with your children in the case of abduction.

Most important, however, if you feel your children are vulnerable to abduction, seek legal advice. Do not merely tell a friend or relative about your fears.

Q: The other parent kidnapped our child and left the country. What can I do?

A: When a child who is a U.S. citizen is kidnapped and taken to another country, the State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues works with U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the world to help the child and the parent looking for the child. But even when a child is taken across international borders, child custody disputes are private legal matters between the parents, and the State Department has little or no power.

If your child is at risk of being abducted by the other parent, it is very important that you have a clear custody order that specifies what the other parent can and cannot do in terms of traveling with your child. But even if you have a court order, U.S. laws and court orders are not usually recognized in foreign countries and therefore are not directly enforceable abroad.  

Fortunately, the Hague Convention, which has been signed by many countries, is an international treaty that applies to child abductions. The countries that are parties to the convention have agreed that, with a few exceptions, a child who is a resident in 1 country that is a party to the convention and who is removed to another country that is also a party to the convention against a custody and visitation order must be promptly returned to the country of residence.  Click for information on which countries have signed this agreement.  Also click for information on how to proceed if your child has been abducted to a particular country.

The Hague Convention and cases of international abduction are very complicated. There is information online to help you but, if you can, talk to a lawyer who has a lot of experience with international abduction cases. Your local District Attorney’s Office may also have a Child Abduction and Recovery Unit that can help you or give you resources in your area.

Here are some websites with very helpful and complete information on child abduction:

  • The U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues website provides information about international abduction, like information on how to look for a child abroad, how to use the criminal justice system, and how to invoke the Hague Convention by submitting abduction applications, as well as information about the law.
  • A Family Resource Guide on International Kidnapping, from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice, provides detailed information on prevention and searching for your child, checklists for what to do in case of kidnapping, resources, and much more.


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