Respond to a Restraining Order

This section helps you respond to a request for a civil harassment restraining order. Read the introduction to the Civil Harassment section to get more information about civil harassment restraining orders and the restraining order court process.

What Is a Civil Harassment Restraining Order?

A civil harassment restraining order is a court order that helps protect people from abuse/harassment or threats of abuse/harassment.

It can order you to:

  • Not contact or go near the protected person(s);
  • Stay away from the protected person’s home, work, school, or his or her children’s school; and
  • Not have a gun or firearm while the order is in effect.

 

If There Is a Restraining Order Against You

1. Read the order carefully. If you disobey the order, you can go to jail or be fined.

  • Read the Temporary Restraining Order (Form CH-110), which contains all the orders in effect until the court date. Make sure you stay away from all the people and places in the order.

  • You CANNOT own, possess, buy or try to buy a gun or firearm while the order is in effect. If you have a gun now, you have to turn it in to the police or sell it to a gun dealer. Read How Do I Turn in or Sell My Firearms? (Form DV-800-INFO). Although this form is for domestic violence cases, the information will help you figure out what to do with your gun or firearm.

2. Read How Can I Respond to a Request for Civil Harassment Restraining Orders? (Form CH-120-INFO)

3. Go to the court hearing on the restraining order. The hearing date is on the Notice of Court Hearing (Form CH-109).

  • If you do not go to court, the judge can make the restraining order without hearing your side of the story. And the order can last up to 3 years.

4. If you want to tell your side of the story, file a response BEFORE your court date.

  • You can fill out and file a Response to Request for Civil Harassment Restraining Orders (Form CH-120) where you tell the judge your side of the story about what happened.
  • Even if you do not file a Response, GO TO YOUR HEARING!

You do not need a lawyer to respond to a restraining order. BUT it is a good idea to have a lawyer. Having a restraining order issued against you can have very serious consequences, so by having a lawyer you can protect your rights as best as possible. Click for help finding a lawyer.

Your court’s self-help center may also be able to help you respond to the restraining order or refer you to someone who can.

  • IMPORTANT! If you also have a criminal case related to the abuse, stalking, or violence in this case, it is very important you talk to a lawyer. Anything you say or write in the civil harassment restraining order case can be used against you in your criminal case.

Answering the Restraining Order

If you decide to answer the request for the restraining order, follow these steps:

STEP 1. Fill Out Your Court Forms and Prepare to File

STEP 2. File and Serve Your Response

STEP 3. Get Ready and Go to Your Court Hearing

STEP 4. After the Court Hearing


STEP 1. Fill Out Your Court Forms and Prepare to File

1. Read How Can I Respond to a Request for Civil Harassment Restraining Orders? (Form CH-120-INFO).

2. Fill out your response forms:

  • Response to Request for Civil Harassment Restraining Orders (Form CH-120);
  • Additional Page (Form MC-020) or Attachment to Judicial Council Form (Form MC-025), if you need more space to write; and
  • Declaration (Form MC-030) or Attached Declaration (Form MC-031) for any statements of witnesses that will support your side of the story.

3. Fill out your court’s local forms (if any)
Ask your local court clerk if there are local forms you have to fill out. Some courts also have forms on their website. Find your local court’s website.

4. Have your forms reviewed before filing
If your court’s self-help center helps people with civil harassment restraining orders, ask them to review your paperwork. They can make sure you filled out your Response properly.

5. Make at least 2 copies of all your forms
One copy will be for you; another copy will be for the protected person. The original is for the court.


STEP 2. File and Serve Your Response

Once you have filled out all your forms, you have to file them with the court and “serve” (give a copy to) the protected person who filed the request. Do this right away. Do this at least 2 days before your court hearing to make sure you give the court, and the protected person, enough time to review your response. If you cannot do it at least 2 days before the court date, do it as soon as you can.

1. File your Response in court
Take the original and 2 copies of your form to the court clerk to file. The court clerk will keep the original and return both copies to you, stamped “Filed.”

  • If the protected person claimed you used or threatened violence or made him or her afraid of violence, you will not have to pay a filing fee. Otherwise, the court may charge you a filing fee. If you cannot afford the fee, you can ask for a fee waiver. Click for help asking for a fee waiver.
  • If you do not speak English well, ask the clerk for an interpreter for your hearing date. 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.
  • If you are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or have another disability, ask for an interpreter or other accommodation. For more information for persons with disabilities and a form to ask for an accommodation.

2. Serve the protected person with a copy of your forms
You must get someone 18 or older (NOT YOU) to mail a copy of your Response and other papers to the protected person. The person who does this is called the “server” or “process server.” The server can also hand-deliver the papers.

3. File your proof of service
Have your server fill out a Proof of Service of Response by Mail (Form CH-250) and give it to you. Then, you file it with the court and keep a copy for yourself. This form tells the judge that the protected person got a copy of your Response.

If you are unable to file and serve your forms before the hearing, bring them with you to the hearing anyway.


STEP 3. Get Ready and Go to Your Court Hearing

Get Ready for Your Hearing

This section will tell you how to get ready for your hearing.

This section will tell you how to get ready for your hearing.

Be prepared:

  • Get your papers together. If you did not already file your forms with the court, take 2 copies of all your papers, including the Proof of Service, with you to the hearing. If there are any other documents that help your case (trying to disprove what the protected person says happened), take those with you.
  • Get your evidence together. You can take witnesses to help support your case. Witnesses may or may not be allowed to speak. But you can bring a witness’s written statement (declaration) of what he or she saw or heard. You can use a Declaration (Form MC-030) or Attached Declaration (Form MC-031), for any statements of witnesses that support your side of the story. You should file and serve witness statements at the same time that you filed your Response (Form CH-120). If you did not have time to file them ahead of time, then take the original plus 2 copies to your court hearing.
  • If you do not speak English well, check to see if the court will be providing an interpreter at the hearing. If not, take someone (but not a child, a protected person, or a witness) with you to interpret for you. Get tips to help you work with a court interpreter.
  • Most courtrooms do not allow children. Ask if there is a children’s waiting room in the courthouse before your hearing date. If not, make sure you arrange for child care.

Do not miss your hearing!
If you miss it, the judge can make the orders without hearing from you.

Get there 30 minutes early:

  • Find the courtroom.
  • When the courtroom opens, go in and tell the clerk or officer that you are present.
  • If the person who asked for the order is present, do NOT sit near or talk to him or her.
  • Watch the other cases so you will know what to do.
  • When your name is called, go to the front of the courtroom.
  • Your hearing may last just a few minutes or up to an hour.

Practice what you want to say in response to what the protected person said in the request:

  • Consider each order the protected person requested and decide whether you disagree with any of these orders. If so, make a list of the orders you disagree with and practice saying why you disagree. In court, do not take more than 3 minutes to say why you disagree with the requested orders and what you want.
  • If you get nervous at the hearing, just read from your list. Use that list to make sure you tell the judge about everything you disagree with.

Your court hearing

During your hearing, the judge may ask questions

  • Wait for your turn to speak. When the judge asks you for your side of the story, tell the truth. Speak slowly. You can read from your list.
  • Try to be brief. If you go on about things that are not really relevant or important, it may affect your chances of winning.
  • Do not use profanity or other inappropriate language. Stick to the facts.
  • Stay calm. Any display of anger toward the protected person will only make it appear that any fear of violence that he or she has is reasonable.
  • The other person or his or her lawyer may also ask you questions.
  • Give complete answers.
  • If you do not understand a question, say “I don’t understand the question”.
  • If the other side lies in court, wait until he or she finishes talking. Then tell the judge.
  • Speak only to the judge. Do not talk to the protected person unless it is your turn to ask questions.
  • If you are given an opportunity to ask questions, only ask questions. Do not take it as a chance to argue with or berate the protected person, or to repeat things that you have already said.
  • When people are talking to the judge, wait for them to finish. Then you can ask them questions about they said.
  • Do not sit near or talk to the other person, except when it is your turn to ask questions.

The judge’s decision

At the end of the hearing, the judge will say what the orders are. The judge may:

  • Give the protected person the orders he or she asked for.
  • Give the protected person some of the orders he or she asked for and not others.
  • Not give the protected person any of the orders he or she asked for.
  • Postpone your case and give you a new court date. This means you have to come back another day. The judge can do this if:
    • You need more time to get a lawyer or prepare an answer.
    • The judge wants more information.
    • Your hearing is taking longer than planned.
  • If the judge postpones (“continues”) your case, the judge may extend any temporary orders until the new hearing date.


See Going to Court to read more information about how to prepare for your court hearing.


STEP 4. After the Court Hearing

If the judge issues a restraining order against you at the hearing, or any type of orders, you MUST follow them. If you do not, you can be arrested.

If you were not at the hearing, you will be served with the Civil Harassment Restraining Order After Hearing (CLETS-CHO) (Form CH-130) within a few days of your court date, by mail or in person. If you did go to the hearing, you may still want to get a copy of the Form CH-130.  If anything on it is different from what the judge ordered, talk to the court clerk right away to see what you can do. If the clerk cannot help you, talk to a lawyer right away. Or talk to your court’s self-help center to see if there is anything they can help you with. The rules for whether you have to be served with a copy of Form CH-130 are as follows:

  • If you were at the hearing, the protected person does NOT have to serve you with a copy Form CH-130 although he or she may do it anyway. BUT do not wait to see if you receive it or not. Get your own copy from the court. That way, you will have it and will not forget what orders the judge made. 
  • If you were not at the hearing, but the judge’s orders are the same as the temporary order, the protected person can also serve you with a copy of Form CH-130 by mail.
  • If you were not at the hearing, and the judge’s orders are different from the temporary order, the protected person must have someone serve you with Form CH-130 in person, not by mail.

If the judge issues a restraining order against you, you are not allowed to own, possess, buy or try to buy a firearm. If you own 1, you will have to sell it to a licensed gun dealer or turn it in to law enforcement, and file proof with the court. To file this proof, you can use the Proof of Firearms Turned In or Sold (Form CH-800). For more information on what to do, read How Do I Turn in or Sell My Firearms? (Form DV-800-INFO).

Getting Help

It can be difficult to find free or low-cost legal help if you are responding to a request for a civil harassment restraining order. But you should still try since legal aid agencies have different guidelines, and your local bar association may have a volunteer lawyer program that can help you. Click for help finding a lawyer.

Your court’s self-help center may also be able to help you respond to the restraining order or refer you to someone who can.

Batterer Intervention Program Information

You can find batterer intervention programs in your area at: California Department of Public Health Violence Prevention Resource Directorybwhich lists help by county.

If you need an “approved” batterer intervention program, contact your county probation department.

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