Ask for a Restraining Order
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Ask for a Restraining Order
To ask for a civil harassment restraining order there are several steps you have to take. But first make sure that:
1. A restraining order is right for you. Read Can a Civil Harassment Restraining Order Help Me? (Form CH-100-INFO).
2. You qualify for a civil harassment restraining order. You qualify if:
- You have been stalked, harassed, sexually assaulted, or threatened with violence;
- You and the person you want to restrain are NOT:
- Spouses/partners or former spouses/partners,
- Dating or used to date, OR
- Closely related (parent, child, brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather, in-law).
3. If available, you get help from an agency in your area.
Once you are sure you qualify for a civil harassment restraining order, you are ready to fill out the forms (or have a lawyer or civil harassment self-clinic help you with the forms). If you are not sure you qualify, ask a lawyer. Click for help finding a lawyer. You can also ask your local domestic violence agency. They can let you know if you need to file a domestic violence restraining order instead of a civil harassment one. Your court’s self-help center may also be able to help you with the restraining order.
Filing a Request for a Restraining Order
STEP 1. Fill Out Your Court Forms and Prepare to File
STEP2. File Your Court Forms With the Court
STEP 3. “Serve” Your Papers on the Restrained Person
STEP 4. Get Ready and Go to your Court Hearing
STEP 5. After the Court Hearing
1. Fill out your restraining order forms
- Request for Civil Harassment Restraining Orders (Form CH-100);
- Confidential CLETS Information (Form CLETS-001);
- Items 1 and 2 on Notice of Court Hearing (Form CH-109);
- Items 1, 2 and 3 on Temporary Restraining Order (CLETS -TCH) (Form CH-110);
- Civil Case cover Sheet (Form CM-010) (ask the court clerk if you need this for your court — you may not need it);
- Additional Page (Form MC-020) if you need more space to describe why you need the restraining order; and
- Declaration (Form MC-030) or Attached Declaration (Form MC-031) for any statements of witnesses that will support your side of the story.
2. 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.
3. Have your forms reviewed
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 it out properly before you move ahead with your case.
4. Make at least 5 copies of all your forms
One copy will be for you; another copy will be for the person you want protection from. The extra copies will be for other protected people or for you to keep in a safe place. The original is for the court.
Some courts do not want you to make the copies until after Step 2 below, so make sure you ask your court clerk for the procedures in your court.
IMPORTANT: Your restraining order paperwork will go to the restrained person in your case and he or she will get a chance to see everything you write. If you are staying somewhere you do not want the restrained person to know about and you want to keep the address confidential, do NOT write it on these papers. You can use a program called “Safe at Home” that gives you a secure address to use for your court papers (or for banking and other things) where you can still get your court papers without having to reveal your confidential address. Click to learn about Safe at Home.
Once you have filled out all your forms, you have to file them with the court. Keep in mind that procedures for filing papers for restraining orders vary from court to court, so check with the court clerk for the procedure in your court.
In general, you have to follow these steps:
1. Take your forms to the court clerk
The clerk will let you know what to do next. In some courts, the clerk will give all your forms to the judge. In other courts, you may have to go to the courtroom directly. Either way, the judge will read your papers (maybe speak to you) and make a decision on whether or not to make the orders you are asking for. If you leave your forms with the clerk, ask the clerk when to return to see if the judge made the orders you asked for. The judge must decide by the next business day, but the exact time varies from court to court.
2. Find out if the judge issued the temporary restraining order
Return to the courthouse when the clerk tells you to pick up your paperwork. Look over all the paperwork the clerk returns to you to see:
- If the judge signed the Temporary Restraining Order (CLETS - TCH) (Form CH-110).
- If the judge made any changes to the orders you asked for in your request.
- When your court hearing is, on the Notice of Hearing (Form CH-109). The court hearing is also the date your temporary order runs out. If you want to extend it, you must go to your hearing to get a permanent order.
- Even if the judge did not make all the temporary orders you asked for, you can still go to the court hearing and ask for those orders. The judge may grant them at the court hearing, even if he or she did not grant them as temporary orders before the hearing.
3. File your forms
The court clerk will file your forms, including the Temporary Restraining Order (CLETS - TCH) (Form CH-110), if it was granted. “File” means that the court clerk will make the order an official part of the court’s record of your case. The clerk will keep the original for the court and give you the 5 copies stamped “Filed.” If you need more copies, you can make them yourself.
- You may have to pay a filing fee when you file your restraining order request. If in your request, you claim that there has been stalking, violence, or threats of violence, you probably will NOT have to pay a fee. In other cases, you may have to. If you cannot afford the fees, you can ask for a fee waiver. Click here to find out how to ask 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. Get more information for persons with disabilities and a form to ask for an accommodation.
4. Distribute your copies of the temporary restraining order, if it was granted
- Keep 1 copy with you, always. You may need to show it to the police.
- Keep another copy in a safe place.
- Give a copy to anyone else protected by the order.
- Leave copies at the places where the restrained person is ordered not to go (your school, work, etc.).
- Give a copy to the security officers in your apartment and office buildings.
5. Go to Step 3
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 many courts, the court will send your order to the state computer for you. But if your court does not do it, you must do it yourself. Look at item 9 of your Temporary Restraining Order (CLETS - TCH) (Form CH-110) to see whether you or your court clerk will do this.
"Serving" means that the other side must get copies of any paper you file with the court. In “service” a third person (NOT you) is the one who actually delivers the paperwork to the other side. The person who does this is called the “server” or “process server.”
The server must:
- Be 18 or older, and
- Not be protected by the orders.
Until the other side has been properly "served," the judge cannot make any permanent orders. Remember, so far, you have a temporary restraining order, which runs out the day of your court hearing unless the judge extends it or gives you a “permanent” restraining order.
In civil harassment cases, a law enforcement officer may be able to serve your restraining order papers for you. Look at item 10 on Form CH-110 to see if the judge included an order for free service by law enforcement. They will do it for free if the restraining order is based on stalking, violence, or a credible threat of violence. Otherwise, they may charge you a fee unless you have a fee waiver order from the court.
You can also hire a "process server,” which is a business you pay to deliver court forms. Look in the Yellow Pages of your phone book, under "Process Serving."
For more help with service, read What Is "Proof of Personal Service"? (Form CH-200-INFO). And read the section on service of process.
To serve your papers, follow these steps:
- Figure out WHEN you have to serve your papers by
You will have to serve the papers on the restrained person by the deadline the judge writes on your papers. This is so that the restrained person has a few days to respond to your papers and prepare for court.
To find your deadline for service:
- Look at your court date on page 1 of Form CH-109
- Look at the number of days written in item 5 on page 2 of Form CH-109.
- Subtract the number of days in item 5 from the court date. That is your deadline to serve your papers. (You can always serve before the deadline!).
- Serve your papers on the restrained person
Have someone “serve" (give) the restrained person a copy of the order and other papers you filed. The papers must be delivered in person. You cannot send them by mail. Make sure this is done before your deadline.
In addition to serving a copy of your papers, also serve BLANK:
- Response to Request for Civil Harassment Restraining Orders (Form CH-120)
- Proof of Firearms Turned In or Sold (Form CH-800)
- How Can I Respond to a Request for Civil Harassment Restraining Orders? (Form CH-120-INFO)
- File your proof of service
Have your server fill out a Proof of Personal Service (Form CH-200) and give it to you so you can file it with the court. This form tells the judge and police that the restrained person got a copy of the order and knows about it. It is very important your server fills out the Proof of Service correctly. If possible, have your court’s self-help center review it to make sure it was filled out properly.
- If your server is a law enforcement officer or a process server, he or she may use a different proof of service form. If so, make sure it lists the forms served, date papers were served, where they were served, and time of service.
- Make 5 copies of the Proof of Service after the server gives it to you.
- Then, file the original and copies with the court clerk before your hearing. The clerk will keep the original and give you back the copies stamped "Filed." Take a copy to your hearing.
- Keep 1 copy with you (together with your restraining order) AT ALL times. Put the other copies with the temporary restraining order copies you have distributed.
If the restrained person was NOT served
The restrained person must be served before the hearing. If the restrained person wasn't served, you can ask the judge to extend the temporary restraining order until a new court date to give you more time to serve your papers.
You will need a Request to Continue Court Hearing and to Reissue Temporary Restraining Order (Form CH-115) to ask the judge for a new court date. Do this before or at your hearing. (If you wait until after the hearing, you have to start from the very beginning.) If the judge signs this order, the restraining order will last until the new hearing date.
To ask for an extension on the restraining order and new court hearing date:
- Fill out a Request to Continue Court Hearing and to Reissue Temporary Restraining Order (Form CH-115) AND items 1 and 2 of a Notice of New Hearing Date and Order on Reissuance (Form CH-116).
- Have the judge review the forms and sign Form CH-116 (at the hearing) or give it to the clerk together with Form CH-115 (before the hearing) to give to the judge to sign.
- If not already filed, ask the clerk to file the signed Notice of New Hearing Date and Order on Reissuance (Form CH-116). This form now has your new court date.
- Attach it to your other court papers and get the restrained person served following the same directions as with the temporary restraining order papers at the beginning of this Step 3.
- Make sure your server fills out a Proof of Personal Service (Form CH-200) and gives it to you. File your Proof of Personal Service.
- Give a "filed" copy of Form CH-116 to your local police and to everyone who has a copy of your temporary restraining order.
- Take a copy to your hearing.
Get Ready for Your Hearing
This section will tell you how to get ready for your hearing.
- Take documents that help prove the abuse. Take 2 copies of all documents and filed forms, including the Proof of Service. Some of the documents that can help your case may be:
- Medical or police reports;
- Damaged property;
- A threatening letter, email or telephone message.
- Take the Civil Harassment Restraining Order After Hearing (CLETS - CHO) (Form CH-130) to your court hearing. Try to fill out as much of the form as you can, but do not fill out the parts that deal with what the judge orders.
- You can take a witness to help support your case. Witnesses may or may not be allowed to speak. But you can bring a written statement of what the witness saw or heard. You must file and serve witness statements at the same time that you filed your request for the restraining order.
- If you do not speak English well, take an interpreter to help 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.
- 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 restraining orders will end and you will have to start from the beginning.
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 you are afraid of the restrained person, tell the officer.
- 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:
- Make a list of the orders you want and practice saying them. Do not take more than 3 minutes to say what you want.
- If you get nervous at the hearing, just read from your list. Use that list to see if the judge has made every order you asked for.
Your court hearing
During your hearing, the judge may ask questions
- Tell the truth. Speak slowly. You can read from your list.
- The restrained person or his or her lawyer may also ask you questions.
- Give complete answers.
- If you do not understand, say "I don't understand the question."
- If the restrained person lies in court, wait until he or she finishes talking. Then tell the judge.
- Speak only to the judge unless it is your turn to ask questions.
- When people are talking to the judge, wait for them to finish. Then you can ask them questions about what they said.
The judge’s decision
At the end of the hearing, the judge will say what the orders are. The judge may:
- Give you the orders you asked for.
- Give you some of the orders you asked for and not others.
- Not give you any of the orders you 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:
- The restrained person needs time to get a lawyer or prepare an answer.
- The judge wants more information.
- Your hearing is taking longer than planned.
Ask the clerk for the forms you need so you can make sure that the temporary orders (if any) are extended until the new hearing date.
See Going to Court to read more information about how to prepare for your court hearing.
If the judge issues a restraining order at the hearing, or any type of orders, you will have to prepare a written order for the judge to sign. In some courts, the clerk or other court staff will prepare this order. If so, make sure you review it very carefully to make sure it says exactly what the judge orders and the clerk did not leave anything out. If there is a problem, tell the clerk right away.
If you have to fill out the order, follow these steps:
1. Fill out the Civil Harassment Restraining Order After Hearing (CLETS - CHO) (Form CH-130), which will become your “permanent” restraining order.
- Make sure your Form CH-130 says what the judge has ordered. Review it to make sure you understand it.
2. Fill out a Confidential CLETS Information (Form CLETS-001) if you have not done this already. This form does NOT get filed. It is confidential. It is used so that your restraining order can be entered into a statewide computer system that lets the police know about your order.
3. Give your Form CH-130 to the clerk (or the judge) and the judge will sign it. Make sure the clerk files it. The clerk will give you up to 5 copies.
4. Serve the restrained person with a copy of Form CH-130.
- If the restrained person was at the hearing, you do not have to legally serve him or her with a copy of Form CH-130. But it is a good idea to do it, so you can have him or her served with a copy of Form CH-130 by mail. Ask the server to complete the Proof of Service of Order After Hearing by Mail (Form CH-260) and give it back to you so you can file it. Keep a copy of it with your restraining order at all times.
- If the restrained person was not at the hearing, but the judge’s orders are the same as the temporary order, you can have him or her served with a copy of Form CH-130 by mail. Ask the server to complete the Proof of Service of Order After Hearing by Mail (Form CH-260) and give it back to you so you can file it. Keep a copy of it with your restraining order at all times.
- If the restrained person was not at the hearing, and the judge’s orders are different from the temporary order, you must have someone serve Form CH-130 in person, not by mail. Ask the server to complete the Proof of Personal Service (Form CH-200) and give it back to you so you can file it. Keep a copy of it with your restraining order at all times.
Remember, you and other protected people CANNOT serve the orders.
Your city or county may have legal aid agencies that help people ask for civil harassment restraining orders, but it usually depends on the type of abuse or harassment. For example, if you have been sexually assaulted, you may be able to get help from legal aid or a domestic violence agency. Sometimes, these agencies will also help with stalking cases. And they may help in other situations. It is hard to know whether you will qualify for help without knowing the specific situation you are in.
So, if you need a civil harassment restraining order, no matter why, first try to get help from your local legal aid agency. If they cannot help you, they may be able to send you to someone who can.
Click for help finding a legal aid agency in your area.
Your court’s self-help center may also be able to help you with the civil harassment restraining order, or refer you to someone who can.
You may also be able to get help from 1 of these links: