Respond to a Restraining Order

This section helps you respond to (answer) a request for a domestic violence restraining order. Read the introduction to the Domestic Violence section to get more information about domestic violence restraining orders and the restraining order court process.

What Is a Restraining Order?

A domestic violence restraining order is a court order that helps protect people from abuse or threats of abuse.

It can order you to:

  • Not contact or go near the protected person(s);
  • Not have a gun or firearm while the order is in effect;
  • Move out of the house;
  • Follow child custody and visitation orders;
  • Pay child support;
  • Pay spousal or partner support (if you are married or domestic partners);
  • Stay away from pets;
  • Transfer the rights to a cell phone number and account to the protected person;
  • Pay certain bills;
  • Not make any changes to insurance policies;
  • Not incur large expenses or do anything significant to affect your or the other person's property if you are married or domestic partners;
  • Release or return certain property;
  • Complete a 52-week batterer intervention program and show proof to the court that you completed it; and
  • Turn in or sell any guns or firearms and ammunition you have, as long as 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.

  • Form DV-110 has all the details of your order. Read it carefully. Make sure you stay away from all the people and places in the order.
  • If you are ordered to move out, take the clothes and belongings you will need until the court date and move out.
  • You CANNOT own, possess, or have 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, Sell, or Store My Firearms? (Form DV-800-INFO).

2. Read How Can I Respond to a Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order? (Form DV-120-INFO).

3. Go to the court hearing on the restraining order. The hearing date is on the Notice of Court Hearing (Form DV-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 5 years.
  • The judge can also make orders about your children, child support, and other things without your input.

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

  • You can fill out and file an answer (the Response, Form DV-120) where you tell the judge your side of the story about what happened.
  • In your answer, you can also tell the judge what orders you want about child custody and visitation (if you have children with the protected person).
  • Even if you do not file an answer, GO TO YOUR HEARING!

5.  If you need protection from the person who filed a restraining order against you, you can ask for a restraining order against them (even if they asked for one against you first). But you cannot ask for your order in your response to their restraining order. You have to fill out your own request. Follow the instructions for Ask for a Restraining Order.

You do not need a lawyer to respond to a restraining order. BUT it is a good idea to have a lawyer, especially if you have children. And 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. If you want to ask for the other side to pay your lawyer's fees, read the instructions to ask for lawyer's fees in domestic violence cases.

Your court’s family law facilitator or self-help center may also be able to help you respond to the restraining order, or at least help you with any child support or spousal/partner support issues you may have.

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

Responding to the Restraining Order

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

STEP 1. Fill Out Your Response 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 Response and Prepare to File

1. Fill out your response forms
Fill out:

  • Response to Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (Form DV-120);
  • Additional Page (Form MC-020), if you need more space to write.

2. Other forms you may need to fill out
If the protected person asked for child support, fill out:

Read Which Financial Form — FL-155 or FL-150? (Form DV-570) to find out if you can use the simpler Form FL-155.

If the protected person asked for spousal, partner, or family support, fill out:

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
If your court’s family law facilitator or self-help center  helps people with restraining orders, ask them to review your paperwork. They can make sure you filled out your Response properly. Even if they cannot help you with the restraining order response form, they can help you with the child support and spousal/partner support forms.

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 persons. Both filing your Response and “serving” it have to be done before your deadline.

1. File your Response and other forms in court
Take the original and 2 copies of your forms to the court clerk to file them. The court clerk will keep the original and return both copies to you, stamped “Filed.” There is NO FEE for you to do this.

2. Serve the protected person with a copy of your forms

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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.”

3. File your proof of service
Have your server fill out a Proof of Service by Mail (CLETS) (Form DV-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.

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. Read Get Ready for the Restraining Order Court Hearing (Form DV-520-INFO) for more information.

Be prepared:

  • Take 2 copies of all documents and filed forms, including the Proof of Service. If there are any documents that help your case (trying to disprove what the protected person says happened), bring those with you.
  • You can take a witness to help 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 Response (Form DV-120). If you did not have time to file them ahead of time, then bring the original plus 2 copies to your court hearing.
  • If you do not speak English well, ask the court to give you an interpreter to help you. You should do this as soon as you know when your court date will be, but even if you did not do it before, ask at your court date. Click to find out more about court interpreters.
  • Most courtrooms do not allow children. Ask if there is a children’s waiting room in the courthouse before your hearing date.

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 try to 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:

  • Make a list of the orders you disagree with and practice saying why you disagree. Do not take more than 3 minutes to say why you disagree 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

  • Tell the truth. Speak slowly. You can read from your list.
  • The other 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 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 other person 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.
  • Do not sit near or talk to the other person.

If there are child custody and visitation issues in your case:

  • The judge will probably send you to mediation. Mediation helps parents agree on a plan for custody and visitation that is best for the children.
  • If you are sent to mediation, the judge may make your temporary custody and visitation orders last until the next hearing or until another court order.
  • Either parent can ask to meet with the mediator separately.
  • If parentage (paternity) of your child with the protected person has not been legally determined, and you and the protected person agree to parentage of your child and agree to the court entering a judgment about parentage, you can both use the Agreement and Judgment of Parentage (Form DV-180) to establish parentage of your child without having to start a separate parentage case.

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 make orders that last 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.

You will be served with the Restraining Order After Hearing (Order of Protection) (CLETS — OAH) (Form DV-130) within a few days of your court date, by mail or in person. If anything on the DV-130 form 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 family law facilitator or self-help center  to see if there is anything they can help you with.

  • If you were at the hearing, the protected person can serve you with a copy of Form DV-130 by mail.
  • 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 DV-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 DV-130 in person, not by mail.

If a restraining order was issued against you and you were ordered to complete a 52-week batterer intervention program, you have to fill out Proof of Enrollment for Batterer Intervention Program (Form DV-805) and file it with the court. You must do this by the date the judge orders on Form DV-130 or, if no specific date, no later than 30 days after the judge made the order. Once you start your program, you can use the Batterer Intervention Program Progress Report (Form DV-815) to provide updates to the court on your program participation.

And remember, if the restraining order was issued, you CANNOT own, possess, or have 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, Sell, or Store 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 domestic violence 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 family law facilitator or self-help center may also be able to help you respond to the restraining order. If they cannot help with the restraining order, they can at least help you with any child support or spousal/partner support issues you may have.

Batterer Intervention Program Information

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

If you need a court-approved batterer intervention program, contact your county probation department.