On its own, divorce is not an enjoyable process. However, when abuse is involved, fear and anxiety can add a new level of stress to an already tense situation. Sometimes the abuse has been ongoing, other times, it might be sparked by the divorce process, itself. Either way, it’s never okay, and if you or a loved one are afraid of retaliation during divorce proceedings, know that there are options available to help keep you safe.
One common restraining order involved with divorce is a Domestic Violence Restraining Order, which offers protection against someone you are or have been in a relationship with, specifically when domestic violence is involved. However, protective orders are not restricted to violent situations, and are also available to individuals who do not have a history of abuse in the relationship.
Here’s a breakdown of these protective measures, and what you need to know about filing a restraining order in San Joaquin County.
A Domestic Violence Restraining Order (or, DVRO), is directed specifically at situations where abuse is being delivered by someone you are intimately involved with. This includes a spouse, domestic partner, or someone you lived with, but it also extends to dating relationships. Indeed, living with the person is not a requirement for a DVRO in California. The abuse need only come from a person you are—or were—intimately involved with, and is not limited to just physical harm.
Under California law, abuse is classified as:
- Hurting or trying to hurt someone (either intentionally or recklessly);
- Any form of sexual assault;
- Causing fear of physical retribution (directed at an individual, personally, or toward a loved one);
- Actions that prevent an individual from coming and going freely; and,
- Issuing threats, which can be verbal, but can also come in the form of harassing, stalking, and the destruction of property.
This includes all forms of emotional and psychological abuse, even in the absence of physical harm. Hence, even if you have not been physically molested, you might still be able to file a Domestic Violence Restraining Order against your tormentor.
How to File a Domestic Violence Restraining Order
Individuals wishing to file a Domestic Violence Restraining Order in San Joaquin County can find the necessary forms either online or at the Civic Center Courthouse. There is no fee to file a DVRO, and an interpreter will be provided if needed. If the forms are filed before 10 a.m., the restraining order will be available between 2:30-4:00 p.m. the same day. If filed after 10 a.m., the order will be ready between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. the following day.
Types of Restraining Orders in San Joaquin County
Generally speaking, DVROs are issued either as an Emergency Protective Order (EPO), or as a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). Permanent Restraining Orders are less common, but are also available, especially for individuals caught in cycles of long-term abuse. However, even if domestic violence is not involved in your divorce, you can still get a restraining order against your former spouse, and there is a myriad of reasons why you might want to do so.
Below, are the three main types of restraining orders issued during divorce proceedings, and what situations they usually apply to.
Emergency Protective Orders are handled exclusively by law enforcement and are typically requested when a police officer responds to a call of domestic violence. If the threat of harm is imminent, or the victim is unable to file for a restraining order on their own, the officer can call an EPO in to a judge at any time of day or night. The EPO will then take immediate effect and will last seven calendar days, or five business days (whichever is shorter). Civilians cannot file for emergency orders; however similar protections can be found by filing for a Temporary Restraining Order.
Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)
A Temporary Restraining Order is an action that will restrain an individual’s abusive conduct for a limited period of time. While similar to Emergency Protective Orders, TROs do not require a police officer’s request, and also last a little bit longer. Generally, the life of a TRO is about three weeks (20-25 days), after which the petitioner will be required to attend a full, evidentiary hearing. At these hearings, both parties will have the chance to present evidence in favor or against the restraining order.
Ex Parte Hearing
Sometimes, however, the threat is too great to wait for the traditional filing period. In these situations, an individual may request an ex parte hearing, or, in other words, an emergency meeting with the judge. These hearings occur within twenty-four hours of the request, and require the individual to show proof that immediate action is necessary to prevent imminent and irreparable damage to them. Once granted, the filer need only provide informal notice to the opposing party to make the order effective.
TROs and Divorce
Aside from emergency situations, Temporary Restraining Orders are also quite common in divorce cases. Often, they are filed at the onset of a case and will last for the duration of the proceedings. A TRO can be filed even without a history of abuse and can apply to contact as well as to conduct, making it especially useful for the spouse wary of retaliation. For example, a TRO can prevent a vindictive partner from doing something like liquidating assets, emptying bank accounts, or even removing children to another location without permission.
After the divorce is final, individuals who still need continued protection can file for a Permanent Restraining Order.
Permanent Restraining Orders
The final and most long-lasting type of protective measure is a Permanent Restraining Order. In order to obtain one, an individual must show that the fear (or danger) is ongoing, and there is no reason to think it will end. It’s a highly subjective and difficult to standard to satisfy, and are usually issued to protect victims with a history of long-term abuse.
Restraining Order Attorneys in San Joaquin County
In addition to DVROs and the various types of orders found in family law, there are also a number of protective orders available to shield victims in other situations. Understanding the nuances of each category and how to file can be overwhelming, especially when you add the pressure of unseen threats and danger that usually accompany the need for such tactics. If you are experiencing these types of threats—in or outside of a divorce—we may be able to help. Contact our office today at (209) 989-4425, or get in touch online to schedule a consultation, and together we can discuss what protective order might be best for your individual situation.