Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

The Difference Between a Domestic Violence Restraining Order and a Civil Harassment Restraining Order

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If you are experiencing harassment or abuse, it may be a good idea to request a restraining order through the Superior Court of California.

A restraining order is a court order that protects you by requiring the restrained party to maintain a certain distance from you, preventing the restrained party from owning a firearm, and more, depending on the specific provisions you request.

However, there are several different types of restraining orders, and it is important to know the difference so that you can request the orders best suited to your individual situation.

Two of the most common types of restraining orders are civil harassment restraining orders and domestic violence restraining orders.

A civil harassment restraining order is designed to protect an individual from abuse, threats of abuse, stalking, sexual assault, and/or serious harassment. The California Code of Civil Procedure § 527.6(b) defines harassment as:

Unlawful violence, a credible threat of violence, or a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be that which would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the petitioner.” (Emphasis added.)

In other words, if someone is causing you physical harm, making serious threats to cause you physical harm, or engaging in behavior that causes you to experience emotional harm – such as stalking you or repeatedly contacting you with offensive and disturbing messages – you are experiencing harassment and may be eligible for a civil harassment restraining order

A domestic violence restraining order is also designed to protect an individual from abuse, threats of abuse, stalking, sexual assault, and/or serious harassment.

So what’s the difference? 

A civil harassment restraining order offers protection against individuals with whom you do not necessarily have a close relationship with – think neighbors, roommates, friends, acquaintances, and extended family.

A domestic violence restraining order, on the other hand, offers protection against individuals with whom you do have a close relationship. Typically, this means a spouse, domestic partner, someone you are dating or used to date, or someone with whom you share a child. It can also mean immediate family members. 

This distinction is important, as abuse by someone with whom you have a close relationship may look very different than abuse by someone with whom you do not necessarily have a close relationship.

In both civil harassment and domestic violence cases, abuse may take many different forms – it may be physical, verbal, emotional, or psychological.

However, psychological and emotional abuse is especially prevalent in domestic violence cases, due to the close personal relationship between the parties. Victims of domestic violence may feel as though they are under the complete control of their abuser, as they may share a home, personal property, financial resources, and more with their abuser, with no outside support system.

In consideration of this, California Family Code § 6320 was amended on January 1, 2021, to state the following: 

“’Disturbing the peace of the other party’ refers to conduct that… destroys the mental or emotional calm of the other party… This conduct includes, but is not limited to, coercive control… Examples of coercive control include, but are not limited to, unreasonably engaging in any of the following:

(1) Isolating the other party from friends, relatives, or other sources of support.

(2) Depriving the other party of basic necessities.

(3) Controlling, regulating, or monitoring the other party’s movements, communications, daily behavior, finances, economic resources, or access to services.

(4) Compelling the other party by force, threat of force, or intimidation… to engage in conduct from which the other party has a right to abstain or to abstain from conduct in which the other party has a right to engage.”

(Emphasis added. Full text available here.)

Moreover, domestic violence restraining orders can include provisions specifically designed to address the needs of a victim who has a close personal relationship with their abuser.

You can request the other party move out of your shared home, transfer a shared cell phone account into your name, pay child and/or spousal support, and release certain property (like a family vehicle) to you. If you and the other party share certain expenses, like a mortgage or utility bills, you can request the other party continue to pay their share of those expenses.

You can even request the other party stay away from your pets

If you are ready to request a domestic violence restraining order, or if you have already requested a domestic violence restraining order and need help navigating the next steps in the process, Minella Law Group can help. Call our family law office today to schedule a free consult with one of our attorneys.   

If you are in immediate danger, call 911 right away.

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