Restraining Orders Under the DVPA

By Richard A. Marcus, Esq.


Domestic Violence is a terrible thing. I was watching the news recently and heard about a case in Washington State where a University of Washington researcher was gunned down and killed by her former boyfriend, who then turned the gun on himself. According to the news report, she had a restraining order against this man. This was a truly terrible tragedy, made even worse by the fact that she had voiced concerns that she was worried in the last few weeks about a “psycho from her past”.

All things considered, it is still better to have a restraining order than not. And, they work the vast majority of the time. When they don’t, it becomes a national news story. Here in California, a set of laws exist under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act or “DVPA.” Only certain persons may apply for a restraining order under the DVPA. Those include, a spouse or former house, and cohabitants or former cohabitants, meaning people who regularly reside in the household. Also covered are persons that are having or had a "dating or engagement relationship.” Casual social relations are not enough. A "dating relationship" contemplated by the DVPA refers to a “serious courtship.” Co-parents, children and realtives within the second degree are also included.

People that do not fall into these categories are not shut out. They must instead pursue a restraining order under the Civil Harassment statutes. There are no filing fees for a DVPA application. And the forms are specially designed for use by parties that represent themselves, although they can also be used by parties represented by attorney. The forms are mandatory judicial counsel forms and instructions for the use of the forms are available in English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese. The forms are available at the website http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms.

The DVPA is intended to prevent the recurrence of acts of domestic violence and to provide for a separation between the parties involved for a period of time sufficient to enable them to seek a resolution of the causes of the violence.

There really is no way to protect yourself from someone that is suicidal and brandishing a gun. The recent Seattle case is proof of that. But the DVPA is quite effective in accomplishing its goals and anyone concerned about threats of domestic violence would be well advised to look into the DVPA.