What Is the Legal Definition of “Domestic Violence” in California?

According to California Penal Code 13700 PC, domestic violence is defined as causing or attempting to cause bodily injury to a past or present intimate partner. The statute also defines “abuse” as “intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, or placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to himself or herself, or another.” 

By California law, domestic violence can include abuse committed against an adult or a minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship. In domestic violence cases, “cohabitant” is defined as “two unrelated adult persons living together for a substantial period of time.” California Penal Code 13700 states that factors which may determine whether people are cohabitants include sexual relations between the parties while sharing the same living quarters, sharing of income or expenses, joint use or ownership of property, whether the parties hold themselves out as spouses, the continuity of the relationship, and the length of the relationship.

filing a domestic violence case in california

Grounds for a Domestic Violence Case

Domestic violence can occur in a variety of different ways. As California laws state, domestic violence is abuse or threat of abuse between partners in an intimate relationship. Abuse can take many forms which can include:

  • Physical abuse, such as hitting, kicking, shoving, pushing, or throwing objects, either intentionally or recklessly
  • Verbal abuse, such as name calling or threats to seriously hurt someone
  • Emotional or psychological abuse using coercion to make someone reasonably afraid
  • Sexual assault or non-consensual sexual contact
  • Harassing, stalking, disturbing someone’s peace, or destroying someone’s personal property 

If you have experienced any of these forms of abuse in a relationship, you can file a domestic violence restraining order. This type of court order is used to help protect people from abuse or threats of abuse from someone they have a close relationship with. In order to qualify for a domestic violence restraining order in California, 

  1. A person has abused or threatened to abuse you, and
  2. You have a close relationship with that person. 

You and the person you want to file a restraining order against must be either:

  • Married or registered domestic partners
  • Divorced or separated
  • Dating or used to date
  • Living together or used to live together
  • Parents together of a child
  • Closely related (parent, child, brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather, in-law)

Other forms of legal protection in a domestic violence case include:

  • Civil harassment restraining order: filed for cases involving neighbors, roommates, or more distant family members
  • Elder or dependent adult abuse restraining order: filed if the victim is 65 or older, or a dependent adult between 18 and 64)
  • Workplace violence restraining order: filed by an employer to protect an employee from violence or abuse by another person at work

How To File a Domestic Violence Restraining Order in California

Step 1: Fill out your court forms and prepare to file

To begin, fill out California court forms: 

Confidential CLETS Information

Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order

Notice of Court Hearing

Temporary Restraining Order

Description of Abuse

If children are involved between the person you are filing a restraining order on, you may need to fill out child custody and visitation order forms. Visit your local court’s website to find out if there are any local forms you must fill out.

Step 2: File your court forms with the court

Once you have completed filling out all of the necessary court forms, you must file them with the court. Take your forms to the court clerk where the judge will make a decision on whether or not to make the court order you are filing for. 

Step 3: Serve your papers on the restrained person

To “serve” paperwork to the other party, a third person must deliver copies of any papers filed with the court. After the restrained person has been served, the judge can move forward to make permanent restraining orders. 

Step 4: Prepare and attend your court hearing

When attending your court hearing, be prepared with the proper documents that help prove the domestic abuse. This includes copies of all forms filed with the court, Proof of Service, Restraining Order After Hearing (Order of Protection), as well as any evidence of abuse such as photos, medical or police reports, or threatening messages. 

Step 5: After the court hearing

If the judge decides to issue a restraining order, after your court hearing you will have to prepare a written order for the judge to sign before granting a permanent restraining order.

If you are unsure what type of restraining order to file or if a restraining order is right for you and your domestic violence case, contact a skilled family lawyer for professional legal help. The team of family law attorneys at Wilkinson & Finkbeiner have handled complex domestic violence cases in Temecula and throughout southern California for over 10 years. The Temecula domestic violence lawyers at Wilkinson & Finkbeiner have extensive experience and knowledge of California family law to provide you with support through your case.