What to Do If You Are Served with a Restraining Order in California

restraining order

Though the most common objective of a restraining order is to limit contact between the person served and others, typically a spouse or children, a restraining order can also require that the recipient fulfill other requirements, including payment of child or spousal support, payment of certain bills, compliance with custody and visitation orders, or even refrain from dissipating or destroying assets.

Step One: Read the Restraining Order

A restraining order has legal force of law. You must know what it says and you must comply. If you don’t, you can be held in contempt of court, and can face criminal penalties. At your contempt hearing, the court won’t care if you didn’t know what the order said (unless you were never served with the order).

Once you understand what the order requires, you must take action to comply. If the order says that you must move out of a marital home, you need to immediately make arrangements to live somewhere else. If you are prohibited from possessing a firearm or other weapon, you must take reasonable measures to remove the weapon from your possession.

Step Two: Hire an Attorney

You are entitled to legal counsel at any phase of the process. The earlier you retain counsel, the better, in most instances. You can attend the initial hearing on your own, but you will be at a distinct disadvantage, as you will be up against an experienced prosecutor in most instances. If you cannot hire an attorney before the hearing, you still need to attend. The judge will likely rule on the request, whether you are there or not.

Step Three: File an Answer with the Court

You may have an opportunity to speak at the hearing, but you are better served by filing a written response (an answer) to the request for a protective order. This allows you to tell your side of the story, and gives the judge additional information that may result in a modified protective order (particularly when there are minor children involved).