How To Get a Restraining Order: Protection from Civil Harassment

Man peeping out of a window with the blinds closed

Unrelenting civil harassment can leave individuals feeling vulnerable, anxious, and threatened. Without a sense of security, no place feels safe. That includes your job, your home, or any public space. Lack of freedom directly affects emotional well-being, and that is unacceptable.

To protect yourself against unwanted attention from strangers, get a restraining order. This legal tool is a powerful shield, providing security and a sense of tranquility. In this post, I provide valuable insights into the details to restore your sense of peace.

Armed with knowledge, you’ll be better equipped to take action. Whether you navigate the process independently or seek the assistance of a civil harassment attorney in San Diego, my goal is to empower you with the information needed to reclaim control.

Understanding Restraining Orders

Restraining or protective orders prohibit an individual from contacting or approaching another person. They protect one from various forms of harassment, abuse, threats, or violence.

These are the most common types in California based on different circumstances:

  • Protective Order for Domestic Violence: Provides protection to victims of abuse experienced in a familial, marital, or personal relationship.
  • Civil Harassment Restraining Order: Applicable when being harassed by someone not related to you or involved in domestic violence situations.
  • Elder Abuse Restraining Order: Implemented to safeguard elderly individuals (65 years old and above) experiencing physical or financial abuse.
  • Workplace Violence Restraining Order: Provides essential protection if you fear for your safety at work due to threatening behavior from a coworker or employer.

Each type has specific requirements and conditions according to California laws. Evaluate the differences before attempting to get a restraining order to determine which is best for you.

Cases involving stalking, threats to personal safety, instances of physical assault, and emotional abuse are situations that require immediate attention.

Eligibility for a Restraining Order in California

Before proceeding with judicial action, let’s cover the eligibility criteria and legal requirements. Here are the most common scenarios that warrant consideration.

Mitigating Circumstances for Restraining Orders:

  • Fear of Harm: You must demonstrate a reasonable fear of harm or harassment from the individual you wish to restrain.
  • Disturbing Behavior: Instances where an individual exhibits conduct alarming enough to warrant court intervention.
  • Criminal Charges: If the person faces pending charges for any criminal offense related to your safety or well-being, it strengthens your case for obtaining a restraining order.

Legal Requirements and Conditions:

  • Relationship Status: Restraining orders exist based on the relationship between two parties. Workplace violence, elder abuse, domestic violence, and civil harassment require different documentation.
  • Age Requirement: To get a restraining order in California, you must have emancipation or be at least 18. Minors can also obtain protection through their parents’ filing.
  • Willful Conduct: The conduct causing fear or distress should be a voluntary act done by the individual against whom you seek protection.

How To Start The Process

Female attorney and woman discussing how to get a restraining order

To get a restraining order in California, follow these steps:

  1. Identify Which Restraining Order is Appropriate: Determine the type that applies to your situation, such as domestic violence, civil harassment, elder or dependent adult abuse, or workplace violence restraining orders.
  2. Collect Recipient Information: The court will need all relevant documentation about the person you want protection against, including name, address, phone, number, and identifying details.
  3. Visit The Courthouse: Access your local courthouse or the online self-help center provided by the Judicial Council of California’s website to obtain the necessary forms and instructions.
  4. Fill Out Required Forms: Complete all necessary forms accurately and provide detailed descriptions of incidents leading to your decision to seek legal protection.
  5. File Your Petition at Court Clerk’s Office: File your completed forms at the court clerk’s office and obtain a date and time for your court hearing.
  6. Serve the Restraining Order to the Other Party: Serve a copy of the paperwork to the person you seek protection against through personal service or a professional process server.  
  7. Attend Your Court Hearing: Present yourself professionally and respectfully at your scheduled court hearing, bringing any evidence or witnesses supporting your case.
  8. Follow any Additional Instructions from the Judge: Listen carefully to the judge’s instructions regarding temporary orders or other actions.
  9. Purchase Certified Copies: Once the restraining order is in place, invest in certified copies from the court clerk’s office ASAP.

Complete each step above to empower yourself and ensure your safety and well-being in California. If you have any questions, contact a civil harassment attorney in San Diego immediately for assistance.

What to Expect in Court

When pursuing a restraining order in California, prepare thoroughly for the court hearing. Here’s what you can anticipate and how to effectively present your case:

Preparing for the Court Hearing:

  • Be aware of the date, time, and location, and adjust your schedule accordingly. You must be prompt and arrive on time. Tardiness or traffic delays are unacceptable.
  • Dress professionally and appropriately to show respect for the court process. Civil harassment cases are serious matters. Be willing to exemplify the decorum expected in a courtroom setting.
  • Arrive sufficiently early to allow ample time for security checks and locating your assigned courtroom. This extra time ensures you can navigate potential delays or issues, reducing stress and anxiety before your hearing begins.

What to Bring To Court:

  • Copies of all relevant documents, including completed restraining order forms
  • Evidence supporting your case, such as photographs, text messages, or emails
  • Witnesses who can testify on your behalf, if applicable
  • A list of points you want to address during the hearing

How to Present Your Case Effectively:

  • Be clear and concise when presenting your side of the story, focusing on facts rather than emotions.
  • Address the judge or opposing party confidently but respectfully.
  • Listen carefully and respond with thoughtful answers when questioned.

These tactics will increase your chances of presenting a formidable case to get a restraining order on the first attempt.

After the Court Hearing

Judge signing an order of protection

Following the court hearing in your pursuit to get a restraining order, the anticipation of the judge’s decision looms. The outcome hinges on the evidence presented during the hearing. If the judge grants the order, you will receive a copy delineating its terms and duration.

Take a moment to thoroughly examine the document, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the restrictions on both parties involved. This post-hearing stage is pivotal, marking the tangible realization of legal protection.

What To Do When You Receive the Order

After you receive the restraining order, take strategic steps to enforce the court’s decision. Keep multiple copies in secure locations accessible to you. Situations may arise where you may need it for proof of legal protection.

Be proactive and inform key individuals about your situation, including local law enforcement agencies, school administrators, and employers, ensuring that those who need to be aware of the restraining order are duly informed.

Vigilantly document any violations by meticulously recording dates, times, locations, and detailed descriptions of incidents. This proactive approach not only strengthens the implementation of the court’s decision but also lays a foundation for potential legal actions if civil harassment persists.

Appropriate Steps for Addressing Violations

Addressing violations of a restraining order demands swift and decisive action. Contact law enforcement immediately if someone violates terms or conditions. Be ready to provide a comprehensive account of the incident and collect supporting evidence or eyewitness accounts.

Prioritize the safety of yourself and your loved ones first. Don’t hesitate to call 911 if threatened or in imminent danger. Failure to comply with the restraining order constitutes criminal behavior, and subsequent charges will be filed against the offender. Remain calm and steadfast throughout the ordeal and follow the necessary steps outlined by law enforcement if any violations occur.

To be proactive after you get a restraining order, contact a civil harassment attorney in San Diego for preemptive guidance and support through this process.

Characteristics to Look For When Seeking Legal Assistance

The process of getting a restraining order can be complex and overwhelming. To attain the best outcome, seek legal assistance. The following traits will garner the best results:


Consult with an attorney specializing in family law or domestic violence cases with extensive knowledge and experience handling restraining orders.

Personalized Advice:

Your lawyer must be able to provide personalized advice based on your situation and help you gather evidence and strategize the best approach for presenting your case effectively.

Protection from Mistakes:

An experienced legal professional will complete all necessary forms accurately and meet deadlines, preventing mistakes that could jeopardize your case.

Court Representation:

If your case goes to court, having an attorney by your side to represent you during hearings and advocate for maximum protection can significantly impact the case’s outcome.

Emotional Support:

Dealing with harassment or abuse situations can be emotionally challenging, and having a compassionate attorney who understands these challenges can provide invaluable support throughout the process.

Wrapping Up

If you’re unsure who to turn to, consider referrals from trusted friends or family members, utilize online directories, and schedule consultations to find a suitable lawyer who meets your needs. Discuss the fee structure and explore financial assistance options if needed.

Remember that seeking legal advice is crucial when dealing with orders of protection in California. An experienced civil harassment attorney in San Diego will guide you through this complex process while protecting your rights. When you need to get a restraining order as quickly as possible, schedule a consultation. I, Michael C. MacNeil, specialize in family law matters and am ready to assist.

About Michael MacNeil

Michael C. MacNeil is a San Diego Family Law and Criminal Defense attorney. With a Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Diego School of Law, MacNeil has a solid understanding of our justice system. As a member of the State Bar of California, MacNeal can practice before all courts in the state. MacNeil believes that the law should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial status. With over 20 years of experience, Michael C. MacNeil is passionate about the law and will work tirelessly to get the best possible outcome for you. Call Mr. MacNeil at 858-922-7098.