What Is a Protective Order?

When you seek a divorce from a spouse and you had a history of domestic violence in the relationship, you may wonder how you can protect yourself during your proceedings. Abusive partners can often attempt to manipulate their former spouses back into a relationship or cause them harm. If you need protection from a former abusive spouse during your divorce, you can seek a protective order over the course of your divorce.

California Laws on Protective Orders

Protective orders, also known as restraining orders, ban one party in a domestic relationship from contacting the other party or interfering with a court order, such as child visitation or custody. In most circumstances, the state uses protective orders to keep abusers away from their victims in cases of domestic violence. Your abusive spouse cannot call you, visit you, or harass you in any way when you are under a protective order from him or her.

You need to prove that you suffered spousal abuse to receive a protective order. Usually, protective orders are temporary – at most, California will grant a protective order for up to three years until the courts help you come to a permanent resolution. In some situations, you can receive a permanent protective order. You and your attorney can gather and present evidence to grant this permanent order.

Protective orders require law enforcement in your jurisdiction to protect you and your immediate family members from your abusive spouse. In some circumstances, other close family members who do not live with you can also receive protection in the same jurisdiction.

Emergency Protective Orders Versus Protective Orders

In certain circumstances, the state grants emergency protective orders. These orders are different from regular protective orders, which usually last anywhere from 1 to 3 years. Emergency protective orders occur at the scene of a domestic violence incident. The police will ask the person they perceive to be the abuser to leave the home. In some situations, they will give you an emergency protective order to forbid your spouse from making contact with you for a short period of time.

Under California law, emergency protective orders last for seven calendar days or the close of the fifth business day, whichever comes first. You can request a longer order after receiving an emergency protective order.

What Happens If Your Spouse Does Not Honor Your Protective Order?

If your abusive spouse appears near your home or does not otherwise honor the protective order, you should call the police. Law enforcement officers will arrest him or her and charge him or her with a misdemeanor, a felony, or contempt of court based on the circumstances of the violation. Your spouse should not make any contact with you under this order.

Your spouse can face serious charges if he or she does not honor the protective order. If he or she takes or conceals your child, your spouse can receive a felony charge and a prison sentence, a fine, or both. If your spouse travels across state or tribal borders to violate the protective order outside of the police’s jurisdiction, he or she could receive a federal charge under the Violence Against Women Act.

  • For protective order violations without physical injury, your spouse could receive 1 year in jail and/or a violation of $1,000.
  • For violations involving physical injury, your spouse could receive 30 days to 1 year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.
  • For subsequent offenses of protective order violations, your spouse could face up to 6 months to 1 year in jail or state imprisonment and/or a fine of $2,000.

Seeking a divorce is not an easy task, especially if you have a history of domestic violence with your former spouse. If you need someone to help guide you through the process and advocate for your needs at the negotiation table, contact a California divorce attorney as soon as possible.