Prepare for a Civil Harassment Hearing

Obey these Five Rules When Preparing for a Restraining Order Hearing:

  1. Be on time
  2. Oppose a mutual order
  3. Dress well
  4. Have evidence
  5. Stay Calm

There are no official Judicial Council instructions, but the official form for Domestic Violence Restraining Orders has useful information.  Those instructions may be found here: dv520info

Be on time

If you do not show up, the court can rule against you without further notice.  If you are the Petitioner (the person who requested a restraining order) the court can dismiss the restraining order.  If you are the Respondent (the person subject to a restraining order) the court can make the restraining order permanent (up to five years) without further notice to you.  If you come to court late, your case may be heard and decided before you even arrive.

Oppose a Mutual Order

Often the court or the opposing party will offer to resolve a case by simply issuing mutual restraining orders.  If you have done nothing wrong, don’t agree to a mutual order.  Accepting a mutual civil harassment restraining order admits that you committed some act of harassment or violence or that there is a danger you will commit such an act.   A mutual restraining order will prevent you from owning or possessing firearms and may be used against you in future court proceedings.

Dress Well

Dress as if you were going to an important job interview for a job in an office.  Wear clean clothes that are not torn, stained, or revealing.  Shorts and hats are unacceptable.  Clothes should not contain any sort of message.  Especially bad are clothes that appear to be gang-related, appear to promote alcohol or drug use, or contain slogans disrespectful towards women, the police, or the court.

Have Evidence

When possible, have evidence to support your claims.  If you claim that you have been beaten, bring pictures of your injuries.  If you claim that you have been receiving harassing text messages, bring screenshots of the messages and/or phone records showing that you received the messages.  If others witnessed the abuse, bring them to court with you.

If you are defending against a restraining order, bring witnesses with you that can testify as to your good character and/or the bad character of the petitioner.

Don’t go to court alone and emptyhanded.  Take something and someone with you to support your claims and/or defenses.

Stay Calm

All too often cases are not decided based on the evidence alone.  Often, cases are decided based on the actions of the litigants in court.  A person who raises his voice, continually interrupts the court and the other party, makes threats, or otherwise loses his temper in court will probably also lose in court.  If you have difficulty keeping your temper when speaking, hire an attorney to speak for you in court.