Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
DVROs can provide protections from domestic abusers and remove firearms from the situation
In California, domestic violence restraining orders (DVROs) prohibit people subject to them from possessing and purchasing firearms, thereby decreasing the risk that domestic abuse will become lethal.
DVROs are court orders that can be issued to protect against abuse threatened or perpetrated by an intimate partner, family member, or household member. Abuse can be verbal, written, or physical, and includes threats against intimate partners, children, or others living in the home. If the order is granted, the alleged abuser (“DVRO respondent”) is subject to provisions like stay away or no-contact orders, and prohibit from possessing or purchasing firearms and ammunition for the duration of the order. The person who requests the DVRO (as described below) is called the “petitioner.”
Evidence shows that domestic violence protective orders reduce the risk of future abuse.1,2
Domestic Violence, Firearms, and Risk
Victims of domestic violence are at even greater risk of injury or death when a firearm is present in the home, but not all states include firearm restrictions with their protective orders. One study examined 25 years of data from 46 large US cities among 27 states, during which time half of the states enacted domestic violence protective orders with firearms restrictions. States in which these orders had associated firearm prohibitions experienced a population-level decrease of 8%-19% in total intimate partner homicide and 9%-25% in firearm intimate partner homicide.3
Research shows that when domestic violence protective orders firearm restrictions include expanded provisions to cover current or former dating partners in addition to spouses, as they do in California, there is an 13% reduction in intimate partner homicide.4 Additionally, in states where temporary as well as final, longer-term DVRO orders included firearm restrictions, there was a 13% reduction in intimate partner homicides and a 16% reduction in intimate partner homicides by firearm.4
In California, a DVRO can be requested by anyone living in the same household or who is related by blood or marriage, including current or former spouses or domestic partners, individuals who share a child, and adult roommates or siblings, as well as current and former dating partners.5 Minors who are 12 years or older can file for restraining orders without parent or guardian assistance. DVROs provide various protections for petitioners, which can include:
- no contact provisions
- stay away provisions
- move out provisions6
- counseling provisions7,8
- firearm prohibition provisions9
There are three types of domestic violence restraining orders.
- Emergency restraining orders last up to five business days or seven calendar days (whichever is shorter) and are available to law enforcement, for example, when responding to domestic violence calls.10 Emergency orders can be served at an incident and firearms recovered immediately.
- Ex parte (or “temporary”) orders last up to 3 weeks and can be filed by parties other than law enforcement (e.g., spouses, domestic partners, family members). There is no fee to file petitions for DVROs, and some county courts have support sessions for completing these petitions; local client advocacy groups may also provide help. Judges review petitions for temporary orders within one business day, and if granted, these orders become active when they are served.11
- After an emergency or ex parte order is filed, each case is heard in court, at which point a judge can consider evidence from the petitioner and respondent and can grant an order lasting up to five years.12
Violating an active DVRO by having contact with the petitioner is a crime, even if the petitioner gives permission for the contact with the respondent. This can result in the respondent receiving jail time, a fine, or both.13
DVROs are most effective when both temporary and long-term orders include firearm prohibitions and mandate firearm removal processes.4
A DVRO respondent is prohibited from possessing and purchasing firearms for the order’s duration. California requires respondents to surrender firearms to law enforcement or sell or transfer them to a licensed retailer within 24 hours of any type of DVRO being served. They must then provide evidence of compliance to the court within 48 hours.14 A violation of the DVRO firearm prohibition is a felony.
When a DVRO expires, as long as no other firearm prohibition exists, the respondent is allowed to retrieve their firearms and purchase new ones.
What You Can Do
The US Preventative Task Force recommends that clinicians screen all women of reproductive age for domestic violence. It is important to remember that men can also be victims. Though they cannot directly petition for DVROs, clinicians should be prepared to discuss safety plans and options for removing firearms from potentially abusive partners or household members. It is recommended that clinicians discuss DVROs and supporting actions to remove firearms from patients’ homes in order to prevent further abuse, associated negative health outcomes, firearm-related injuries, and homicide.
It can be difficult to ask these questions, and patients may not be forthcoming or recognize that they’re at risk. This domestic violence screening resource has recommendations for starting this conversation. Learn more about intimate partner violence here.
Lisa Geller from the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence contributed to this content.
Click to view references
- Health status and health care use of Massachusetts women reporting partner abuse. American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
- Preventing Firearms Violence Among Victims of Intimate Partner Violence: An Evaluation of a New North Carolina Law. NCJRS.
- Effects of domestic violence policies, alcohol taxes and police staffing levels on intimate partner homicide in large US cities. Injury Prevention.
- Analysis of the strength of legal firearms restrictions for perpetrators of domestic violence and their associations with intimate partner homicide. American Journal of Epidemiology.
Click below to learn more about potential interventions.
A gun violence restraining order poses an option for temporary, civil removal of guns involuntarily.
If a patient makes a threat to a psychotherapist of serious violence against identifiable victim(s), the therapist has a duty to protect the potential victim and notify the police.
For more information, see these peer-reviewed articles.
Duncan, T. K., Weaver, J. L., Zakrison, T. L., et al. (2020). Domestic Violence and Safe Storage of Firearms in the COVID-19 Era. Annals of Surgery.
Dicola, D., & Spaar, E. (2016). Intimate Partner Violence. American Family Physician.
Zeoli, A. M., & Webster, D. W. (2010). Effects of domestic violence policies, alcohol taxes and police staffing levels on intimate partner homicide in large US cities. Injury Prevention.
Sorenson, S. B., & Shen, H. (2005). Restraining Orders in California: A Look at Statewide Data. Sage Journals.
Additional Resources on Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
The National Domestic Violence Hotline operates 24/7 and free of charge to provide lifesaving tools and immediate support to enable victims to find safety. Callers to The Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) will receive crisis intervention information, educational services, and referral services in over 200 languages.
Ask for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order
The Judicial Council of California provides instructions on how to ask for a restraining order to have guns taken away from someone you worry should not have them.
Is a DVRO right for me?
Information on the DV-500 form and how a domestic violence restraining order can help you.
Disarm Domestic Violence California
Disarm Domestic Violence provides information on domestic violence firearm prohibitions and civil protective order firearm removal under California Law, as well as help resources for victims.
WEAVE is the primary provider of crisis intervention services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Sacramento County.
How To Ask
Screening guidelines on how to ask patients about domestic abuse
Screening for Intimate Partner Violence, Elder Abuse, and Abuse of Vulnerable Adults
US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) final recommendation statement on screening for IPV, elder abuse, and abuse of vulnerable adults.
Addressing Intimate Partner Violence Reproductive and Sexual Coercion
A guide addressing intimate partner violence for obstetric, gynecologic, and reproductive health care settings.
Get the Facts
Key statistics and fact sheets on the prevalence of domestic violence in the United States.