Legal FAQ


Disclaimer: The information provided in this website is for general education purposes only and is specific to California.  It is not intended to be legal advice and WEAVE makes no warranty, express or implied, as to its accuracy or applicability to a specific legal matter.  No attorney-client relationship is created as a result of WEAVE providing this general information.  If you have questions about your specific case, please contact an attorney. 

If you do not see your question below, please contact the Legal Line at (916) 319-4944 or WEAVE’s 24-Hour Support and Information Line.

Can I violate a restraining order protecting me? If I contact my abuser will my restraining order be void?

No, you are the protected party and your actions are not restrained.  Unless you have been served with restraining order papers that protect someone else and list you as the defendant, there are no orders limiting your activities.  Contacting your abuser will not void your restraining order.  However, it is very important to talk with a legal expert before contacting your abuser unless it is to exchange your minor children for court ordered visitation. The court granted your restraining order because the judge believed you were in danger and that you fear your abuser.  If you contact your abuser for reasons other than custody exchanges or any other exceptions specifically stated in your restraining order, this could put you in danger again.  It also may give your abuser the ability to go back to court and tell the judge the restraining order should be changed or taken away because you are not actually afraid of your abuser.

Will the restraining order interfere with my abuser getting or keeping a job or renting an apartment/house? Will it affect their credit report?

Most likely, no. A Domestic Violence Restraining Order is a civil protection order. It is not a crime to have a restraining order issued against you and most employers cannot fire an employee because they have a restraining order against them.  The restraining order does prevent your abuser from possesses or owning a firearm or ammunition. The restraining order will affect their employment if the job they have or want requires them to have a firearm. The restraining order will not affect their ability to rent an apartment/house unless that apartment/house is within 100 yards of your home and your restraining order contains stay away orders requiring your abuser to stay at least 100 yards away from you and your home. The restraining order will not affect your abuser’s credit rating or credit report.

Can my abuser talk to the judge before the hearing and without my being present?

No. The judge is not allowed to communicate with only one party and will only discuss your case during your scheduled hearing. You must go to your hearing in person if you want the judge to make long term orders; you may bring an attorney and/or one emotional support person with you to the hearing. Before the hearing, the abuser may file a Response to your request for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. A Response is the proper way for the abuser to tell the Court their side of the story or offer an explanation about what happened. If Response is filed with the Court, a copy must also be given (served) to you. You have the right to know what the abuser has said, just as you had the abuser had the right to know what you said in your restraining order request.  Your abuser can serve the Response to you by mail, so be sure to check your mail regularly leading up to your hearing.

What should I do if my abuser says they have spoken with the judge and they both decided I do not have to appear in court for my hearing?

Your abuser is trying to trick you.  Go to the hearing anyway. If you do not go to your hearing, the restraining order will be dismissed and you will have to start over. Do not believe your abuser when they tell you not to go to the hearing or not to worry because everything is taken care of. You are in control of this situation, not your abuser. You have filed the restraining order application and scheduled a court date. Your abuser does not have the power to cancel the hearing and/or dismiss the case. 

What if my abuser knows the judge personally?

It is extremely unlikely that your abuser knows the judge personally. If he/she does, that judge will excuse themselves and will not hear your case – your case will be assigned to another judge. There are strict ethical rules that judges must follow which require them to do this in any case where they have a personal relationship with one of the parties in the case.

May I take our children with me when I leave my abuser?

We understand that keeping your children safe and with you is a priority. Every family’s custody needs are different, and we cannot advise anyone it is acceptable to take children with them without information regarding current court actions, custody arrangements, etc. We recommend speaking with an attorney or attending a workshop before deciding to take your children.

Can I secretly leave the county and take our children with me?

It depends. You should seek legal advice before leaving. If you decide to leave the county, you should contact the District Attorney’s office in the county that you currently live in before leaving to file a Notice of Good Cause. This is a notice to the District Attorney that you are leaving the county with your children because of an immediate safety need.   If you do not do this you might later face charges of child abduction, even if you do not have an open court case or custody orders when you leave.

Should I participate in custody mediation even though I am scared to be in the same room with my abuser?

Yes. Custody mediation is your opportunity to give the court more information about what you want in custody orders, what is going on with your children and concerns you have about your abuser’s time with the children.  If you do not participate, the court may not know what is happening or how to keep your children safe.  The court may also make custody orders without your input.  You can safely participate in custody mediation; this is a process managed and controlled by court personnel.   When your mediation is scheduled, you will receive a questionnaire that includes questions about domestic violence.  You will also receive instructions from the mediation office.  If you have told the court or the custody mediator that domestic violence is an issue in your case, you may request a separate mediation session – you should call the mediation office as soon as possible to let them know of this request.  If you have a domestic violence restraining order in place the mediator must give you a separate session if you want it.  The mediator may meet with you and your abuser (and possibly your children) on the same day, but you will not be in the same room.  It is important to know that usually the mediator meets with one person and then the other; the mediator does not go back and forth between two rooms to talk with you both at the same time.  You are not required to agree to anything in mediation, but if there are some issues you can agree on you should let the mediator know so they can write your agreements down.  You should think carefully about whether you want to have separate sessions.  Your safety is the most important and if you will not be able to fully participate in mediation because your abuser is in the same room with you, then choose to meet with the mediator separately. Sometimes the abuser will try to control the mediation session with behavior they used in your relationship. You may feel forced to agree with the abuser to avoid an abusive incident between the two of you later. The only way mediation can work is if both parties are free to fully participate and not be hindered by the other party.  However, if you believe you can participate fully in a joint mediation session, there are benefits to this since you will be able to hear what your abuser is telling the mediator first-hand and respond to it right away.  If you have questions about how to prepare for mediation or what to expect, contact an attorney as early as possible.  Once you participate in mediation, the mediator will write a report for the court.  If you reached agreements on some or all of the issues, the mediator will document those for the court as well.  For any issues that you do not agree upon, the mediator will make recommendations to the court about what they believe is best for your children based on all the information they have available to them.  You will receive a copy of the report, agreements and/or recommendations before your hearing.  You must be signed up for the court’s online Public Case Access program to receive this document electronically.  Please visit the Sacramento County Superior Court’s website for more information on this process.

Is it a good idea for my abuser to pick up our children for visitation from my home?

No. It is not recommended that you exchange your minor children with your abuser at your home or at the abuser’s home.  These locations are usually more isolated and exchanges here could create a chance for the abuser to further harass or harm you. Choose a neutral location in between both of your homes for exchanges. Good options are busy fast food restaurants, a shopping center or a law enforcement station. If possible, choose exchange times when you know lots of other people will be around – try to avoid exchanges early in the morning or late at night. If you do not feel safe meeting your abuser alone, you can bring a support person with you. If you have current custody orders that include a specific exchange place, you must follow that order until it is changed by a judge. If your current order does not specify a place or you do not have a current order, then you and your abuser may mutually choose a location for the exchange.  Confirm any agreements in writing by either a text message or email.

Should I supervise my abuser’s visitation with our children?

No. It is not appropriate or safe for you to supervise your abuser’s visitation with your minor children. This creates a situation where the abuser may harass or harm you, or your children.  It also creates confusion for your children and may risk exposing them to further abuse.  If you want your abuser’s visitation to be supervised, it is recommended that you ask the court to make that order.  It is also recommended that the supervisor be a professional.  There are professionals in the community trained to do supervised visits; these people have experience and know how to make sure a visit is safe and appropriate for your children.  You may have a non-professional person supervise visits, but this is generally not recommended in domestic violence cases.  Supervising is a big responsibility and is a lot to ask a friend or family member to do.  Additionally, friends and family members are more likely to be emotionally reactive or biased, so they often do not make good supervisors.

Do I have to go to my court hearing after custody mediation?

Yes. You should always attend court hearings because the judge can made orders even if you are not there.  Even if you reached agreements in mediation about custody of your children, the judge will want to talk with you to make sure you made the agreements willingly and that you still agree.  There may also be other issues the judge wants to talk about at the hearing besides the custody mediation.  You may bring a lawyer or an emotional support person with you to the hearing if you do not want to go by yourself.

Will a judge grant me custody of our children even though I receive CAL-Works, food stamps or SSI?

The court does not care that you receive public assistance or that your income is low. The court is interested in each party’s parenting skills. The court is interested in ensuring that the parenting plan is safe and age appropriate for the children.

Will a judge grant me custody of our children even if I work full-time?

In many families both parents work full-time. The court may consider each parent’s work schedule when creating a custody plan, but the judge’s main interest is in making sure the children are safe and cared for well.

Am I entitled to a share of our property even if it is all in my abuser’s name?

It depends. This is a complicated question and depends, in part, on whether you are married to your abuser or you are registered domestic partners. In California, all property acquired or earned during the marriage or partnership is presumed to be community property, which means it is the joint property of each spouse or partner. Each spouse or partner is entitled to an equal share of the community property when the marriage or partnership ends. The court is most interested in how the property was acquired and when the property was acquired. Titles don’t always matter. If you are not married to or in a registered domestic partnership with your abuser, or if you want to know how the court may decide if a particular piece of property is separate or community property, consult an attorney.

Am I entitled to a share of our property even if my abuser is the only one who worked outside of the home during our marriage and therefore paid for everything?

If you were married to your abuser or in a registered domestic partnership, probably yes.  If you were not married or registered domestic partners, the issue becomes more complicated. In California, all property acquired or earned during a marriage or domestic partnership presumed to be community property, which means it is the joint property of each spouse or partner. Each spouse or partner is entitled to an equal share of the community property when the marriage or partnership ends. This is true whether both spouses or partners worked outside the home or only one person worked outside the home. The court is most interested in how the property was acquired and when the property was acquired. The court is not interested in whose job earned the money to pay for the property. If are not married to or in a registered domestic partnership with your abuser, or if you want to know how the court may decide if a particular piece of property is separate or community property, consult an attorney.  Back to top»