HOW CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) IS AFFECTING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES IN LA COURTS
By: Suma Mathai, Interim Managing Attorney, Break the Cycle (Los Angeles)
Our world is changing as government officials are working to keep the public safe from the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), which means that access to services may be limited or even closed. We have been told to stay home when possible, and practice “social distancing.”
But home may not be a safe place if you are experiencing relationship violence or dating abuse. Even with closures and scaled-back services, there is still help out there, especially for those who need emergency services. The information below may help as you consider how or whether to move forward in your restraining order or family law (custody or divorce) case.
The Court is continually updating their procedures in response to the situation, so to make sure that you are getting the most up-to-date information, click on the links below to go directly to the Court’s and other websites. The information listed below is current as of March 18, 2020.
I am currently experiencing abuse. What should I do?
Call 911 for immediate help. Law enforcement is responding to emergency calls. You can ask them to give you an Emergency Protective Order (EPO), which will last 5-7 business days. Before it expires, you can apply for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) at a local courthouse.
I need protection and want to apply for a restraining order. How do I do that?
On Wednesday, March 18 and Thursday, March 19, 2020, all Los Angeles County courts are closed and no new filings will be accepted. If you need to apply for an emergency restraining order on those two days, contact your local police or Sheriff’s department and ask them to issue you an Emergency Protective Order (EPO).
On Friday, March 20, 2020, the courts will reopen only for time-sensitive emergency matters, which include Domestic Violence Restraining Orders, Civil Harassment Orders, and emergency custody and visitation orders, as well as others emergency matters. You will be able to file your paperwork and may be able to get a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). The Court will have limited self-help assistance will be available to help you fill out paperwork at the courthouse.
You will need to fill out the paperwork to request a Restraining Order before you file it with the Court. If you want to fill out the paperwork yourself and print it at home, you can visit this page or this page to get the forms you need. If you need help filling out the paperwork before you file, you can contact Break the Cycle by calling or texting us at (424) 209-2532 from 9am to 5pm to see if we can help or refer you to an agency that may be able to help.
I have a hearing coming up in my restraining order case, and my Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is set to expire that day. Do I have to go to court?
From March 20 to April 16, 2020, all Los Angeles County courtrooms will be closed except for emergency matters (this includes Restraining Orders). You should plan to appear at Court for your Restraining Order hearing at the date, time, and location listed on your paperwork. The Court will move forward with your hearing unless you and other side agree continue the case to a later date and extend the TRO.
The Court has asked that anyone who is sick or has flu-like symptoms (fever, coughing, sneezing) not come to Court. If you have a hearing scheduled after April 16 and cannot attend due to illness, this flyer has information about how you can get your case continued.
I got a TRO but have not served the other side (restrained party) yet. Do I still need to?
Yes. Your TRO can only be enforced against the restrained party once they know there is a Restraining Order against them. The Court will not hold a hearing about your Restraining Order until the restrained party has been served and has had a chance to respond. If you need more information about service of process, this Court form is helpful. If the other side is trying to avoid getting served, here is some additional information that may help.
I’m afraid for my child(ren)’s safety. Can I ask for a custody or visitation order to protect them?
Beginning March 20, 2020, you can file a request for ex-parte (emergency) custody/visitation orders with the Court, and the Court may hold an emergency hearing. If you want to start a custody case but don’t have an emergency, the Court will be allowing you to file new cases, but no hearings will be heard before April 16, 2020 unless they are emergencies. If you have a court date for a non-emergency custody order on or before April 16, the Court will send you a letter telling you the new date and time of your hearing. If you do not get one, you can check here to see if the Court has rescheduled your hearing, or call the courtroom where your case is scheduled, using this list.
I need to talk with someone about my situation. Who do I call?
You are not alone. If you need legal advice or help, Break the Cycle helps youth ages 12-24 in Los Angeles County who are survivors or are currently experiencing relationship abuse. You can contact us to see if we can help or refer to you an agency that may be able to help.
Break the Cycle Call or text (424) 209-2532 (9am to 5pm)
LA County DV Hotline Call (800) 978-3600 (open 24 hours)
National DV Hotline Text LOVEIS to 22522 or Chat via www.loveisrespect.org
Call (800) 799-7233 [TTY (800) 787-3224] (open 24 hours)
Teen Line Text TEEN to 839863 (peer counselors available 6-9pm) or