You may ask a court to issue a protection order if you are experiencing or have recently experienced domestic violence, harassment, stalking, or sexual assault, or if you are seeking protection for a vulnerable adult. It can be issued by a state, tribal, or district court.
A protection order differs from a restraining order. While restraining orders may only be issued as part of a family law matter (like a divorce or parentage case), a protection order can be requested independently of any family law proceedings. Also, a restraining order may be issued in addition to a protection order.
Different kinds of protection orders are issued depending on the type of harm and the relationship between the parties involved. The judge may consider granting a different type of protection order if your situation does not qualify for your first choice.
If you are 18 or older,you can file for protection not only for yourself but also for children under 18 (minor children) if you are their parent, legal guardian, or custodian. In cases of domestic violence, you can seek protection for minor children within your family or household, even if you’re not the parent, legal guardian, or custodian.
Our firm helps clients to obtain protection orders in Superior Court based on the following:
- Domestic Violence
Washington State law at RCW 7.105.010(8) states that you can seek protection from a current or former intimate partner, family member, or roommate who does any of these:
- Physically harm you, including sexual assault
- Causes you to fear immediate physical harm or assault
- Stalks you, including online (cyberstalking)
- Engages in behavior that causes you physical, emotional, or psychological harm, and unreasonably interferes with your free will and personal liberty (coercive control)
Examples of “coercive control”:
- Driving recklessly with you and/or children in the vehicle to scare/intimidate you and force you to do what that person wants over your own wishes
- Threatening to self-harm or kill themselves if you leave the relationship with them
- Telling your friends and family that they are going to destroy your career, or report you to immigration because you are ending the relationship
- Threatening to blackmail you
You can read the law to see more examples at RCW 7.105.010(37).Regardless of the abuser’s relationship to you, nobody has the right to threaten or harm you.
Washington State law defines harassment as someone’s behavior that seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or is detrimental to you. There is no legitimate purpose for this behavior. You can read more about this at RCW 9A.46.110 and RCW 7.105.010(35).
- Sexual Assault
Protection against someone who has raped you or engaged in any sexual conduct or penetration that you did not freely agree to (nonconsensual). To learn more, read RCW 7.105.100(b).
Protection against someone who commits criminal stalking or any repeated contacts or attempts to contact you, monitor you, track your whereabouts, keep you under observation, or follow you, if the behavior intimidates, scares, or threatens you. For more information, read RCW 7.105.010(34).
Behavior qualifies as criminal stalking when:
- Someone intentionally and repeatedly harasses or follows you which can include the use of GPS or other tracking devices to track your whereabouts
- There is a reasonable fear that they want to hurt someone (it does not have to be you), or someone’s property (it does not have to be yours)
- The stalker knows or should know that they are frightening, intimidating, or harassing you
If you are experiencing behavior like this, call 911.
Cyber harassment is also a stalking crime. Read RCW 9A.90.120.
After your petition has been filed, there are three main steps.
- Temporary Order. A judge will review your petition and any evidence you filed along with it to see if you meet the requirements for any type of protection order. You may have to appear at the temporary order hearing. This should happen the same day we file for you, or the next working court day if filed later in the day. If you meet the legal requirements, the judge will schedule a full hearing. The judge may also issue a temporary order.
- Service. Law enforcement will serve the protection order papers on the restrained person for free. In some situations, you can make your own arrangements for service. The restrained person must be served at least 5 court days before the full hearing.
- Full Hearing. At the full hearing, the judge will decide whether to issue a final Protection Order. Usually, a final Protection Order lasts for at least a year. You can ask for a shorter or longer order, based on your needs, in the petition.
Once the Protection Order is issued, you should always carry a certified copy of it with you.
If law enforcement is serving, you can register your protection order with WA Protective Order Service. It is a free, automated service that notifies you when an order has been served. Call 1-877-242-4055 or visit www.registervpo.com to learn more.
If the restrained person has not been served, but you still want or need the temporary order, you must appear for the hearing and ask for an extension (a continuance) of the temporary order.
A certified copy is a copy the clerk makes for you with a raised seal and the original clerk’s signature on it. Your protection order is enforceable outside the county in which it was entered. The information from your protection order is loaded into a statewide computer database. It is enforceable statewide and also in other states.
You must call the police immediately, if possible, to report a violation. If the restrained person violates the order, it is a crime. The police must enforce your order and arrest the person who has harmed you. You can read the law about this at RCW 7.105.450.
If the restrained person has firearms or other weapons, you can ask the court to order them to surrender their weapons immediately, at the same time the judge issues the temporary order. A detailed description of the weapons and where they are stored must be filed with the Petition. This will help law enforcement to obtain or account for all the weapons.
If the judge issues an Order to Surrender and Prohibit Weapons, the restrained person must immediately surrender their firearms and other weapons to law enforcement when they are served. If that doesn’t happen, you may be at more risk. The court often provides an advocate that will help you to make a safety plan. You should call 911 to report if you believe the restrained person still has weapons. You should also inform the court.
Protection orders can last for a fixed period or permanently, with the possibility of renewal. You can read the law about this at RCW 7.105.310. For orders protecting children, the child-related portion generally lasts, at most, for up to one year.
You can ask a judge to renew the order before it expires. The judge must renew your order unless the person the Order protects you from can prove they are no longer a risk to you and/or your children.