How Do Restraining Orders Work in Washington State?

September 1, 2022

Are you currently in a situation that is harmful or threatening to you or your children? If you are in a situation that makes you fearful for your safety, you might consider applying for a restraining order. If you’ve considered obtaining an order of protection, you should understand how restraining orders work in Washington State.

What Is a Protection Order?

A protection order, or order of protection, is a court order that requires a specifically named person to stay a minimum distance away from another person. The orders often result from stalking or domestic violence incidents. A protection order is also known as a restraining order.

When you file for an order of protection, you will request a Temporary Order of Protection. You will complete forms that detail the abuse, who the alleged abuser is, and their date of birth. You must also provide a location where legal papers can be served to the person you have named in your request for protection.

The judge will look at your completed paperwork and decide whether to grant your request for a temporary protection order. If your request is granted, the appropriate paperwork will be filed, you will receive a copy, and the respondent (alleged abuser) will be served with a copy. The Temporary Order of Protection will be in effect until a court hearing is held, allowing the respondent to give their side of the story—usually 14 days to 24 days.

Why Is a Restraining Order Important in Washington?

A restraining order tells both the police and the alleged abuser that you want to be safe. If the respondent violates the order, they have committed a crime. If they threaten you, hurt you, or come somewhere they aren’t supposed to be, you can call the police. Dial 911! Don’t dial your local station house.

Types of Protection Orders

Different types of protection orders exist in Washington State. Since the purpose of a restraining order is to keep you from harm, you must understand the differences in the orders. Knowing the difference between the kinds of orders available will help you to file for the correct one, which will ultimately keep you the safest.

There are two main kinds of protection orders with several subsections beneath those two. First, look at each kind and the types that fall under those categories. Then, we will focus on one or two of the most frequently requested types of restraining orders in Washington State.


Civil orders are those protection orders that you request. The following is a brief synopsis of each kind of civil order you can file.

  • Domestic Violence Protection Order: Someone who has already experienced physical harm, assault, bodily injury, sexual assault, or stalking at the hands of a family or household member may file for a domestic violence protection order. You may also file for this order if you fear the behavior of a family or household member is about to escalate to violence.
  • Stalking Protection Order: Someone who is being stalked by a person who isn’t a family or household member may file a request for this order.
  • Anti-harassment Protection Order: You may file this order against a person who is willfully exhibiting illegal or harassing conduct that alarms, annoys, or causes you emotional distress. The behavior must serve no lawful purpose.
  • Sexual Assault Protection Order: Someone who has experienced nonconsensual sexual conduct or nonconsensual sexual penetration from a person who isn’t a family or household member may request a SAPO. ONE incident is enough to merit filing for the SAPO.
  • Vulnerable Adult Protection Order: A vulnerable adult, a guardian, or an interested third party can file a request for a Vulnerable Adult Protection Order. These orders are filed against someone accused of abandoning, abusing, financially exploiting, or neglecting the vulnerable adult. The orders can also be filed against someone who threatens those behaviors.
  • Extreme Risk Protection Order: This order can be filed against a person who is believed to pose a significant danger to themselves or others if they have access to, possession of, or the ability to purchase or receive a firearm. Family, household members, or law enforcement can file these protection orders.
  • Restraining Order: These orders must be filed in connection with an open family law case.
  • Washington VINE Protective Order (WA VPO): This automated service informs petitioners and crime victims when the protective order has been served and when the order is nearing expiration. It can also notify registered parties when the respondent applies to buy a firearm or applies for a concealed weapons permit.


Criminal orders are requested by prosecutors. They are meant to protect witnesses or victims in criminal cases. Here are the two main criminal protective orders available in Washington State.

  • No Contact Orders: No Contact Orders may be issued in criminal cases involving domestic violence. They prohibit the defendant from contacting witnesses or victims of their alleged crimes. The order can be issued even if the victim or witness objects. It can be set to stay in place for the duration of the court case.
  • Harassment No Contact Orders: These are No Contact Orders that are specifically issued in harassment cases. They keep the defendant from contacting the witnesses or victims of their alleged crimes. The court can issue this order despite witness or victim objections. It can remain in place for the duration of the court case.

Domestic Violence Protection Orders

Typically, when we think of restraining orders or protection orders, we think of domestic violence cases. There are some things you should understand regarding domestic violence protection orders before you proceed with filing one. Let’s start by looking at the legal definition of domestic violence in Washington State.

Definition of Domestic Violence in Washington State

Domestic violence is an act in which one of the following things has happened between family or household members:

  1. Bodily injury
  2. Physical harm
  3. Assault
  4. Sexual assault
  5. Stalking
  6. Causing you to fear physical harm, bodily injury, or assault is imminent

Multiple types of abusive behavior are included in this definition. The domestic violence definition includes pushing, slapping, hitting, biting, choking, and any other behavior that hurts you or makes you fear that you will be injured.

Two Types of Protection Orders for Domestic Violence

In Washington State, there are two kinds of protection orders for domestic violence cases: an ex parte temporary order for protection and a final order for protection. The ex parte order is the interim order that protects you until you can go to court for your final protection order. Ex parte means the judge will hear your case without the abuser being notified of the hearing for the temporary order. This order lasts for a fixed time of up to 14 days unless the court allows the abuser to be served by mail; in that case, it can last up to 24 days.

The final order of protection will only be issued following a hearing where both your and your abuser’s sides of the story are presented. At this hearing, you can present evidence or call witnesses to back your case. The judge can issue an order of protection that lasts for a fixed timeframe, or that is permanently in place. If the order includes a no-contact clause for minor children, that portion will only last up to one year, but it can be renewed at the end of that term.

Exclusions to Restraining Orders in Washington State

There is a list of protections the judge can choose to grant you within a final order of protection. The judge can grant all, some, or none of them, depending on the evidence presented. However, there are some things a domestic violence protection order cannot do, and it’s important to note those because some request an order of protection thinking they are included. A domestic violence order of protection does not order the following things:

  • Child support
  • Alimony
  • Permanent child custody
  • Who gets the property

Those four items must be addressed in other proceedings. A final protection order can offer more protective measures than a temporary order. Remember,  which protections you should receive is the judge’s discretion.

Where to File A Domestic Violence Order for Protection

Typically, you file an order of protection in your county. However, if you moved to maintain your safety, you can choose to file your petition in the county or municipality where you previously lived. You can still choose to file where you currently live, but that will give your abuser the knowledge that you are now in a different county. It might be wisest to file in the previous county for confidentiality purposes.

What If The Abuser Is from A Different State?

This is a more difficult circumstance. The judge may not have jurisdiction to grant an order against an out-of-state respondent. However, some things grant the court that personal jurisdiction.

  1. There is a substantial connection between the abuser and your state.
  2. One of the acts of abuse occurred in your state.
  3. If you file a petition, and the court serves the respondent while they are in your state.

If none of these are applicable in your case, you may still be granted an order if the judge finds circumstances that allow it to be awarded.

Final Thoughts

Restraining orders in Washington State are meant for your protection. If you have questions or concerns about filing a petition for a restraining order, contact a qualified family attorney. The attorneys at the Aberdeen Law Firm can help guide you through the ins and outs of petitioning for an order of protection.

Related Content: Can I Appeal a Child Custody Ruling in Bellevue, WA?




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