What Are the Grounds for Getting a Restraining Order in Washington State?

November 8, 2022

How often have you seen a character on television or in a movie say they had a restraining order in Washington state against someone else? You may wonder if you can obtain a restraining order for a situation you deal with in your own life. In Washington State, restraining orders are available to protect domestic violence victims.

What Is a Restraining Order?

In Washington State, there are four types of restraining orders available. It’s essential that you know the difference between them if you plan to apply for a restraining order. Once you understand the types of restraining orders available, it’s time to go to the office of the county clerk of the family court to apply for your restraining order.

  1. Domestic Violence Order for Protection: If a family member has threatened or assaulted you, a domestic violence order for protection directs that person to do you no more harm. It also directs them to stay away from your home and no longer reside with you. A domestic violence order for protection can also order the person to attend counseling sessions and maintain the court-ordered visitation schedule. You must formally request this kind of order from the family court. If it’s an emergency, you may receive a temporary 14-day order. A formal hearing will be scheduled within those 14 days, and the court will decide whether to issue a formal domestic violence protection order that is valid for a year or more.
  2. Restraining Order: These are broader-scope court orders. The restraining order can cover property, custody, child support, alimony, and domestic violence. Many times a restraining order is filed as a portion of a family law case. It can be filed as part of a paternity, custody, or divorce case.
  3. No Contact Order: This order is a protective order that is filed as a portion of a criminal case. You won’t have to file your own petition. A no-contact order is a consequence of a respondent becoming a defendant ‘after being arrested. The decision to issue this order will be made at a bail hearing, during an arraignment, or at a sentencing hearing. A no-contact order doesn’t usually remain in effect as long as a civil order. This is not a family court order. It’s an order of protection while a criminal case is pending.
  4. Civil Anti-harassment Order: This order isn’t to be used when you have issues with a family member. Instead, it’s for neighbors or strangers. If you’ve been a victim of harassment without physical threats or harm, civil anti-harassment order is the correct choice for you.

Before you choose to request one of the four kinds of restraining orders, it’s wise to consult an attorney. If you want the order to last more than the temporary 14-day time frame, you will have to prove your case in court. An attorney can help you handle the court hearing appropriately.

What are the Grounds for Obtaining a Restraining Order in Washington State?

If you’re a victim of domestic violence, you may have grounds for filing for a restraining order. Grounds for a restraining order in Washington State include the following:

  • An act committed by a family member or member of a household against someone else in the family or household that is meant to cause physical harm, assault, bodily injury, or sexual assault.
  • A threat that makes the family member or member of the household fearful they are in danger of being physically harmed, bodily injured, assaulted or sexually assaulted.
  • Abuse—the legal definition, not your perception.
  • Dating violence—also the legal definition.

If you need legal protection that keeps an abuser from contacting you in any way or coming near you, then you might need to consider a restraining order. Filing a restraining order can help you to feel safer going about your daily routine.

It’s important to realize that restraining order, when it comes right down to it, is just a piece of paper. Anyone who has experienced abuse should have a plan in place to protect themselves if an abuser doesn’t adhere to the provisions in the restraining order.

What About the Children?

Restraining orders can also protect your children. Suppose a parent establishes that an abuser has committed a crime of family violence, child abuse, or sexual abuse of a child, or that such an act is likely to occur. In that case, a restraining order can be issued against that person. If a restraining order is issued, the accused abuser can be kept away from the child’s home or school, and they can be kept from contacting the child in any way.

In an effort to prevent the child from being endangered, a restraining order can keep the abuser from being in the home with the child at all. This gives you the ability to keep your child in their own home and away from the abusive person.

Make sure you have a safety plan in place for your children. An abuser might attempt to gain access to children if they know where they live or go to school, regardless of the presence of a restraining order. Know where emergency shelters are located because they can offer invaluable services.

An emergency shelter can help you find safe housing, food, financial assistance, utilities, clothing, and other needed items. Don’t be afraid to contact a shelter for help. Sometimes, the shelter is the best option for keeping yourself and your children safe.

How Is Domestic Violence Defined in Washington State?

We’ve talked about domestic violence being the propelling cause for filing for a restraining order. It’s essential that you understand what constitutes domestic violence. First, let’s be clear. Domestic violence occurs between family members or people within the same household.

Domestic violence involves one or more of the following actions:

  • Bodily injury
  • Physical harm
  • Assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Stalking
  • Causing fear of immediate physical harm, assault, or bodily injury.

The definition is broad, but it includes many behaviors. Some of those are hitting, pushing, choking, biting, or slapping. Any conduct that causes harm or causes you to fear that you will be hurt is included in the covered behaviors.

Where Should You File for a Restraining Order in Washington State?

You must file a petition for a restraining order. In order to file your petition, you must file in the county or municipality where you reside. If you moved to get away from your abuser, you can either file your petition in the area where you previously lived or where you currently reside.

If you want to keep your whereabouts a secret, you should consider filing your petition in the county you lived before. Filing in the place of your current residence will alert your abuser to where you are. If part of your safety plan involves being hidden, then you must carefully consider where to file your petition for a restraining order.

You can request an ex parte temporary order of protection if you can show irreparable injury. Courts use several factors to determine if there has been irreparable damage. Those include:

  • History of violence
  • Nature of injuries
  • Access respondent has to weapons
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Threats or attacks on the family or members of the household

A hearing for an ex parte temporary order of protection must be held in person or by telephone either the day the petition was filed or the next day the courts are in session. The statute that allows for the ex parte hearing provides general provisions for relief. The judge has discretion in creating provisions to protect the petitioner and the family fully.

Though the court has a broad level of discretion, that discretion is not unlimited. The ex parte order is valid for 14 or 24 days, depending on how the service was presented to the respondent. If the notice was provided by publication, the ex parte order could be in place for 24 days.

If you report domestic violence to the police, it can lead to criminal charges. If criminal charges are pending or filed, then the State may request that the court order a criminal no-contact order on your behalf. These orders prevent any contact with the abuser, and they will keep the person who is accused of abuse from knowingly coming within a specified distance of you or your home or job.

Don’t Put Off Consulting with an Experienced Restraining Order Lawyer in Washington

Domestic violence is an unfortunate reality in our society. Domestic violence occurs when someone in your family or your household harms you or your children. When that happens, it’s imperative that you have a plan to keep your family safe.

A restraining order can be an integral part of your safety plan. There are four kinds of restraining orders in Washington State. It’s essential to know which kind of restraining order is the correct one for your situation. To learn which kind of restraining order you should file, consult with a lawyer who has experience with domestic violence cases.

If you’re contemplating filing a restraining order, consult an attorney to understand your rights and whether you have grounds for filing a restraining order. The Aberdeen Law Firm has attorneys who have experience dealing with cases that involve domestic violence. If you have questions about how to proceed when you’ve been a victim of domestic violence, request a consultation with one of the attorneys from the Aberdeen Law Firm.

Related Content: How Do Restraining Orders Work in Washington State?

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