Know the Laws: Washington
To start your case, you will need to fill out the necessary forms for a domestic violence order for protection.You can find the forms from the civil clerk at the courthouse, but you may want to find them before you go and fill them out at home or with an advocate from a shelter. You will find links to forms online on the WA Download Court Forms page. Most shelters and other domestic violence prevention organizations can provide support for you while you fill out these papers and go to court. (Go to WA State and Local Programs to find an organization in your area.)
On the petition, you will be the "plaintiff," or "petitioner," and the abuser will be the "respondent."In the "Statement of Petition" section, write briefly about the most recent incident of violence, using specific language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Clerks can show you which blanks to fill in, but they cannot help you decide what to write. If you need immediate protection, check the box at the bottom of the petition to ask for a temporary order for protection which, if a judge grants it, will take effect immediately. A judge can grant you a temporary order for protection if s/he feels that you or your child are in immediate danger. (The abuser does not have to be with you or be told you are asking the judge for temporary order for protection.)
You will need to provide a safe mailing address. If you are staying at a shelter, give a Post Office Box, not the street address. If you do not have a safe address, do not fill it out - ask the clerk first how you can keep your address confidential.
Bring identification for you and identifying information about the abuser. When you go to the courthouse, remember to bring some form of identification. It is also helpful to bring identifying information about the abuser if you have it:
You will need to file the forms in the county courthouse where you live, where the abuser lives, or where the abuse occurred.
To file the forms, during business hours, go to the clerk of court. Tell the clerk that you want to file for a domestic violence order for protection. If you need the emergency protection of a temporary (ex parte) order, also tell the clerk you need a temporary (ex parte) order for protection. To find contact information for the courthouse in your area, click on WA Courthouse Locations.The clerk will take your completed forms to a judge or commissioner.
If you are in immediate danger and requested a temporary order, you will go to an ex parte hearing before a judge or commissioner. The abuser does not have to be with you or be told you are asking the judge for a temporary order for protection.
After the ex parte hearing, return to the clerk's office. If you were granted a temporary order, the clerk will file the signed temporary order and make copies. Be sure to discuss how many copies you need, since additional copies will be needed for schools, daycare, and your place of employment.
If you received a temporary order, keep a copy of it with you at all times.
Whether the judge grants you a temporary order or not, you will be given a court date for a full court hearing of your petition within 14 days. This hearing will be in front of a judge at a time shown on the "Notice of Hearing". "Notice of the Hearing" is the document that tells the respondent where and when to appear for the full court hearing. At this hearing, the abuser and you will both have a chance to explain your sides to the judge.
The clerk then issues a case number. The clerk will file the original petition and make two copies - one for your records and one to be served on the respondent.
The respondent must be "served" or given notice of a hearing five judicial days prior to the hearing. If the respondent has not been served in time, the hearing will be rescheduled. In that situation, you may ask the court to reissue the temporary order and attempt to have the respondent served again.
If the respondent was not served in time and shows up at the hearing, the court may proceed even though service was not timely. If the respondent was served but does not show up at the hearing, the hearing will proceed without the respondent.
The clerk will send the law enforcement office a copy of the petition for the order for protection and a copy of the temporary order (if you were granted one) to serve the respondent. A Return of Service form and a Law Enforcement Information Sheet will also be included for law enforcement's use.
Any adult 18 or over, other than you, can serve the papers. However, people usually want a law enforcement officer to serve the papers, since there could be a dangerous situation. Law enforcement officers are an objective third party trained to handle problems. The court may order the law enforcement agency where the respondent resides to serve the papers. Fees vary with each agency. Sometimes, the respondent may be responsible for these fees. Be sure to tell the clerk if you are unable to pay the fees.
Do not attempt to serve the papers to the abuser yourself.
The clerk will send a copy of the temporary order and the Law Enforcement Information heet to the police station where you live so it can be entered into the statewide law enforcement computer system. This is to assure your order can be enforced by the police or sheriff. The Law Enforcement Information Sheet will not be given or shown to the respondent.
The order for protection or a reissued temporary order must be filed with the clerk. The clerk will make copies for you to take. When you leave the court, you should have the following papers:
On the day of the hearing, you ust go to the hearing to ask to have your temporary order (good only for up to 14 days) turned into a final order for protection, which will last for up to one year.
You must go to the hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary order will expire and you will have to start the process over. Bring all of your paper work with you. You will present the order for protection form for the judge or court commissioner's review and signature.
You may wish to hire a lawyer to help with your case, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. You can also represent yourself. If the abuser shows up with a lawyer, you can ask the judge for a "continuance" (a later court date) so that you have time to find a lawyer. (Go to WA Finding a Lawyer to find help in your area.)
If you absolutely cannot go to the hearing at the scheduled time, you may call the judge's office to ask that your case be "continued," but the judge may deny your request.