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Know the Laws: Washington

UPDATED September 21, 2017

Vulnerable Adult Protection Order

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A vulnerable adult protection order is a civil court order that provides protection for a vulnerable adult who is a victim of abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, or the threat of any of those actions.

Basic info and definitions

back to topWhat is the legal definition of a vulnerable adult?

A vulnerable adult is a person who:

  • is sixty years old or older and does not have the functional, mental, or physical ability to care for himself/herself;
  • has been found by a judge to be incapacitated under Chapter 11.88 of Washington law;
  • has a developmental disability as defined by law;
  • was admitted to any facility;
  • is receiving services from home health, hospice, or home care agencies licensed or required to be licensed under Chapter 70.127 of Washington law;
  • is receiving services from an individual provider; or
  • self-directs his/her own care and receives services from a personal aide under Chapter 74.39 of Washington law.*

* R.C.W. § 74.34.020(22)

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back to topWhat is the legal definition of abuse against a vulnerable adult?

Abuse against a vulnerable adult includes:

  • abandonment;
  • abuse;
  • personal exploitation;
  • improper use of restraints;
  • neglect;
  • financial exploitation; or
  • the threat of any of the above behaviors.*

* R.C.W. § 74.34.110(1)

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back to topWhat are the legal definitions of abandonment, abuse, personal exploitation, improper use of restraints, neglect, and financial exploitation?

Abandonment is an action (or failure to act) by a person who has a duty to care for the vulnerable adult that leaves the vulnerable adult without the means or ability to get needed food, clothing, shelter, or care.*

Abuse is the intentional action (or failure to act) that causes injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment to a vulnerable adult.  Abuse includes sexual abuse, mental abuse, and physical abuse.*1

Personal exploitation is:

  • the act of forcing, compelling, or using undue influence over a vulnerable adult and causing him/her to act in a way that is different than related past behavior; or
  • causing the vulnerable adult to perform services for the benefit of another.*2

Improper use of restraints means the inappropriate use of chemical, physical, or mechanical restraints for convenience or discipline in a way that:

  • is inconsistent with federal or state licensing or certification requirements for facilities, hospitals, or programs authorized by law;
  • is not medically allowed; or
  • otherwise constitutes abuse.*3

Neglect is when a person or entity with a duty to care for a vulnerable adult:

  • engages in a pattern of conduct or fails to act in a way that provides the goods or services that are needed to keep the vulnerable adult mentally and physically healthy or fails to avoid or prevent physical or mental harm or pain to the vulnerable adult; or
  • acts or fails to act in a way that shows a serious disregard of the outcome to such a degree as to constitute a clear and present danger to the vulnerable adult's health, welfare, or safety, including but not limited to conduct that is not allowed under the law.*4

Financial exploitation is the illegal or improper use, control over, or withholding of the property, income, resources, or trust funds of the vulnerable adult by any person or entity for the profit or advantage of any person or entity other than the vulnerable adult.*5

* R.C.W. § 74.34.020(1)
*1 R.C.W. § 74.34.020(2)
*2 R.C.W. § 74.34.020(2)(d)
*3 R.C.W. § 74.34.020(2)(e)
*4 R.C.W. § 74.34.020(16)
*5 R.C.W. § 74.34.020(7)

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back to topWhat types of vulnerable adult protection orders are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of vulnerable adult protection orders: temporary orders and full orders.

Temporary orders: A temporary order is one that a judge can order ex parte when the  petition is filed in court.  Ex parte means that the judge can issue the order without the abuser being present or having notice of the case and if someone filed the petition on behalf of the vulnerable adult, without the vulnerable adult being present or receiving notice.  To issue the temporary order without written notice to the respondent and the vulnerable adult, the petitioner (the person filing the case) must provide the judge with an affidavit (sworn written statement) that shows either that:

  • immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage to the vulnerable adult would occur before the parties could receive notice; or
  • the parties cannot be served with notice. You must also show your efforts to serve them and the reasons why notice should not be required.*

A temporary order can last for up to 14 days until the hearing for the full order.*1 

Full orders: The judge can issue a full vulnerable adult protection order after the respondent (and the vulnerable adult) receives notice and has the opportunity to appear in court for a hearing.  The respondent must be served with notice at least 6 days before the hearing.*2  If a third party (someone other than the vulnerable adult) starts the case, the vulnerable adult must also be served with notice at least 6 days before the hearing.*3  The judge can issue a full vulnerable adult protection order for a period of up to 5 years.*4

* R.C.W. § 74.34.120(5)(b)
*1 R.C.W. § 74.34.120(1)
*2 R.C.W. § 74.34.120(2)
*3 R.C.W. § 74.34.120(3)
*4 R.C.W. § 74.34.130

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Getting the order

back to topWho can file for a vulnerable adult protection order?

You can file the order yourself if you are a vulnerable adult.  You can also file on behalf of a vulnerable adult if you are:

  • the vulnerable adult’s guardian or legal fiduciary; or
  • an “interested person.”*

The Department of Social and Health Services may also file for an order on behalf of a vulnerable adult.**

* R.C.W. § 74.34.110(1)
** R.C.W. § 74.34.150

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back to topWhat is the legal definition of an interested person?

You can file on behalf of a vulnerable adult if you are “an interested person.”  An interested person is a person who shows the judge that:

  • s/he is interested in the welfare of the vulnerable adult;
  • s/he has a good faith belief that the court's intervention is necessary; and
  • the vulnerable adult is unable, due to incapacity, undue influence, or duress at the time the petition is filed, to protect his/her own interests.*

* R.C.W. § 74.34.020(12)

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back to topWhat are the steps to get a vulnerable adult protection order?

The steps for getting a vulnerable adult protection order are similar to the steps involved with obtaining a domestic violence order for protection.  The instructions may be similar to the order for protection petition, but you will fill out a different set of forms.

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back to topHow can a vulnerable adult protection order protect the vulnerable adult?

Through a vulnerable adult protection order, the judge can order that the abuser:

  • not commit acts of abandonment, abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation against the vulnerable adult;
  • stay away from the vulnerable adult's residence for a specified period or until further order of the court;
  • not contact the vulnerable adult for a specified period or until further order of the court;
  • not knowingly come or remain within a certain distance from a specific location;
  • provide an accounting of the use of the vulnerable adult's income or other resources;
  • not transfer his/her property or the vulnerable adult’s property for a specific period of time not longer than 90 days; and
  • pay a filing fee and court costs, including service fees, and reimburse the petitioner (the person who filed for the order) for costs of starting the court case, including reasonable attorney’s fees.*

* R.C.W. § 74.34.130

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