What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Washington?
This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a domestic violence protection order.
Domestic violence is when one or more of the following things occur between intimate partners or family/household members:
- physical harm;
- bodily injury;
- making you fear immediate physical harm, bodily injury, or assault;
- nonconsensual sexual conduct;
- nonconsensual sexual penetration;
- coercive control;
- unlawful harassment; or
1 R.C.W. § 7.105.010(9)
What types of domestic violence protection orders are there? How long do they last?
There are two types of domestic violence protection orders in Washington:
Temporary protection order
A temporary protection order is meant to protect you until the court hearing for a full protection order. The first order can be “ex parte,” which means it is issued without the abuser being notified. Temporary protection orders can also be issued between court dates before the completion of the hearing to decide about the full protection order.1
In addition to requesting an ex parte temporary protection order, you can ask for an order to surrender and prohibit weapons until the full hearing can be held. If you request this, the judge will include your children in the ex parte temporary order unless there is a good reason not to.2 A judge will grant an ex parte temporary order only if s/he believes that you are in danger of serious immediate harm or permanent (irreparable) injury.3
Ex parte temporary orders last for a fixed period of up to 14 days.2 If the hearing date is extended and a temporary protection order is re-issued, the new date must not be more than 14 days later.4 Any temporary order to surrender and prohibit weapons that the judge gave you will be re-issued as well.5 If the court permits service of the abuser by publication or mail, the order will last for a fixed period up to 30 days.4 Your ex parte temporary order should clearly state the expiration date.6
Full protection order
A full protection order can be issued only after the abuser is notified and there is a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to tell your sides of the story and present evidence, witnesses, etc., or it can be entered by agreement of the parties without the need for a hearing.7 The hearing can be held in person or remotely.8
Generally, the full domestic violence protection order can be for a fixed period of time or permanent. Unless you ask for a shorter amount of time, the order will last for at least one year.9 If it only lasts for a fixed period, you can ask to have it renewed.10
Note: If the judge included in the order that the abuser cannot contact his/her minor children, then that part of the protection order can only last up to one year, but you can apply to renew that part of the order at the end of the one-year period.11 To get more information about renewing your order, please see How do I extend my protection order?
For information on other types of orders available in Washington, see What other types of orders may help me?
1 R.C.W. § 7.105.010(35)
2 R.C.W. § 7.105.100(8)
3 R.C.W. § 7.105.305(1)
4 R.C.W. § 7.105.200(3)
5 R.C.W. § 7.105.400(2)
6 R.C.W. § 7.105.305(2)
7 R.C.W. § 7.105.010(17)
8 R.C.W. § 7.105.205(1)
9 R.C.W. § 7.105.315(1)
10 R.C.W. § 7.105.405(1)
11 R.C.W. § 7.105.315(2)(a)
In which county can I file for a domestic violence protection order?
The law says that you “should” file your petition in the county where you live. However, the law also says you “may” file in:
- the county where the act happened that is causing you to file for a protection order;
- the county where a child to be protected by the order primarily lives;
- the county where you lived before you relocated, assuming you relocated due to the abuser’s actions; or
- the court closest to your current home or your prior home if you left that home due to the abuser’s actions.1
1 R.C.W. § 7.105.075
What protections can I get in a domestic violence protection order?
The judge in a protection order case has broad powers to issues order that are appropriate to your situation, including:
- ordering the abuser not to do the following against you or anyone else protected by the order:
- ordering the abuser not to contact you or your children, your family members, or members of your household;
- ordering the abuser to stay away from your home, even if you share it with the abuser, as well as your work, school, or from the school or day care of your child;
- prohibiting the abuser from coming within a certain distance from a specific location;
- making a temporary order about the living arrangement of your children, which can suspend visitation under a parenting plan if appropriate;
- ordering the abuser to participate in a domestic violence perpetrator treatment program or a sex offender treatment program;
- ordering the abuser to get a mental health or chemical dependency evaluation;
- ordering the abuser not to attend the same school as you or your child, if the order protects your child;
- requiring the abuser to pay the court costs and fees for your petition, including reasonable attorneys’ fees;
- ordering the abuser not to harass you, follow you, keep you under physical or electronic surveillance, cyberharass you, or use telephonic, audiovisual, or other electronic means to monitor the actions, location, or communication of you, your children, or members of your household;
- ordering the abuser to submit to electronic monitoring, unless the abuser is a minor;
- requiring the abuser to surrender his/her firearms and prohibiting the abuser from having access to any other firearms if certain conditions are met (Note: You can read about the conditions that must be met for the judge to order the firearm removed on our Selected Washington Statutes page in section (1) of RCW 9.41.800);
- making an order regarding possession of your essential personal property, including a pet owned by you, your child, or the abuser;
- making an order regarding the use of a vehicle;
- restricting the abuser from engaging in abusive litigation, making harassing or libelous communications to third parties, or making false reports to investigative agencies;
- prohibiting the transfer of any assets you jointly own with the abuser and ordering other financial relief; or
- prohibiting the abuser from having or distributing intimate images of you, including requiring the abuser to take down and delete any such images.1
Whether or not a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.
Note: The judge cannot require that you, as the petitioner, get any services, including drug testing, victim support services, mental health assessments, or a psychological evaluation.2
1 R.C.W. § 7.105.310(1)
2 R.C.W. § 7.105.310(4)(a)
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
If you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her. However, under Washington law, there are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- After you file your petition, the abuser gets personally served with the court petition while s/he is in Washington;
- The abuser gives in (“submits”) to the jurisdiction of the Washington state court by:
- agreement (“consent”);
- “entering a general appearance,” which often means s/he show up in court at the return court date; or
- filing a responsive document in court without objecting to personal jurisdiction, which has the effect of waiving any objection to personal jurisdiction;
- The actions of the abuser, or someone acting as an “agent” of the abuser, that you listed in your petition as your reason for needing the protection order, took place:
- in Washington; or
- outside of Washington but the actions are part of an ongoing pattern that has a negative effect on you or a member of your family or household; or
- As a result of the actions that are listed in your petition as your reason for needing the protection order, you or a member of your family or household has sought safety or protection in Washington and currently live(s) in Washington; or
- Due to any other reason listed in section 4.28.185 of the law or in the Constitutions of Washington or the United States.1
Note: For the court to have jurisdiction due to the reasons listed in #3 or #4, above, the abuser must have communicated with you or a member of the your family, directly or indirectly, or made known a threat to the safety of you or a member your family, while the victim lived in Washington.2 A threat can be “communicated” or “made known” in any of the following ways: in person, through publication, by mail, telephone, through an electronic communication site or medium, by text, or through other social media.3 If a written or oral statement is made by any of these means by a person outside of Washington to a person inside the state, that is considered to have been an act that happens within Washington.4
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.
1 R.C.W. § 7.105.080(1)
2 R.C.W. § 7.105.080(2)
3 R.C.W. § 7.105.080(3)(a)
4 R.C.W. § 7.105.080(3)(b)