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Legal Information: Washington

Washington Restraining Orders

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Restraining Orders

Domestic Violence Orders for Protection (DVOP)

Basic information

What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Washington?

This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a domestic violence order for protection.

Domestic violence is when one or more of the following things occur between family or household members:

  • physical harm;
  • bodily injury;
  • assault;
  • sexual assault;
  • stalking; or
  • making you fear immediate physical harm, bodily injury, or assault.1

This definition includes many types of abusive behaviors, such as pushing, hitting, slapping, biting, choking, and other conduct that causes you harm or puts you in fear of being hurt.

1 R.C.W. § 26.50.010(1)

What types of orders for protection are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of domestic violence orders for protection in Washington:

Ex parte temporary order for protection.
An ex parte temporary order for protection is designed to protect you until the court hearing for a final order for protection.  When you file your application for a temporary order for protection, the judge will hold a hearing either in person or by telephone where you will tell the judge why you need the order for protection.  (The abuser will not have notice of this hearing or be present, which is what is meant by the term “ex parte.”)  The hearing will be either on the day the petition is filed or the following day that court is in session.1  A judge will grant the temporary order only if s/he believes that you are in immediate danger of a severe injury.2

Temporary orders last for a fixed period of up to 14 days.  If the court permits service of the abuser by publication or mail, the order will last for a fixed period up to 24 days.3

Your ex parte temporary order should clearly state the expiration date.4

Final order for protection.
A final order for protection can be issued only after a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to tell your sides of the story, present evidence, witnesses, etc.  The hearing will be no more than 14 days from the date you got your temporary order or no more than 24 days if the abuser was notified by publication or mail.3

Generally, the order for protection can be for a fixed period (specific amount of time) or permanent (forever).  If it only lasts for a fixed period, you can ask to have it renewed.5

Note: If the judge included in the order that the abuser cannot contact his/her minor children, then that part of the order for protection 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).5  To get more information about renewing your order, please see How do I change or extend my order for protection?

For information on other types of orders available in Washington, see What other types of orders may help me?

1 R.C.W. § 26.50.070(3)
2 R.C.W. § 26.50.070(1)
3 R.C.W. § 26.50.070(4)
4 R.C.W. § 26.50.070(5)
5 R.C.W. § 26.50.060(2), (3)

In which county can I file for a domestic violence order for protection?

You can file a petition in the county or municipality where you live. If you’ve moved to avoid further abuse, you can file the petition in the county or municipality where you lived previously, or in the county or municipality where you’re currently staying.1 However, if you are trying to keep your address confidential, filing in the county where you have fled to would likely not be a good idea since it would alert the abuser to the fact that you are living in that county.

1 R.C.W. § 26.50.020(6)

What protections can I get in a domestic violence order for protection?

In a temporary, ex parte domestic violence order of protection, the judge can order the following relief:

  • order the abuser not commit acts of domestic violence against you;
  • order the abuser to stay away from your residence (either shared with the abuser or your own), work, school or from the school or day care of your child;
  • prohibit the abuser from coming within a certain distance from a specific location;
  • order the abuser to not interfere with your custody of the minor children or remove the children from the jurisdiction of the court;
  • order the abuser not to contact you or your children or members of your household;
  • order the abuser not to harass you, follow you, keep you under physical or electronic surveillance, or cyberstalk you;
  • order the abuser not to use telephonic, audiovisual, or other electronic means to monitor the actions, location, or communication of you, your children, or members of your household; and
  • require the abuser to surrender his/her firearms if certain conditions are met.1Note: You can read about the conditions that must be met for the judge to order the firearm removed on our WA Statutes page in section (1) of RCW 9.41.800.

As part of a final domestic violence order of protection, the judge can order the following relief:

  • order the abuser not commit acts of domestic violence against you;
  • order the abuser not to harass you, follow you, keep you under physical or electronic surveillance, or cyberstalk you;
  • order the abuser not to use telephonic, audiovisual, or other electronic means to monitor the actions, location, or communication of you, your children, or members of your household;
  • remove the abuser from the home that you share;
  • order the abuser to stay away from your residence, work, school or from the school or day care of your child;
  • prohibit the abuser from coming within a certain distance from a specific location;
  • order the abuser not to contact you or your children or members of the your household;
  • give one parent temporary custody of children;
  • set a schedule for visitation with minor children;
  • grant you possession of essential personal items including pets; (Note: You can get sole custody or control of any pet owned by you, the respondent, or your child. The abuser can also be prohibited from coming within a specific distance or to specific locations where the pet is regularly found);
  • grant you use of a vehicle;
  • order the abuser to pay administrative court costs and service fees, and to reimburse you for costs incurred in bringing the action (such as reasonable attorney’s fees);
  • order the abuser to participate in a batterers’ treatment program;
  • require the respondent to submit to electronic monitoring;
  • require the abuser to surrender his/her 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 WA Statutes page in section (1) of RCW 9.41.800.); and
  • order any other relief that the judge believes is necessary for your protection and the protection of your family or household members.2

Whether or not a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.

Note: A domestic violence protection order cannot:

  • order child support;
  • order maintenance (alimony);
  • assign most property to either party; or
  • establish permanent child custody.3

1 R.C.W. § 26.50.070(1)
2 R.C.W. § 26.50.060(1)
3Washington Courts website

If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?

When 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.

There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:

  1. The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
  2. One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
  3. If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.

However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.

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.

Who can get a domestic violence order for protection

Am I eligible to file for a domestic violence order for protection?

You are eligible to file for a domestic violence order for protection if you or your minor child have been the victim of domestic violence at the hands of:

  • your spouse or former spouse;
  • your domestic partner or former domestic partner;
  • someone you have a child in common with;
  • adult persons related to you by blood or marriage;
  • adult persons living with you now or who have lived with you in the past;
  • someone you dated or are dating as long as the abuser is 16 or older; or
  • someone who has a biological or legal parent-child relationship with you, including step-parents and step-children, and grandparents and grandchildren.1

If you are 16 or older, you can file for an order for protection on your own, without permission from an adult. If you are under 16, you will need a parent, guardian, guardian ad litem or “next friend” to file for you. A “next friend” is anyone over 18 years of age, chosen by the minor who is able to pursue the court case for the minor and state his/her wishes in court.2

If you do not meet any of these requirements, there may be another order that applies to your situation. Go to our Civil Anti-Harassment Orders page, Sexual Assault Protection Orders and Stalking Protection Orders page for more information.

If someone other than one of these people is hurting you, there are other petitions that you may be eligible to file for protection against violence. See What other types of orders may help me?

1 R.C.W. § 26.50.010(2)
2 R.C.W. § 26.50.020(8)

Can I get a domestic violence order for protection against a same-sex partner?

In Washington, you may apply for a domestic violence order for protection against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Am I eligible to file for a domestic violence order for protection?  You must also be the victim of an act of domestic violence, which is explained here What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Washington?

You can find information about LGBTQIA victims of abuse and what types of barriers they may face on our LGBTQIA Victims page.

How much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?

Nothing.  There is no filing fee for a domestic violence order for protection.

You do not need a lawyer to file for an order for protection.  However, you may wish to have a lawyer, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. If you can, contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected.  If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find information on legal assistance on the WA Finding a Lawyer page.  Domestic violence organizations in your area may also be able to help you through the legal process and may have lawyer referrals.1

1 R.C.W. § 20.50.040

If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.

What other types of orders may help me?

Restraining Order
A restraining order is filed as part of a divorce case, a paternity case, or other family law case.  This is broader than a domestic violence protection order, since it can also deal with property issues, child support, or spousal support.  If you are concerned about preventing the abuser from getting rid of your assets during your separation, you might contact an attorney to see about getting a restraining order.1

No Contact Order
This order is intended to protect you if the abuser is in the process of a criminal case.  The judge will decide whether or not to issue this order when s/he decides if the abuser is to be released on bail or personal recognizance, or when the abuser is formally charged or being sentenced.  Generally this order does not last as long as an order of protection.  It does not award custody, establish visitation, or order counseling.2

You may also be able to file for a Sexual Assault Protection Order, Stalking Protection Order, or a Civil Anti-Harassment Order.

1 R.C.W. § 7.40.020
2 R.C.W. § 10.99.050

Steps for getting a domestic violence order of protection

Step 1: Get and fill out the necessary forms

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.   Write about the incidents 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.  Note: Remember to bring photo ID and do not sign the forms until you are in front of a notary or a clerk.  The clerk may be able to notarize the forms for you.

You will need to provide a safe mailing address. If you are staying at a shelter, you may want to give a P.O. 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.

You will find links to forms online on our 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 Advocates and Shelters to find an organization in your area and to find contact information for the courthouse in your area, click on WA Courthouse Locations.

Step 2: Ex parte hearing

If you are in immediate danger and requested a temporary order, the judge or commissioner will hold an ex parte hearing in person or by telephone.1 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, if you were granted a temporary order, the clerk will file the signed temporary order and make copies. Remember that you may need additional copies 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 may be given a court date for a court hearing on your petition for a final domestic violence restraining order within 14 days (assuming your petition is not dismissed).2 This hearing will be in front of a judge at a time shown on the notice of hearing. The notice of hearing is the document that tells the respondent where and when to appear for the court hearing. At this hearing, the abuser and you will both have a chance to explain your sides to the judge, present evidence and witnesses, etc.

1 R.C.W. § 26.50.070(3)
2 R.C.W. § 26.50.050

Step 3: Service of process

The respondent must be “served” or given notice of the hearing five business days prior to the hearing. If the respondent has not been served in time, the hearing will be rescheduled. In that situation, the judge should reissue the temporary order and allow you to attempt to have the respondent served again. If you are unable to have the respondent served after two attempts, the judge may allow you to serve the respondent by mail or by publication unless you request another chance to serve the respondent.1 If the respondent was served but does not show up at the hearing, the hearing can 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. The court may order the law enforcement agency where the respondent resides to serve the papers. Do not attempt to serve the papers to the abuser yourself.

1 R.C.W. § 26.50.050

You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

Step 4: Sorting out the paperwork

The clerk will send a copy of the temporary order and the Law Enforcement Information sheet 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 to or shown to the respondent.1

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:

  • copy of the petition for an order for protection;
  • the original completed Law Enforcement Information Sheet; and
  • at least one certified copy of the temporary order. (You may want to carry one copy with you at all times. You also may want extra copies to keep in a safe place so there will be a copy available to show police in case of a violation.)

1Law Enforcement Information Sheet

Step 5: Full court hearing

If you want to get a final order, 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. If you absolutely cannot go to the hearing at the scheduled time, you may call the courthouse and ask how to request a continuance over the phone, if that is possible.

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 you choose to or if you cannot find a lawyer. For tips on representing yourself, go to our At the Hearing page. 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.

After the hearing

Can the abuser have a gun?

Once you get a protection order, there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession.  There are a few places where you can find this information:

  • first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in Washington have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
  • second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
  • third you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal laws that apply to all states.

You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website

What should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some things you may want to consider doing. However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation.

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to correct the order before you leave.
  • Make several copies of the order as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the childrens school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.

One week after court, you may want to call your local law enforcement offices to make sure they have received the order for protection from the clerk.

You may also wish to make a safety plan. People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school. Many abusers obey orders for protection, but some do not and it is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe. Click on the following link for suggestions on Safety Tips.

I was not granted a domestic violence order for protection. What are my options?

If you are not granted a domestic violence order for protection, there are still some things you can do to try to stay safe. It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic violence resource centers in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe. They may be able to help you develop a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need. For safety planning help, ideas, and information, go to our Safety Tips page. You will find a list of resources in Washington on our WA Places that Help page.

If you were not granted a domestic violence order for protection because your relationship with the abuser or the type of abuse you experienced does not qualify under the law, you may be able to seek protection through one of these orders:

You may also be able to reapply for a domestic violence order for protection if a new incident of domestic abuse occurs after you are denied the order.

If you believe the judge made an error of law, you can talk to someone at a domestic violence organization or a lawyer about the possibility of an appeal. Generally, appeals are complicated, and you will most likely need the help of a lawyer. For basic information on appeals, go to our Filing Appeals page.

What if the abuser violates the order?

Violating an order for protection is against the law.  There are two ways to get help if the abuser violates the order.

You may file for civil contempt for a violation of the order.  The abuser may be in “civil contempt” if s/he does anything that your order for protection orders him/her not to do.  To file for civil contempt, go to the clerk’s office in the courthouse where the order was issued and ask for the forms to file for civil contempt.

You can also seek justice through the criminal justice system by reporting the abuser to the police.  Violation of an order of protection can be a “gross misdemeanor,” which is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to 364 days, a fine o up to $5,000, or both.  In certain cases, such as where there have been prior violations of orders of protection or if the abuser commits an assault when violating the order, it can be a class c felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.1

A violation of either of the following two provisions subjects the respondent to a mandatory arrest:

  • Violating the part of the order that says “do not cause or threaten domestic violence;” or
  • Entering a residence, workplace, school, daycare of children, or other areas the judge has ordered the respondent to vacate or stay away from.2

Note: It is important to note that arrest is mandatory on domestic violence calls even without an existing protection order if the officer has probable cause to believe the abuser (who is 16 years old or older) committed an assault within the preceding four hours.3  To read more information about what type of assault must have been committed, you can read the law on our WA Statutes page, section 10.31.100(2)(c).

1 R.C.W. §§ 26.50.110(1)(a),(4),(5); 9A.20.021(1)(c),(2)
2 R.C.W. § 10.31.100(2) 
3 R.C.W. § 10.31.100(2)(c)

Can I file a motion to change or terminate my order for protection?

To modify (change) your order, go back to the court where you got it and file a petition with the clerk. The judge can modify or terminate (end) a protection order if you (or the abuser) files a motion asking for the judge to do so.1

If you file a motion asking the judge to modify or terminate your order, the respondent must be personally served with your motion and notice of the hearing at least 5 days before the court date unless the judge has allowed the abuser to be served by publication or by mail. Then there will be a hearing where the judge will hear from both sides and will decide whether or not to give you what you requested.2

1 R.C.W. § 26.50.130(1)
2 R.C.W. § 26.50.130(5), (7)

Can the abuser file a motion to change or terminate my order for protection?

Yes.  If the abuser files a motion to modify or terminate a domestic violence order for protection that is permanent or that lasts for more than two years, s/he must include facts and circumstances explaining the request for changing or ending the order in what is called a “declaration.”  You must be personally served with the respondent’s motion and declaration at least 5 days before the hearing.  You will then have the option to file a response, known as an “opposing declaration.”  The judge will read both declarations and decide (based on what s/he reads) if there is “adequate cause” (enough of a reason) to schedule a hearing.  If the judge decides that there is adequate cause, the judge will hold a hearing during which both sides will present evidence and testimony and the judge will decide if s/he is going to modify or terminate the order in the way the abuser requested.  If the judge decides there is no adequate cause, the judge will dismiss the respondent’s motion and will deny his/her request.1

If the motion that the respondent filed was to modify the order, s/he has to prove that the changes are necessary and justified.  If the abuser is asking to modify the order by making it shorter, or taking away a part of the order that tells him/her to not harass, stalk, threaten, or commit other acts of domestic violence against you or anyone protected by the order, the judge has to consider the factors listed in What factors will a judge consider when deciding whether or not to terminate my permanent or long-term order for protection? when deciding.2

If the motion that the respondent filed was to terminate the order and the judge schedules a hearing, the respondent must prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the order was issued, which makes it unlikely that the respondent would commit future acts of domestic violence against you or anyone else protected in the order.

It is important to know that for either a request to modify or terminate, you do not have to prove that you have a current, reasonable fear of immediate harm by the respondent to keep the order.3  For more information, see What factors will a judge consider when deciding whether or not to terminate my permanent or long-term order for protection?

1 R.C.W. § 26.50.130 (2),(7)
2 R.C.W. § 26.50.130(4)
3 R.C.W. § 26.50.130(3)(a),(4)

What factors will a judge consider when deciding whether or not to terminate my permanent or long-term order for protection?

If you have an order for protection that is permanent or that lasts for more than two years and the respondent files to terminate the order, the judge will decide whether or not to dismiss the request based on what is written in the respondent’s declaration and in your opposing declaration or whether or not to schedule a hearing.  (You can read more about this process in Can the abuser file a motion to change or terminate my order for protection?)  If the judge holds a hearing, the respondent must prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the order was issued, which makes it unlikely that the respondent would commit future acts of domestic violence against you or anyone else protected in the order. The judge will consider the following factors when considering if there has been a substantial change in circumstances:

  1. Whether or not the abuser has done any of the following:
    • committed or threatened domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other violent acts since the order for protection was entered; violated the order for protection, and the time that has passed since the order was issued;
    • expressed a desire to commit suicide or has attempted suicide since the order for protection was entered;
    • been convicted of a crime since the order for protection was entered;
    • either accepted responsibility for the acts of domestic violence that are the basis for the order for protection or successfully completed domestic violence perpetrator treatment or counseling since the order for protection
    • is abusing alcohol or drugs, if alcohol or drug abuse was a factor in the order for protection;
  2. Whether or not you agree with the abuser’s request to terminate the order for protection, provided that your consent is given voluntarily and knowingly;
  3. If you or the abuser has relocated to an area more distant from the other party; Note: The judge must still consider the fact that domestic violence can be committed from any distance; and
  4. Other factors relating to a substantial change in circumstances.1

Note: The judge cannot make his/her decision based only on the fact that: 1) time has passed without a violation of the order; or 2) you or the abuser has relocated to an area more distant from the other party.  Also, even if the abuser proves that there has been a substantial change in circumstances, the judge can still deny the request to terminate the order if the domestic violence that caused you to get the order for protection was so severe that the judge believes that the order should not be terminated.2

1 R.C.W. § 26.50.130(3)(a),(b),(c)
2 R.C.W. § 26.50.130(3)(d),(e)

How do I extend my order for protection?

To extend/ renew your order, you must file a “petition for renewal” at any time within three months before the order expires. Your petition should state the reasons that you want to renew the protection order. If the abuser violated the order in any way, you could mention this in your petition as well. The judge is supposed to renew your order unless the abuser can prove to the judge that s/he will not commit acts of domestic violence against you, your children, or your family or household members once the order expires.

The court will schedule a hearing for no more than 14 days from the date it receives your petition (or 24 days if the abuser is going to be notified by mail or publication). The abuser must be notified at least five days before the hearing. A judge may extend your order by granting a renewal for a fixed time period or may enter a permanent order.1

1 R.C.W. § 26.50.060(3)

What happens if I move?

Your order is valid throughout the state of Washington.  If you move to another part of the state, you may want to bring a copy of your order to the police department in your new area.  It also may be a good idea to call the clerk at the courthouse where you got your order to change your address but if your address is confidential, be sure to ask the clerk what steps you need to take to make sure that the address is listed as confidential in the court records.

Additionally, the federal law provides what is called “full faith and credit,” which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. territories and tribal lands.  Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders.  You can find out about your state’s policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor in your area.

If you are moving out of state, you can call a domestic violence program in the state where you are going to find out how that state treats out-of-state orders.  Please see our Moving to Another State with Your Domestic Violence Order of Protection section for more information.  You may also want to call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111, ext. 2) for information on enforcing your order there.

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

Stalking Protection Orders

A stalking protection order is a civil order that provides protection from a person who is stalking or cyberstalking you regardless of your relationship to him/her.  However, if you are being stalked by a current or former intimate partner, someone you are related to, or someone who you live(d) with, please see our Domestic Violence Orders for Protection (DVOP) page since that order may be the appropriate one to file.

Basic info and definitions

What is the legal definition of stalking in Washington?

For the purposes of getting a stalking protection order, the petitioner has to be a victim of “stalking conduct.”1 The law defines “stalking conduct” as any of the following:

  • Any act of stalking as defined under by law; or
  • Any course of conduct involving repeated or continuing contacts, including attempts to contact, monitor, track, keep you under observation, or follow you that:
    • would cause a reasonable person to feel intimidated, frightened, or threatened;
    • actually causes you to feel intimidated, frightened or threatened; and
    • The stalker knows or reasonably should know his/her conduct threatens, frightens, or intimidates you, even if the stalker did not intend to intimidate, frighten, or threaten you.

If the stalking-like behavior serves a lawful purpose, it cannot be considered stalking.2

Note: The judge cannot deny your order because you did not report the stalking to the police. Also, the judge cannot require you to show proof of the abuser’s intentions behind his/her actions in order to grant you a stalking protection order.3

1 R.C.W. § 7.92.040
2 R.C.W. § 7.92.020(3)
3 R.C.W. § 7.92.100(1)(b)

Who can file for a stalking protection order? Can a minor file?

If you do not qualify for a domestic violence order of protection, you may be eligible for a stalking protection order if you are the victim of stalking or cyberstalking, as defined by law. A minor who is at least sixteen can file on his/her own.1 Also, you can file on behalf of a minor child if you are:

  • the child’s parent;
  • the child’s legal guardian; or
  • if you are an adult who lives with the child - but only if the person the child is filing against is not his/her parent.2

You may also file on behalf of a “vulnerable adult” who is the victim of stalking if you are what the laws considers to be an “interested person.”3 A vulnerable adult is defined as someone who:

  • is 60 years old or older and is not physically or mentally able to care for himself or herself;
  • was declared incapacitated by a judge;
  • has a developmental disability;
  • was admitted into a facility;
  • is receiving services from a home health care aide or agency, a hospice, or an individual provider; or
  • is directing his/her own care and receiving services from a personal aide.4

An interested person is anyone who proves to 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
  • at the time the petition is filed, the vulnerable adult is unable to protect his or her own interests due to incapacity, undue influence, or duress.5

Note: If you file on behalf of a minor or a vulnerable adult and the judge issues an order, the protections only apply to the victim, not to you, even though you are the “petitioner” (unless the order says otherwise).6

1 R.C.W. §§ 7.92.040; 7.92.050(2)
2 R.C.W. § 7.92.040(1),(2)(a)
3 R.C.W. § 7.92.040(2)(b)
4 R.C.W. § 74.34.020(22)
5 R.C.W. § 74.34.020(12)
6 R.C.W. § 7.92.100(3)

How long does a stalking protection order last?

An ex parte stalking order generally lasts for 14 days, unless the judge allows you to serve your paperwork by mail or by publication. In those cases, the emergency order can last up to 24 days.1 A final stalking protection order can last a fixed period of time or be permanent.2

1 R.C.W. § 7.92.120(4)
2 R.C.W. § 7.92.130(1)

What protections can I get in a stalking protection order?

In a stalking protection order, the judge can order the abuser to:

  • not have any contact with you directly, indirectly or through another person (a “third party”); (Note: It does not matter if the other person (third party) who contacts you knows about the order or not.)
  • not enter the home, work, school, or daycare of you or your child;
  • stay a certain distance away from a specific location;
  • not keep you or your children under surveillance (including electronic surveillance);
  • pay all court costs, service fees, and reimburse you for any costs you paid to bring the protection order case including reasonable attorney’s fees; and
  • not do any other actions that are necessary or appropriate to keep you safe (including ordering a mental health or drug evaluation of the stalker).1

If you and the person stalking you attend the same public or private elementary, middle, or high school, the judge must consider the following additional factors:

  • how serious the stalker’s behavior is;
  • any continuing physical danger or emotional distress to you; and
  • the expense, difficulty and educational disruption that would be caused by transferring the stalker to another school since the judge can order that the stalker not attend your school. If this happens, the stalker’s parent(s) or guardian(s) are responsible for his/her transportation and other costs of changing schools.2

1 R.C.W. § 7.92.100(2)
2 R.C.W. § 7.92.100(4)

If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?

When 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.

There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:

  1. The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
  2. One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
  3. If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.

However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.

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.

Getting the order

Where can I file for a stalking protection order?

A petition for a stalking protection order can be filed in the county where you live, unless you have moved to get away from the stalker. Then you can file in either the county where you previously lived or the county where you currently live.1

1 R.C.W. § 7.92.050(8)

What if the abuser violates the order?

Violating an order for protection is against the law. There are two ways to get help if the abuser violates the order.

You may file for civil contempt for a violation of the order. The abuser may be in “civil contempt” if s/he does anything that your order for protection orders him/her not to do. To file for civil contempt, go to the clerk’s office in the courthouse where the order was issued and ask for the forms to file for civil contempt.

You can also seek justice through the criminal justice system by reporting the abuser to the police. Violation of an order of protection can be a “gross misdemeanor,” which is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to 364 days, a fine o up to $5,000, or both. In certain cases, such as where there have been prior violations of orders of protection or if the abuser commits an assault when violating the order, it can be a class c felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.1

1 R.C.W. §§ 26.50.110(1)(a),(4),(5); 9A.20.021(1)(c),(2)

Civil Anti-Harassment Orders

A civil anti-harrassment order provides protection against someone who is harassing you regardless of your relationship to that person.

Basic information

What is the legal definition of harassment?

The law defines “harassment” as a series of willful acts over a period of time that:

  • seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or harms you without “serving a legitimate purpose”; and
    • reasonably causes you to suffer substantial emotional distress (harm); or
    • reasonably causes you to fear for the well-being of your child.

Note: This “course of conduct” does not include constitutionally protected activity or constitutionally protected speech.1

As explained above, for the acts to be harassment, they cannot be considered to “serve a legitimate purpose.” To decide if the actions are for a legitimate (valid) purpose, the court will consider whether:

  • the abuser started the current contact between you two or whether you both contacted each other;
  • the abuser has been given clear notice that all future contact with you is unwanted;
  • the acts appear designed to alarm, annoy, or harass you;
  • the abuser is acting to try to protect a legal interest in his/her property, to enforce a law, or to meet a legal obligation;
  • the abuser’s acts unreasonably interfere with the your privacy or create an intimidating, hostile (unfriendly), or offensive living environment for you;
  • there was a court order in the past that limited the abuser’s contact with you or your family.2

1 R.C.W. § 10.14.020
2 R.C.W. § 10.14.030

What is a civil anti-harassment order? Who is eligible?

A civil anti-harassment order is a court order that tells the abuser to stop harassing you.  For more information on how an order may help you, see How can a civil anti-harassment order help me?

You do not have to have any specific type of relationship with the abuser (for example, the abuser may or may not be related or married to you; s/he could be a significant other, neighbor, co-worker, or relative).1  Therefore, if you do not meet the requirements to get a domestic violence order for protection due to your relationship to the abuser or due to the fact that the harassment does not meet the legal definition of “domestic violence,” you may be able to file for an anti-harassment order instead.

However, if you do qualify for a domestic violence order for protection or sexual assault protection order based on the harassment, or if you have a no-contact order from a criminal court based on the harassment, then you are most likely not eligible for an anti-harassment order.2  You would have to apply for the domestic violence order for protection or sexual assault protection order instead.

Note: If you are going to apply for an anti-harassment order, remember to be specific about how the abuser has harassed you and about the effect it had on you.  According to the law, harassment must involve a series of acts.  A single incident, no matter how much it may bother you, does not constitute legal harassment.

1 See R.C.W. § 10.14.080
2 R.C.W. § 10.14.130

What kinds of anti-harassment orders are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of civil anti-harassment orders in Washington, an ex parte temporary order and a final order.

Ex parte temporary anti-harassment order
An ex parte anti-harassment order is a temporary order that you can get when you file your petition in court, without the abuser present.  It is designed to protect you until the court hearing for the final civil anti-harassment order.  When you file your application for an ex parte anti-harassment order, the judge will read your petition and may hold a hearing where you will tell the judge why you need the order.  (The abuser will not be present at this hearing, which is what is meant by the term “ex parte”).  A judge will grant the temporary order only if your petition shows reasonable proof of unlawful harassment and if s/he believes that severe or permanent harm will happen to you if you don’t get the order immediately.1

Temporary orders last for a fixed (specific) period of up to 14 days.  If the court permits service of the abuser by publication (in a newspaper if the court believes the abuser is purposefully avoiding being served), the order will last for a fixed period up to 24 days.  Ex parte orders may be reissued (renewed) until the court holds the hearing for the final order.2

Note: If you have filed for and received two ex parte orders in the past against the same abuser, but you failed to get a final civil anti-harassment order, you cannot get a third ex parte temporary anti-harassment order unless you can prove that there was a good reason why you didn’t get the final order the first two times.3  Therefore, this is something to consider if you currently have an ex parte order and are thinking of dropping it.  If you are currently seeking a third ex parte anti-harassment order against an abuser, we strongly suggest you speak with a lawyer.

Final civil anti-harassment order
A final anti-harassment order can be issued only after you and the abuser both have a chance to tell your sides of the story, present evidence, witnesses, etc.  A hearing for the final order will be scheduled no more than 14 days from the date you got your temporary order or no more than 24 days if the abuser was notified by publication.2  If the abuser is being served in person (as is normally done), s/he must be served at least five court days before the hearing takes place.4

Generally, the order for protection will last for one year unless the court finds that the abuser is likely to continue the harassment when the order expires.  In that case, the judge can make the order for a fixed (specific) amount of time or can make it permanent (last forever).  However, if the judge included in the order that the abuser cannot contact his/her minor children, then the anti-harassment order can only last up to a year.  For any order that is for one year or for a fixed amount of time, you can apply to renew it when the order expires.5  If you are not sure whether you have a permanent order or not, look to see if there is an expiration date written on the order.6  To get more information about renewing your order, please see How can I modify (change) or extend my civil anti-harassment order?

Note: Even if the abuser does not appear at the hearing or respond to the petition but s/he was properly served (in person or by publication), the judge can still give you a civil anti-harassment order for a minimum of one year from the date of the hearing.7 

Also note: When a judge is giving an ex-parte temporary anti-harassment order or a final civil anti-harassment order, the judge cannot do the following things:

  • Prohibit the person against whom the order would be issued (the respondent) from exercising constitutionally protected free speech.  You may be able to use other civil and criminal alternatives to limit acts or communications that are not constitutionally protected.8
  • Prohibit the person against whom the order would be issued (the respondent) from using or enjoying real property that s/he has a right to use, unless the order is issued under dissolution proceedings or legal separation or under a separate action to determine title or possession of the real property.9
  • Limit the respondent’s right to care, control, or custody of his or her minor children, unless the order is issued under the family reconciliation act, dissolution proceedings or legal separation, nonparental actions for child custody, or the Uniform Parentage Act.10

1 R.C.W. § 10.14.080(1)
2 R.C.W. § 10.14.080(2)
3 R.C.W. § 10.14.080(10)
4 R.C.W. § 10.14.070
5 R.C.W. § 10.14.080(4)
6 R.C.W. § 10.14.080(11)
7 R.C.W. §§ 10.14.080(2),10.14.105
8 R.C.W. § 10.14.080(7) 
9 R.C.W. § 10.14.080(8)
10 R.C.W. § 10.14.080(9)

What protections can I get in a civil anti-harassment order?

It will be up to the judge to decide what is appropriate to stop the harassment by the abuser. The judge can do such things as:

  • order the abuser not to contact you (or attempt to contact you);
  • order the abuser not to make any attempts to keep you under surveillance (i.e., following you, watching you);
  • require the abuser to stay a certain distance away from your home and workplace;1

Note: If both you and the abuser are minors (under 18) and attend the same school, the court can order the abuser to attend a different school (but only if the abuser is being investigated or has gone to court for committing a criminal offense against you).2

If it is shown that an abuser has used, displayed (shown), or threatened to use a firearm/weapon in a felony, previously committed any offense that makes him/her ineligible to possess a firearm, or if the judge believes that the abuser’s possession of a firearm or other dangerous weapon presents a serious and immediate threat to you or someone else, the judge may also:

  • require the abuser to surrender any firearm or other dangerous weapon or any concealed pistol license; and
  • prohibit the abuser from obtaining or possessing a firearm or other dangerous weapon or a concealed pistol license.3

Note: The surrender of any firearm/weapon or prohibition on getting or having a firearm/weapon may be for a period of time less than the length of the anti-harassment order.3

1 R.C.W. § 10.14.080(6)
2 R.C.W. § 10.14.040(7)
3 R.C.W. §§ 10.14.080(6)(d); 9.41.800

If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?

When 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.

There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:

  1. The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
  2. One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
  3. If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.

However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.

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.

Who is eligible

Against whom can I file? What if the abuser doesn’t live in Washington?

You do not have to have any specific type of relationship with the abuser to file for a civil anti-harassment order1 as long as the person has committed the type of harassment described in What is the legal definition of harassment?  For example, the abuser may or may not be related or married to you; s/he could be a significant other, neighbor, co-worker, or relative.

If the abuser does not live in Washington, you may file for a civil anti-harassment order and the court can have jurisdiction (power) over that person if one of the following things are true:

  1. The abuser is personally served with the petition in Washington state;
  2. The abuser agrees to the Washington court having jurisdiction (power) over him/her;
  3. The acts of harassment took place in Washington (this includes when oral or written statements are made by an abuser outside Washington to a person in Washington, like sending mail or email);
  4. The harassment did not take place in Washington but it is part of an ongoing pattern of harassment that has a harmful effect on you or a member of your family or household and you live in Washington;
  5. Due to the harassment, you or a member of your family or household has fled to Washington to find safety or protection and currently lives in Washington; or
  6. Some other legal basis exists that gives a judge in Washington power over the case.2  For example, if the respondent runs a business in Washington or has significant connections to Washington, the judge may have power to issue an order.3  If you have questions about where to file in your specific situation, you may want to speak to a lawyer in Washington.

Note: If your situation falls under number 4 or 5 above, the abuser must have communicated with you or a member of your family either directly or indirectly, or threatened your safety or the safety of a member of your family while you or your family member lived in Washington.  The communication could be through the mail, the telephone, a posting online, or electronically such as through email.4

1 See R.C.W. § 10.14.080
2 R.C.W. § 10.14.155
3 See R.C.W. § 4.28.185
4 R.C.W. § 10.14.155(2)

Can I file for a civil anti-harassment order if I am a minor?

Can I file for a civil anti-harassment order for my minor child against an abuser who is a minor?

Maybe. A parent or guardian of a minor child (under 18) may file a petition for a civil anti-harassment order against a minor abuser (under 18) in superior court only in cases where the abuser has been to court for a crime against the victim or is/was under investigation for a crime.

When determining whether to issue a civil anti-harassment order against a minor, the judge will consider:

  • the facts of the case;
  • how serious the alleged offense is;
  • any continuing physical danger or emotional distress (harm) to the victim; and
  • the expense, difficulty, and educational disruption that would be caused by a transfer of the abuser to another school.

The court may order that the abuser not attend the public or approved private school attended by the victim. If the court does order a transfer of the abuser, the parents or legal guardians of the abuser are responsible for the costs, including transportation, associated with the change in school. The court will notify both the school the abuser will attend and the school the victim attends about this part of the order.1

1 R.C.W. § 10.14.040(7)

Getting the order

How much will it cost to file for a civil anti-harassment order?

There could be a filing fee and a service fee when filing a petition for a civil anti-harassment order, depending on who you are filing against.1 If you are seeking an order against an abuser who has stalked you, committed a sex offense against you, or who is a family or household member and committed domestic violence against you, you should file for a domestic violence order of protection or a sexual assault protection order and cannot be charged a fee for filing or serving the order on the abuser.2 If you are filing against anyone else, you can be charged the fee.

If you cannot afford the filing and service fees, you may file an application to proceed “in forma pauperis” which allows you to ask the judge to waive the fee. If the judge decides you cannot pay, you will be allowed to proceed “in forma pauperis” and you will not have to pay the filing fee or other related court costs.3

You may still have to pay the cost of having the abuser served with the court papers for a civil anti-harassment order.

Note: The judge may require the abuser to pay the filing fee and court costs, including service fees, and to reimburse you for your costs in the case, including reasonable attorney’s fees.4

1 R.C.W. § 36.18.020(2)(d)
2 R.C.W. § 10.14.055
3 R.C.W. § 10.14.060
4 R.C.W. § 10.14.090(2)

Do I need a lawyer to file for a civil anti-harassment order?

No, you do not need a lawyer to file for a civil anti-harassment order.1  However, you may wish to have a lawyer, especially if the abuser has a lawyer and/or if your case is going to go to trial.  If you can, contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected.  If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you may be able to find information on legal assistance on the WA Finding a Lawyer page.

Note: The judge may order the abuser to reimburse you for the costs of filing the civil anti-harassment order, including reasonable attorney’s fees.2

1 R.C.W. § 10.14.090(1)
2 R.C.W. § 10.14.090(2)

If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.

What are the steps involved with getting a civil anti-harassment order?

The steps for getting an anti-harassment order are similar to the steps involved with obtaining an order for protection.  You can file for an anti-harassment order with the clerk at the district courthouse or in some towns, the municipal court.  (Note: If the abuser is a minor, the case would be transferred to superior court.)1  The instructions may be similar to the order for protection petition, but you will fill out a different set of forms.

You may file in the district court in the judicial district of the county or in the municipality where:

  • The unlawful harassment occurred; or
  • Where the abuser resides at the time you file the petition.2

1 R.C.W. § 10.14.150
2 R.C.W. § 10.14.160

How can I modify (change) or renew my civil anti-harassment order?

To modify (change) your civil anti-harassment order, you will need to apply for a modification in court, and the abuser will have to be notified and have a chance to state his/her position to either object or consent to the modification. The court will have a hearing and may modify the terms of an existing order.1

To renew your civil anti-harassment order, you will need to file a petition for renewal within the three months before the expiration of the order. The petition should state the reasons why you wish to renew the anti-harassment order. The court will order a hearing no more than 14 days from the date it received the petition for renewal. The abuser must be notified at least five days before the hearing. The judge will grant the petition for renewal unless the abuser can prove that s/he will not start to harass you again when the order expires. The judge may renew the civil anti-harassment order for another fixed time period or may enter a permanent order.2

1 R.C.W. § 10.14.180
2 R.C.W. § 10.14.080(5)

Sexual Assault Protection Orders

A sexual assault protection order provides protection from someone who has sexually assaulted you.

Basic information

What is the legal definition of sexual assault in Washington?

For the purpose of getting a sexual assault protection order, the abuser must have committed one of two crimes against you: “nonconsensual sexual conduct” or “nonconsensual sexual penetration.”

Nonconsensual” means that you did not freely agree to the sexual conduct or penetration.1 If you “agreed” to the sexual contact because you were being threatened with physical harm, for example, that would not be considered that you “freely agreed” to the contact.

Sexual conduct is when the offender:

  • touches or fondles your genitals, anus, or breasts, including through clothing;
  • displays his/her genitals, anus, or breasts for the purposes of arousal or sexual gratification;
  • forces you to touch his/her genitals, anus, or breasts;
  • forces you to touch another person’s genitals, anus, or breasts;
  • forces you to display your genitals, anus, or breasts for the purpose of sexual gratification;
  • touches the body (clothed or unclothed) of a child under the age of thirteen for the purposes of sexual gratification or arousal; or
  • forces a child under the age of thirteen to touch or fondle (including through clothing) his/her genitals, anus, or breasts.2

Sexual penetration is:

  • any contact between the sex organ or anus of one person by
    • an object, or
    • the sex organ, mouth or anus of another person; or
  • any intrusion into the sex organ or anus of one person by
    • any part of the body of another person, or
    • any animal, or
    • any object.3

Note: There does not have to be semen found to prove sexual penetration.3

1 R.C.W. § 7.90.010(1)
2 R.C.W. § 7.90.010(4)(a)-(f)
3 R.C.W. § 7.90.010(5)

What is a sexual assault protection order?

If you have been the victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration by someone you are/were not in an intimate relationship with and who is not your family or household member, you may be eligible to file for a sexual assault protection order.1  If you were sexually assaulted by a current/former intimate partner or family/household member, then you may qualify for a domestic violence order for protection.  See Domestic Violence Orders for Protection for more information.

A sexual assault protection order is a paper that is signed by a judge and can order the offender to have no contact with you, leave your home, stay away from you or your workplace, and may provide other kinds of protection you may need.2  For a full list of the ways that a sexual assault protection order can help you, go to How can a sexual assault protection order help me? If the offender violates any of the provisions in the order, s/he can face legal consequences.3

You can file for a sexual assault protection order regardless of whether or not there is pending litigation (for example, a lawsuit, complaint, petition, or other action) or another protection order between you and the offender.  However, if there is pending litigation or another protection order between you (such as a criminal court order) you do need to let the court know about this.4

1 R.C.W. § 7.90.090(1)(a)
2 R.C.W. § 7.90.090(2)
3 R.C.W. § 26.50.110
4 R.C.W. § 7.90.020(1),(2)

What types of sexual assault protection orders are available? How long do they last?

There are two types of sexual assault protection orders available in Washington:

  1. An ex parte temporary sexual assault protection order; and
  2. A final sexual assault protection order (which can be for a fixed period of time (“nonpermanent”) or can be permanent).

You can get an ex parte temporary sexual assault protection order if you have been the victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration and the judge believes that you would likely be harmed by the offender if s/he were given notice of your petition before you got the sexual assault protection order.1 The offender does not need to be present or have notice of the hearing for a temporary sexual assault protection order, which is what is meant by the term “ex parte.” An ex parte temporary order may be renewed one or more times as needed.2

An ex parte temporary order is effective for a set period of time, which is usually up to 14 days (or up to 24 days if service by publication or service by mail is permitted). The court will schedule a final hearing to determine whether or not to grant a final sexual assault protection order no later than 14 days (or 24 days) after the temporary protection order was issued.2

A final sexual assault protection order will be granted if the judge believes that you have been a victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration.3 You will have the opportunity to prove this to the judge at the final sexual assault protection order hearing where you can present evidence, witnesses, testimony, etc. We strongly recommend getting an attorney to represent you at the hearing, if possible, to make sure your legal rights are protected. You can find legal referrals on our WA Finding a Lawyer page. If you are unable to get a lawyer, you can get more information about preparing for court on our At the Hearing page. The final order is effective for a fixed period of time (nonpermanent) or it can be permanent (last forever). A nonpermanent order may be renewed one or more times if you file a motion for renewal stating the reasons why you want to renew it at any time within the three months before the order expires.4 See How do I extend my protection order?

1 R.C.W. § 7.90.110(1)(a),(b)
2 R.C.W. §§ 7.90.120(1)(a); 7.90.121(1)
3 R.C.W. § 7.90.090(1)(a)
4 R.C.W. § 7.90.120(2); 7.90.121(2)

What protections can I get in a sexual assault protection order?

A sexual assault protection order can:

  • order the respondent to not have any physical contact with you;
  • order the respondent to not have any nonphysical contact with you either directly (for example, no phone calls, mail, email, written notes, faxes, etc.) or indirectly (through another person, often called “a third party”);
  • exclude (remove) the respondent from your home, workplace, school, or the day care or school of your child (if the child is the victim) or other locations;
  • prohibit (forbid) the respondent from coming within a certain distance of your home, workplace, school, day care or other locations;
  • order the respondent to transfer schools if s/he attends the same school as you; and/or
  • anything else that the judge believes is necessary to protect you.1

1 R.C.W. § 7.90.090(2)(a)-(d),(3); see also Petition for Sexual Assault Protection Order

Where can I file the petition?

You can file in the county or municipality where you live.1

1 R.C.W. § 7.90.040(6)

If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?

When 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.

There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:

  1. The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
  2. One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
  3. If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.

However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.

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.

Getting a sexual assault protection order

Am I eligible to file for an sexual assault protection order?

A sexual assault protection order is only for a victim of sexual assault who does not qualify for a domestic violence order for protection.1  If you qualify for a domestic violence order for protection, then that would be the petition you would file, not a sexual assault protection order petition. See our Am I eligible to file for a domestic violence order for protection? for more information about which order you might qualify for.

To get a sexual assault protection order, you must show that you have been the victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration. The judge cannot require proof of physical injury or proof that you reported the sexual assault to law enforcement when considering whether to give you the order.2  For the definitions of nonconsensual sexual conduct and sexual penetration, go to: What is the legal definition of sexual assault in Washington?

Note: If the judge believes that you were the victim of sexual assault, the judge cannot deny your petition for a sexual assault protection order even if any of the following are true:

  • you and/or the offender were voluntarily intoxicated (drunk, on drugs, etc.);
  • you engaged in some consensual sexual touching before the sexual assault;3
  • you did not report the assault to law enforcement;
  • you or the offender are minors (under age 18); or
  • you do not have proof of a physical injury.4

These things should not matter to the judge when deciding whether or not to grant you a sexual assault protection order.

1 R.C.W. § 7.90.030(1)(a)
2 R.C.W. § 7.90.090(1)(b)
3 R.C.W. § 7.90.090(4)
4 R.C.W. § 7.90.090(1)(b)

How much does it cost to get a sexual assault protection order?

There is no fee for filing the petition or for having it served on the offender (known as “service of process”). Also, you should be provided with however many certified copies that you need free of charge.1

1 R.C.W. § 7.90.055

You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

Can I file a petition on my own? Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer to file a sexual assault protection order – you can file on your own.  However, you may wish to have a lawyer represent you on the case, especially if the offender has a lawyer or if the case is going to go to trial.  If you can, contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected.  If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find information on legal assistance on the WA Finding a Lawyer page.  If the respondent (offender) is represented by a lawyer, the court may appoint a lawyer to represent you as well.1 

Anyone who is 16 or over who has been the victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration (and who does not qualify for a domestic violence order for protection) can file.  If you are under the age of 16, an adult can file on your behalf.2  An adult can also file on behalf of a victim who is considered to be a vulnerable adult (someone who is disabled/incapacitated) or on behalf of any adult who cannot file because of his/her age, disability, health or inaccessibility to the courthouse.3

Note: The judge may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent a minor for the court case if the judge thinks it is necessary.4 

1 R.C.W. § 7.90.070
2 R.C.W. § 7.90.030(1)(b)(i)
3 R.C.W. § 7.90.030(1)(b)(ii),(iii)
4 R.C.W. § § 7.90.040(4)

If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.

Can a minor file for a sexual assault protection order?

Only a minor who is 16 or over and has been the victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration (and does not qualify for a domestic violence protection order) can file for a sexual assault protection order. Anyone who is 16 years old or older does not need to have a guardian or a guardian ad litem to file for the protection order. However, the judge may appoint a guardian ad litem (at no cost) to represent the minor if the judge thinks it is necessary.1

1 R.C.W. § 7.90.040(2)-(4)

Can a sexual assault advocate come to court with me?

Yes. You can have a sexual assault advocate come to court with you and talk to you in court, unless the judge says otherwise. The advocate can also help you prepare the petition.1

1 R.C.W. § 7.90.060

What are the steps involved with obtaining a sexual assault protection order?

The steps for getting a sexual assault protection order are similar to the steps involved with obtaining a domestic violence order for protection.  See our What are the steps for getting a domestic violence order of protection? page for more information.  The forms will be slightly different, so be sure to ask the clerk for the paperwork to file for a sexual assault protection order.

A person may file on behalf of a minor child or vulnerable adult who has been the victim of nonconsensual conduct or penetration.  Victims who are 16 and over can file on their own (don’t need parent or guardian).1

1 R.C.W. §§ 7.90.030(b)(ii),(iii), 7.90.040(1)-(3)

After the hearing

What should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some things you may want to consider doing. However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation.

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk how to correct the order before you leave.
  • Make several copies of the order as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the offender.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.

One week after court, you may want to call your local law enforcement offices to make sure they have received copies of the sexual assault protection order from the clerk.

Where can I go for non-legal help and support?

You may want to reach out for support to deal with the trauma of being sexually assaulted – there are places that you can call for help. There are also Internet “chat rooms” for victims of sexual assault and incest where you can remain anonymous and still get support from others who have been through similar assaults. Go to our National Organizations - Rape/Sexual Assault page for resources.

You can also read more about Sexual Assault/Rape, Marital/Partner Rape and Forced Prostitution on our site.

How do I extend my protection order?

You can renew a final (nonpermanent) sexual assault protection order one or more times, as needed.  To apply for a renewal of a final (nonpermanent order), you would file a motion for renewal within 3 months before the order expires in which you would state the reasons why you want to renew the order.  A hearing on the motion will be held within 14 days (or within 24 days if the judge allows service by publication or service by mail).  Under exceptional circumstances, you may be able to appear at the hearing by telephone if necessary to prevent further sexual abuse.1

In order for the judge to deny the renewal, the abuser would have to prove at a hearing that:

  • there has been a “material change in circumstances;” and  
  • the abuser is therefore “not likely” to engage in, or attempt to engage in, physical or nonphysical contact with you once the order expires.2  

It is not enough, however, for the abuser to just prove that a lot of time has passed since the order was issued and s/he has followed the terms of the order during that time.  (However, those factors can be considered along with other factors presented by the abuser.)2  To read all of the factors that the judge can consider when deciding if, in fact, there has been a material change in circumstances, go to What factors will a judge take into consideration when deciding whether or not to extend my order?

If the judge rules in your favor, the sexual assault protection order can be renewed for another fixed time period or it can be permanent order (last forever).2

1 R.C.W. § 7.90.121(1),(2),(4)
2 R.C.W. § 7.90.121(3)(b)

What factors will a judge take into consideration when deciding whether or not to extend my order?

In order for the judge to deny your request to extend/renew your order, the abuser would have to prove that there has been a “material change in circumstances” and that s/he is therefore “not likely” to engage in, or attempt to engage in, physical or nonphysical contact with you once the order expires. The following are a list of factors that the judge can consider when deciding if, in fact, there has been a material change in circumstances:

  1. whether the respondent has committed or threatened sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, or other violent acts since the protection order was entered;
  2. whether the respondent has violated the terms of the protection order and how much time has passed since the order was issued;
  3. whether the respondent has shown suicidal ideations or suicide attempts since the protection order was entered;
  4. whether the respondent has been convicted of any criminal activity since the protection order was entered;
  5. whether the respondent has either:
    • acknowledged responsibility for the acts of sexual assault that caused you to get the protection order; or
    • successfully completed sexual assault perpetrator treatment or counseling since the protection order was entered;
  6. whether the respondent has a continuing involvement with drug or alcohol abuse, if such abuse was a factor in the protection order;
  7. whether you or the respondent has relocated to an area that puts more distance between you (although the judge is also supposed to recognize that acts of sexual assault can be committed from any distance including online); and
  8. any other factors relating to a material change in circumstances.1

1 R.C.W. § 7.90.121(3)(b),(c)

What happens if I move?

Your order is valid throughout the state of Washington and in all U.S. states and territories.  When you first get the order from court, a copy of your order is forwarded by the clerk of the court to the appropriate law enforcement agency that is specified in the order.  Then, this law enforcement agency will enter your order into a computer database that other law enforcement agencies in the state have access to.  Once it is in the database, this is considered giving notice to all law enforcement agencies that the order exists, and therefore it is enforceable in any county you move to within Washington.1 

Additionally, federal law provides what is called “full faith and credit,” which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. territories and tribal lands.2  However, different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders.  If you are moving to another state, you can find out about your new state’s policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, a lawyer in your state, or the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111, ext. 2).

1 R.C.W. § 7.90.160(1),(2)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a)

What if the abuser violates the order?

Violating an order for protection is against the law. There are two ways to get help if the abuser violates the order.

You may file for civil contempt for a violation of the order. The abuser may be in “civil contempt” if s/he does anything that your order for protection orders him/her not to do. To file for civil contempt, go to the clerk’s office in the courthouse where the order was issued and ask for the forms to file for civil contempt.

You can also seek justice through the criminal justice system by reporting the abuser to the police. Violation of an order of protection can be a “gross misdemeanor,” which is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to 364 days, a fine o up to $5,000, or both. In certain cases, such as where there have been prior violations of orders of protection or if the abuser commits an assault when violating the order, it can be a class c felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.1

1 R.C.W. §§ 26.50.110(1)(a),(4),(5); 9A.20.021(1)(c),(2)

Vulnerable Adult Protection Orders

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

What 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.1

1 R.C.W. § 74.34.020(22)

What 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.1

1 R.C.W. § 74.34.110(1)

What 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.1

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.2

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.3

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.4

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.5

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.6

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

What 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.1

A temporary order can last for up to 14 days until the hearing for the full order.2

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.3 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.4 The judge can issue a full vulnerable adult protection order for a period of up to 5 years.5

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

What protections can a vulnerable adult get in a vulnerable adult protection order?

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.1

1 R.C.W. § 74.34.130

If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?

When 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.

There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:

  1. The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
  2. One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
  3. If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.

However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.

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.

Getting the order

Who 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.”1

The Department of Social and Health Services may also file for an order on behalf of a vulnerable adult.2

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

What 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.1

1 R.C.W. § 74.34.020(12)

What are the steps to get a vulnerable adult protection order?

Extreme Risk Protection Orders (to remove firearms)

An extreme risk protection order is a civil court order that temporarily restricts a person’s access to guns if s/he poses a danger to him/herself or others.

Basic info

What is an extreme risk protection order?

An extreme risk protection order is a civil court order prohibiting an individual (called the respondent) from controlling, purchasing, possessing, or receiving firearms. Extreme risk protection orders are used to prevent the respondent from using a firearm to harm himself/herself or others.1

1 Wash. Code § 7.94.010(1)

Who can file for an extreme risk protection order?

You can file for an extreme risk protection order if the respondent poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to himself/herself or others in the near future by having, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm. Additionally, to file for an extreme risk protection order, you must be the respondent’s family or household member or a law enforcement officer or agency.1 You are considered a member of the respondent’s family or household if you and the respondent are:

  • related by blood, marriage, or adoption;
  • dating partners;
  • parents to the same child regardless of whether you were married to the respondent or lived with the respondent at any time;
  • living together, or have lived together within the past year;
  • domestic partners;
  • in a biological or legal parent-child relationship, including step-parents and step-children and grandparents and grandchildren; or
  • in a legal guardian relationship – in other words, where you are or were the respondent’s legal guardian.2

1 Wash. Code § 7.94.030(1)
2 Wash. Code § 7.94.020(2)

What types of orders are there? How long do they last?

There are two types of extreme risk protection orders: ex parte extreme risk protection orders and extreme risk protection orders issued after a hearing.

Ex parte extreme risk protection orders: The judge will issue an ex parte extreme risk protection restraining order if s/he finds there is reasonable cause to believe that the respondent poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to himself/herself or others in the near future by having, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm.1 The respondent does not need to be in the courtroom or have notice of the case for you to get an ex parte order. You may just have to swear to the truth of your statements in court. An ex parte extreme risk protection order lasts for up to 14 days until the next court hearing.2

Extreme risk protection orders issued after hearing: A longer-term extreme risk protection order can be issued after the respondent receives notice and has the opportunity to be present for a hearing in court. At the hearing, the judge will decide if the respondent poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to himself/herself or others by having, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm. An extreme risk protection order issued after a hearing will last for a period of one year.3

Note: The respondent can request a hearing to end the extreme risk protection order once every 12 months.4 A petitioner can also request to renew an extreme risk protection order. One hundred and five days before the order is set to expire, the court must notify the petitioner of the impending expiration.5

1 Wash. Code § 7.94.050(3)
2 Wash. Code § 7.94.050(5)
3 Wash. Code § 7.94.040(d)(2)
4 Wash. Code § 7.94.040(7)(g)
5 Wash. Code § 7.94.080(2)

What protections can I get in an extreme risk protection order?

In an extreme risk protection order, the judge can order that the respondent not have firearms in his/her custody or control and not purchase, possess, receive, or attempt to purchase or receive a firearm while the order is in effect.1 The order also requires the respondent to surrender any firearms s/he currently has in his/her custody.2

1 Wash. Code § 7.94.040(7)(g)
2 Wash. Code § 7.94.050(6)(g)

Getting the order

How do I get an extreme risk protection order?

The steps to get an extreme risk protection order are similar to the steps to get a domestic violence restraining order, but you will fill out different forms.  When filing for an extreme risk protection order, your petition must include:

  • the specific statements, actions, or facts that cause you to fear future dangerous acts by the respondent;
  • the number, types, and locations of any firearms you believe to be in the respondent’s current ownership, possession, custody, or control;
  • whether there are any known restraining orders issued against the respondent; and
  • whether there are any pending lawsuits or court cases involving you and the respondent in the state of Washington.1

1 Wash. Code § 7.94.030(3)

How will a judge make a decision about whether or not to grant the order?

In deciding whether to grant an extreme risk protection order, a judge will consider multiple factors including evidence of whether the respondent:

  • engaged in a recent act or threat of violence against himself/herself or others even if it doesn’t involve a firearm;
  • has a pattern of violent acts or a pattern of threatening acts of violence within the past twelve months;
  • shows behavior that presents an immediate (imminent) threat of harm to him/herself or others;
  • violated a domestic violence protection order, a sexual assault protection order, a stalking protection order, a civil harassment order, a harassment no-contact order, a domestic violence no-contact order, or a domestic or family violence, harassment, sexual abuse, or stalking protection order issued in another state;
  • has a previous or existing extreme risk protection order issued against him/her;
  • violated a previous or existing extreme risk protection order issued against him/her;
  • was convicted of a domestic violence crime;
  • owns, has access to, or has the intent to possess firearms;
  • unlawfully or recklessly used, displayed, or brandished a firearm;
  • has a history of use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against another person or a history of stalking another person;
  • was previously arrested for a felony offense or violent crime;
  • abused controlled substances or alcohol; and
  • recently obtained (bought, borrowed, stole, etc.) any firearms.1

Additionally, during the extreme risk protection order hearing, the judge must consider whether a behavioral health evaluation or drug evaluation (chemical dependency) is appropriate – and can order either one.2

1 Wash. Code § 7.94.040(3)
2 Wash. Code § 7.94.040(6)

Can I renew an extreme risk protection order?

You (the respondent’s family or household member or a law enforcement officer) can file a motion to renew the order at any time during the 105 days before the order’s expiration date. The judge will schedule a hearing on your request within 14 days. The respondent must be served with notice of your motion and have the opportunity to appear in court at the hearing to object to the renewal. The judge will consider evidence from both you and the respondent to decide whether to renew the order. If the judge finds that it is more likely than not that the requirements for issuing an extreme risk protection order continue to be met, the judge will renew the order. The renewed order will last for one year (so long as it is not terminated by the judge).1

1 Wash. Code § 7.94.080(3)

What happens if the respondent violates the order?

If the respondent violates the extreme risk protection order, s/he may be charged with a crime and may not be able to have a firearm for at least five more years after the order expires.1

1 Wash. Code § 7.94.120.

Moving to Another State with Your Domestic Violence Order for Protection

If you are moving out of state or are going to be out of the state for any reason, your order for protection can still be enforceable.

General rules

Can I get my domestic violence order for protection from Washington enforced in another state?

Yes. If you have a valid Washington domestic violence order for protection that meets federal standards, it can be enforced in another state.  The Violence Against Women Act, which is a federal law, states that all valid domestic violence orders for protection granted in the United States receive “full faith and credit” in all state and tribal courts within the U.S., including U.S. territories.  See How do I know if my domestic violence order for protection is good under federal law? to find out if your domestic violence order for protection qualifies.

Each state must enforce out-of-state domestic violence orders for protection in the same way it enforces its own orders, which means that if the abuser violates your out-of-state domestic violence order for protection, s/he will be punished according to the laws of whatever state you are in when the order is violated.  This is what is meant by “full faith and credit.”

How do I know if my domestic violence order for protection is good under federal law?

A domestic violence order for protection is good anywhere in the United States as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.2

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a), (b)

I have a temporary ex parte order. Can it be enforced in another state?

 Yes. An ex parte temporary order can be enforced in other states as long as it meets the requirements listed in How do I know if my domestic violence order for protection is good under federal law?1

Note: The state where you are going generally cannot extend your ex parte temporary order or issue you a permanent order when the temporary one expires.  If you need to extend your temporary order, you will have to contact the state that issued the order and arrange to be at the hearing in person or by telephone (if that is an option offered by the court).  However, you may be able to reapply for one in the new state that you are moving to if you meet the requirements for getting a protective order in that state- but, if you apply for one in a new state, the abuser would know the state you are living in, which may put you in danger.  To read the requirements for getting a restraining order in the new state, go to our Restraining Orders page and select the state from the drop-down menu.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(b)(2)

 

Getting your domestic violence order for protection from Washington enforced in another state

How do I get my domestic violence order for protection enforced in another state?

Federal law does not require you to take any special steps to get your domestic violence order for protection enforced in another state.

Many states do have laws or regulations (rules) about registering or filing of out-of-state orders, which can make enforcement easier, but a valid domestic violence order for protection is enforceable regardless of whether it has been registered or filed in the new state.1  Rules differ from state to state, so it may be helpful to find out what the rules are in your new state.  You can contact a local domestic violence organization for more information by visiting our Advocates and Shelters page and entering your new state in the drop-down menu.

Note: It is important to keep a copy of your domestic violence order for protection with you at all times.  It may also be a good idea to know the rules of states you will be living in or visiting to ensure that your out-of-state order can be enforced in a timely manner. 

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(d)(2)

Do I need anything special to get my domestic violence order for protection enforced in another state?

In some states, you will need a certified copy of your domestic violence order for protection. A certified copy from Washington will have a stamp on the first or last page that says “Certified Copy.” The last page will have a signature by the deputy clerk and a seal that you can feel is raised from the page.

To get a certified copy you can either go to the courthouse and request one or mail in a request.

Note: It is a good idea to keep a copy of the order with you at all times. You may also want to bring several copies of the order with you when you move to leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on. You may want to give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a picture of the abuser and give copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.

Can I get someone to help me? Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer to get your domestic violence order for protection enforced in another state.

However, you may want to get help from a local domestic violence advocate or attorney in the state where you move.  A domestic violence advocate can let you know what the advantages and disadvantages are for registering your domestic violence order for protection, and help you through the process if you decide to do so.

To find a domestic violence advocate or an attorney in the state you are moving to, select your state from the Advocates and Shelters page for advocates or the Finding a Lawyer page for legal services.

Do I need to tell the court in Washington if I move?

If you won’t be getting mail at your old address, you may want to give the court a new address where your mail can be sent. The court that gave you your order for protection likely should have an up-to-date address for you at all times so that you can be notified in case the abuser asks the judge to change or dismiss the order.

If you provide your new address to the court staff, make sure they know that you want to keep it confidential. It should be kept in a confidential part of your file where the public will not have access to it. If you feel unsafe giving your new address, you may be able to use the address of a friend you trust or a P.O. box instead.

Enforcing custody provisions in another state

I was granted temporary custody with my domestic violence order for protection. Can I take my kids out of the state?

Maybe.  It may depend on the exact wording of the custody provision in your domestic violence order for protection.  You may have to first seek the permission of the court before leaving.  If the abuser was granted visitation rights with your children, then you may have to have the order changed, or show the court that there is a fair and realistic alternative to the current visitation schedule.

To read more about custody laws in Washington, go to our WA Custody page.

If you are unsure about whether or not you can take your kids out of the state, it is important to talk to a lawyer who understands domestic violence and custody laws, and can help you make the safest decision for you and your children.  You can find contact information for legal assistance on our WA Finding a Lawyer page.

I was granted temporary custody with my domestic violence order for protection. Will another state enforce this custody order?

Yes. Custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in a domestic violence order for protection can be enforced across state lines. Law enforcement and courts in another state are required by federal law to enforce these provisions.1

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266

Enforcing your Out-Of-State Order in Washington

If you are planning to move to Washington or are going to be in Washington for any reason, your protection or restraining order can be enforced.

General rules for out-of-state orders in Washington

Can I get my protection order enforced in Washington? What are the requirements?

Yes.  Your protection order can be enforced in Washington as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.2

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a), (b)

Can I have my out-of-state protection order changed, extended, or canceled in Washington?

No.  Only the state that issued your protection order can change, extend, or cancel the order.  You cannot have this done by a court in Washington.

To have your order changed, extended, or canceled, you will have to file a motion or petition in the court where the order was issued.  You may be able to request that you attend the court hearing by telephone rather than in person, so that you do not need to return to the state where the abuser is living.  To find out more information about how to modify a restraining order, see the Restraining Orders page for the state where your order was issued.

If your order does expire while you are living in Washington, you may be able to get a new one issued in Washington but this may be difficult to do if no new incidents of abuse have occurred in Washington.  To find out more information on how to get a domestic violence order for protection in Washington, visit our Restraining Orders page.

I was granted temporary custody with my protection order. Will I still have temporary custody of my children in Washington?

Yes.  As long as the child custody provision complies with certain federal laws,1 Washington can enforce a temporary custody order that is a part of a protection order.  To have someone read over your order and tell you if it meets these standards, contact a lawyer in your area.  To find a lawyer in your area, go to our WA Finding a Lawyer page.

1 The federal laws are the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980.

Registering your out-of-state order in Washington

If I don’t have a hard copy of my out-of-state order, how can law enforcement enforce it?

To enforce an out-of-state order, law enforcement typically may rely on the National Crime Information Center Protection Order File (NCIC-POF). The NCIC-POF is a nationwide, electronic database that contains information about orders of protection that were issued in each state and territory in the U.S. The Protection Order File (POF) contains court orders that are issued to prevent acts of domestic violence, or to prevent someone from stalking, intimidating, or harassing another person. It contains orders issued by both civil and criminal state courts. The types of protection orders issued and the information contained in them vary from state to state.1

There is no way for the general public to access the NCIC-POF. That means you cannot confirm a protection order is in the registry or add a protection order to the registry without the help of a government agency that has access to it.

Typically, the state police or criminal justice agency in the state has the responsibility of reporting protection orders to NCIC. However, in some cases, the courts have taken on that role and they manage the protection order reporting process.2 NCIC–POF is used by law enforcement agencies when they need to verify and enforce an out-of-state protection order. It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.

However, not all states routinely enter protection orders into the NCIC. Instead, some states may enter the orders only in their own state protection order registry, which would not be accessible to law enforcement in other states. According to a 2016 report by the National Center for State Courts, more than 700,000 protection orders that were registered in state protection order databases were not registered in the federal NCIC Protection Order File.2 This means that if a law enforcement officer is trying to enforce a protection order from another state that is missing from the NCIC, the victim would likely need to show the officer a hard copy of the order to get it immediately enforced. If you no longer have a copy of your original order, you may want to contact the court that issued the order to ask them how you can get another copy sent to you.

1 National Center for Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit
2 See State Progress in Record Reporting for Firearm-Related Background Checks: Protection Order Submissions, prepared by the National Center for State Courts, April 2016

How do I register my protection order in Washington?

To register/file your protection order in Washington state, you must bring a certified copy of your protection order to a Washington court in the county in which you live or to a county court where you believe you may have to enforce the order.1  There is no fee to file an out-of-state protection order.2   The clerk will give you a form to fill out in which you need to include:

  1. The name of the person entitled to protection (you) and any other protected parties (such as your children);
  2. The name and address of the abuser;
  3. The date the protection order was entered;
  4. The date the protection order expires;
  5. The relief granted in the order (i.e., what the order gives to you and what it prevents the abuser from doing);
  6. The judicial district and contact information for court administration for the court in which the foreign protection order was entered;
  7. The Social Security number, date of birth, and description of the abuser;
  8. Whether or not the abuser is believed to be armed and dangerous;
  9. Whether or not the abuser was served with the order, and if so, the method used to serve the order; and
  10. The type and location of any other legal proceedings between the you and the abuser.3

Note: If you don’t have some of the information listed above, you can still register/file your order in court (and later enforce your order).3  Also, the information form should be kept confidential.4

If you need help registering your protection order, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in Washington for assistance. You can find contact information for organizations in your area on our WA Advocates and Shelters page.

1 R.C.W. § 26.52.030(1)
2 R.C.W. § 26.52.030(3)
3 R.C.W. § 26.52.030(5)
4 See the “Foreign Protection Order Information” form, which states: “Confidential” and “Do Not Show or Serve this form to the restrained person” and “Do not file in the court file”.

Do I have to register my protection order in Washington in order to get it enforced?

No. Neither federal law nor Washington state law1 requires that you register your protection order in order to get it enforced. (However, if your order is not entered into the registry, it may be more difficult for a Washington law enforcement official to determine whether your order is real, and it could take longer to get your order enforced.)

Washington state law says that if you show an order of protection from another state to a police officer for enforcement, the law enforcement officer must enforce it if it appears to be a valid order. The out-of-state protection order is valid if the court that gave it to you had the legal authority (power) to do so and it has not expired, or been changed/dismissed by the court. Also, the abuser must have been told about the hearing for the protection order and been given an opportunity to be present at the hearing (even if s/he never showed up at the hearing).2

1 R.C.W. § 26.52.030(2)
2 R.C.W. § 26.52.020

Will the abuser be notified if I register my protection order?

Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which applies to all U.S. states and territories, the court is not permitted to notify the abuser when a protective order has been registered or filed in a new state unless you specifically request that the abuser be notified.1  However, you may wish to confirm that the clerk is aware of this law before registering the order if your address is confidential.

However, remember that there may be a possibility that the abuser could somehow find out what state you have moved.  It is important to continue to safety plan, even if you are no longer in the state where the abuser is living.  We have some safety planning tips to get you started on our Staying Safe page.  You can also contact a local domestic violence organization to get help in developing a personalized safety plan.  You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our WA Advocates and Shelters page.

1 18 USC § 2265(d)

Does it cost anything to register my protection order?

No. There is no fee for registering your protection order in Washington.1

1 R.C.W. § 26.52.030(3)