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Legal Information: Washington

Restraining Orders

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December 3, 2020

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)