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:
- 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;
- 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;
- 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
- 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.