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Legal Information: Washington

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of December 15, 2023

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 protection order.

You can get the forms from the civil clerk at the courthouse, but you may want to download them before you go and fill them out at home or with a domestic violence advocate. You will find links to forms online on our WA Download Court Forms page. Go to WA Advocates and Shelters to find an advocate in your area.

Write about the incidents of violence, using specific language, such as 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 mailing address. If you are staying at a shelter, give a P.O. Box, not the street address. If you want to keep your address confidential, ask the clerk how to do so.

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 an ex parte temporary order, the judge or commissioner will either issue the order without holding a hearing or the judge can choose to hold a hearing first. The ex parte hearing can be in person, by telephone, by video, or by other electronic means on the day your petition is filed or the next day the court is in session. At the hearing, you can tell the judge why you need the order.1 The abuser does not have to be present or be told you are asking the judge for an ex parte temporary protection order.

After the ex parte hearing, if you are granted a temporary order, the clerk will file the signed temporary order and give you one or more certified copies. Remember that you may need additional copies for schools, daycare, and your place of employment. You cannot be charged a fee for being given the “necessary” number of certified copies of your order.2

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 full domestic violence protection order within 14 days, assuming your petition is not dismissed.3 This hearing will be in front of a judge at the 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, you and the abuser will both have a chance to explain your sides to the judge, present evidence and witnesses, etc.

1 R.C.W. § 7.105.105(12)
2 R.C.W. § 7.105.105(9)
3 R.C.W. § 7.105.305(4)

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.1 If you are unable to have the respondent served after two attempts, the judge may allow you to serve the respondent by mail, electronically, or by publication, unless you request another chance to have the respondent served in person.2 If the respondent was served but does not show up, the hearing can proceed without the respondent.

The clerk will send the law enforcement office a copy of the petition for the protection order 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 lives to serve the papers. Do not attempt to serve the papers to the abuser yourself.

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?

1 R.C.W. § 7.105.165(1)
2 R.C.W. § 7.105.150

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 ensure 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

When you leave the court, you should have the following papers:

  • copy of the petition for a protection order;
  • 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 full 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 later court date (“continuance”), if that is possible.

You may wish to hire a lawyer to represent you at the hearing, especially if the abuser has one.  If the abuser shows up with a lawyer, you can ask the judge for a continuance so that you have time to find a lawyer. Go to WA Finding a Lawyer to find help in your area. 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.