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Legal Information: Washington

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of December 15, 2023

What is the legal definition of a vulnerable adult?

A vulnerable adult is defined by law as a person who:

  • is 60 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 section 11.130.265 or section 11.130.360 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(21); 7.105.010(37)

What are the legal definitions of abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect?

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 health care.1

Abuse is the intentional or reckless action, or failure to act, that causes injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment to a vulnerable adult. Abuse includes sexual abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse, personal exploitation, and improper use of restraint against the vulnerable adult, which are defined below.2

Financial exploitation is the illegal or improper use, control over, or withholding of the property, income, resources, or trust funds of a vulnerable adult by any person or entity for the profit or advantage of any person or entity other than the vulnerable adult. This includes:

  1. the use of deception, intimidation, or undue influence by someone in a position of trust with the vulnerable adult;
  2. when someone who has the legal responsibility to act in the best interest of the vulnerable adult (“fiduciary duty”) breaches that duty; for example, a person with power of attorney or guardianship over the vulnerable adult; or
  3. the use of the vulnerable adult’s property, income, resources, or trust funds by someone who knows the vulnerable adult lacks the ability to agree to that use.3

Improper use of restraint 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 is considered abuse.4

Mental abuse means an intentional or reckless verbal or nonverbal action that threatens, humiliates, harasses, coerces, isolates, unreasonably confines, or punishes a vulnerable adult. This can include withholding or tampering with prescribed medications.5

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, causing 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.6

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
  • forcing the vulnerable adult to perform services for the benefit of another.7

Physical abuse is the intentional or reckless causing of bodily injury or physical mistreatment of the vulnerable adult, which includes but is not limited to acts like hitting, slapping, pinching, strangulation, suffocation, kicking, shoving, or prodding.8

Sexual abuse is any form of non-consensual sexual activity, including but not limited to unwanted or inappropriate touching, rape, molestation, indecent liberties, sexual coercion, sexually explicit photographing or recording, voyeurism, indecent exposure, and sexual harassment. If the vulnerable adult is in a facility or program, sexual abuse includes any sexual conduct between the vulnerable adult and a staff person, even if the vulnerable adult has “agreed” to it.9

1 R.C.W. §§ 74.34.020(1); 7.105.010(1)
2 R.C.W. §§ 74.34.020(2); 7.105.010(2)
3 R.C.W. §§ 74.34.020(7); 7.105.010(14)
4 R.C.W. §§ 74.34.020(2)(e); 7.105.010(2)(a)
5 R.C.W. §§ 74.34.020(2)(c); 7.105.010(2)(b)
6 R.C.W. §§ 74.34.020(15); 7.105.010(25)
7 R.C.W. §§ 74.34.020(2)(d); 7.105.010(2)(c)
8 R.C.W. §§ 74.34.020(2)(b); 7.105.010(2)(d)
9 R.C.W. §§ 74.34.020(2)(a); 7.105.010(2)(e)

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

There are two types of vulnerable adult protection orders in Washington:

Temporary protection order
A temporary protection order is meant to protect you until the court hearing for a full protection order. The first order can be “ex parte,” which means it is issued without the abuser being notified. Temporary protection orders can also be issued between court dates before the completion of the hearing to decide about the full protection order.1

In addition to requesting an ex parte temporary protection order, you can ask for an order to surrender and prohibit weapons until the full hearing can be held. If you request this, the judge will include your children in the ex parte temporary order unless there is a good reason not to.2 A judge will grant an ex parte temporary order only if s/he believes that you are in danger of serious immediate harm or permanent (irreparable) injury.3

Ex parte temporary orders last for a fixed period of up to 14 days.2 If the hearing date is extended and a temporary protection order is re-issued, the new date must not be more than 14 days later. Any temporary order to surrender and prohibit weapons that the judge gave you will be re-issued as well.6 If the court permits service of the abuser by publication or mail, the order will last for a fixed period up to 30 days.5 Your ex parte temporary order should clearly state the expiration date.7

Full protection order
A full protection order can be issued only after the abuser is notified and there is a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to tell your sides of the story, present evidence, witnesses, etc., or it can be entered by agreement of the parties without the need for a hearing.8 The hearing can be held in person or remotely.9

Generally, the full vulnerable adult protection order can be for a fixed period of time or permanent. Unless you ask for a shorter amount of time, the order will last for at least one year.10 If it only lasts for a fixed period, you can ask to have it renewed.11

Note: If the judge included in the order that the abuser cannot contact his/her minor children, then that part of the protection order can only last up to one year, but you can apply to renew that part of the order at the end of the one-year period.12 To get more information about renewing your order, please see How do I extend my protection order?

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

1 R.C.W. § 7.105.010(35)
2 R.C.W. § 7.105.100(8)
3 R.C.W. § 7.105.305(1)
4 R.C.W. § 7.105.105(12)
5 R.C.W. § 7.105.200(3)
6 R.C.W. § 7.105.400(2)
7 R.C.W. § 7.105.305(2)
8 R.C.W. § 7.105.010(17)
9 R.C.W. § 7.105.205(1)
10 R.C.W. § 7.105.315(1)
11 R.C.W. § 7.105.405(1)
12 R.C.W. § 7.105.315(2)(a)

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

The judge in a protection order case has broad powers to issues order that are appropriate to your situation, including:

  • ordering the abuser not to do the following against you or anyone else protected by the order:
  • ordering the abuser not to contact you or your children, your family members, or members of your household;
  • ordering the abuser to stay away from your home, even if you share it with the abuser, as well as your work, school, or from the school or day care of your child;
  • prohibiting the abuser from coming within a certain distance from a specific location;
  • making a temporary order about the living arrangement of your children, which can suspend visitation under a parenting plan if appropriate;
  • ordering the abuser to participate in a domestic violence perpetrator treatment program or a sex offender treatment program;
  • ordering the abuser to get a mental health or chemical dependency evaluation;
  • ordering the abuser not to attend the same school as you or your child, if the order protects your child;
  • requiring the abuser to pay the court costs and fees for your petition, including reasonable attorneys’ fees;
  • ordering the abuser not to harass you, follow you, keep you under physical or electronic surveillance, cyberharass you, or use telephonic, audiovisual, or other electronic means to monitor the actions, location, or communication of you, your children, or members of your household;
  • ordering the abuser to submit to electronic monitoring, unless the abuser is a minor;
  • requiring the abuser to surrender his/her firearms and prohibiting the abuser from having access to any other firearms if certain conditions are met (Note: You can read about the conditions that must be met for the judge to order the firearm removed on our Selected Washington Statutes page in section (1) of RCW 9.41.800);
  • making an order regarding possession of your essential personal property, including a pet owned by you, your child, or the abuser;
  • making an order regarding the use of a vehicle;
  • restricting the abuser from engaging in abusive litigation, making harassing or libelous communications to third parties, or making false reports to investigative agencies;
  • requiring an accounting by the abuser of the vulnerable adult’s income or other resources;
  • preventing the transfer of the abuser’s property or the vulnerable adult’s property for up to 90 days; 
  • prohibiting the transfer of any assets you jointly own with the abuser and ordering other financial relief; or
  • prohibiting the abuser from having or distributing intimate images of you, including requiring the abuser to take down and delete any such images.1

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

Note: The judge cannot require that you, as the petitioner, get any services, including drug testing, victim support services, mental health assessments, or a psychological evaluation.2

1 R.C.W. § 7.105.310(1)
2 R.C.W. § 7.105.310(4)(a)

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

If you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her. However, under Washington law, there are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:

  1. After you file your petition, the abuser gets personally served with the court petition while s/he is in Washington;
  2. The abuser gives in (“submits”) to the jurisdiction of the Washington state court by: 
    • agreement (“consent”);
    • “entering a general appearance,” which often means s/he show up in court at the return court date; or
    • filing a responsive document in court without objecting to personal jurisdiction, which has the effect of waiving any objection to personal jurisdiction;
  3. The actions of the abuser, or someone acting as an “agent” of the abuser, that you listed in your petition as your reason for needing the protection order, took place:
    • in Washington; or
    • outside of Washington but the actions are part of an ongoing pattern that has a negative effect on you or a member of your family or household; or
  4. As a result of the actions that are listed in your petition as your reason for needing the protection order, you or a member of your family or household has sought safety or protection in Washington and currently live(s) in Washington; or
  5. Due to any other reason listed in section 4.28.185 of the law or in the Constitutions of Washington or the United States.1

Note: For the court to have jurisdiction due to the reasons listed in #3 or #4, above, the abuser must have communicated with you or a member of the your family, directly or indirectly, or made known a threat to the safety of you or a member your family, while the victim lived in Washington.A threat can be “communicated” or “made known” in any of the following ways: in person, through publication, by mail, telephone, through an electronic communication site or medium, by text, or through other social media.3 If a written or oral statement is made by any of these means by a person outside of Washington to a person inside the state, that is considered to have been an act that happens within Washington.4

You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.

Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.

1 R.C.W. § 7.105.080(1)
2 R.C.W. § 7.105.080(2)
3 R.C.W. § 7.105.080(3)(a)
4 R.C.W. § 7.105.080(3)(b)