Handcuffs and Fingerprints on a Desk After an ArrestDomestic violence isn’t just emotionally and physically traumatic, it also makes Washington state divorce proceedings more complicated. During this stressful time, it’s vital to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side to protect your interests and make sure you take all the necessary steps to start your new life.

No-Contact Orders and Civil Standbys

Once you have reported domestic violence to the police, the police officer must make an arrest if there is probable cause to believe that a violent offense has been committed. If your spouse is charged with domestic violence, you may pursue several different kinds of protection orders to keep your abuser away from you or your children until the trial.

The court may require a No Contact Order (NCO) before releasing your spouse from jail. To retrieve possessions from the family home, your spouse may request a one-time “civil standby” in which a police officer will accompany you to the property while you collect your personal items. While the police officer will remain neutral during the 10-to-15 minute process, they will step in if a dispute begins.

What Happens If My Spouse Is Convicted of Domestic Violence?

The penalties for a domestic violence conviction in Washington state depend heavily on the nature and seriousness of the crime.

The Most Common Consequences of Being Found Guilty

  • Jail or prison time. Misdemeanor domestic violence offenses are punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine, while felony charges carry imprisonment of over one year and additional fines. Offenders may face longer sentencing and fines if they are charged with additional offenses, such as attempting to prevent a victim or witness from calling 911 or getting medical attention after an attack.
  • Loss of gun ownership. Every person convicted of a domestic violence crime in Washington state is prohibited from owning and carrying a firearm, including those who carry a gun in their employment (such as police officers or military members). At the time of the domestic violence conviction, a person will be asked to hand over any gun licenses and turn in any firearms. This restriction is permanent, but offenders may petition the court later to reinstate these rights.
  • Lost residency. If you are an immigrant, a domestic violence conviction may have particular implications regarding your residence in the United States.

When Can I Begin Divorce Proceedings?

You can file divorce paperwork anytime, including when your spouse is in jail or serving a prison sentence. The papers will need to be done by a process server or member of law enforcement, so you will not have to visit your spouse in jail to initiate the divorce.

Under the Revised Code of Washington 26.09.090 and RCW 26.09.080, judges must act “without regard for misconduct” when determining spousal support and dividing the marital property. However, judges in divorce court can consider domestic violence when determining child custody. If a parent has a history of abuse, the judge may grant sole custody to the other parent and place restrictions and limits on visitation.

Let a Washington State Divorce Attorney Stand By You

The emotional toll of divorce is overwhelming for many spouses. Still, it is exceptionally high for people recovering from an abusive partner, and it’s vital that you prepare for the difficulties that lie ahead. You will need a strong support system of friends and family, and you may need to begin seeing a therapist or counselor to help you overcome negative feelings reinforced by your abuser. If your spouse contests the divorce, they may attempt to drag out the process in court out of spite or cause delays to convince you to reconcile.

An attorney can be your sword and shield throughout the process, giving you the advice you need and getting you everything you need to move forward. Call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today at (425) 460-0550 to arrange a private consultation, or use our online contact form to have us get back to you. We also invite you to read through our free guide, 9 Urban Myths about Divorce That Can Hurt You.


Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington