There are many different kinds of legal protection that can help keep you, your children, and your family members safe after you have escaped an abusive situation. There are four types of domestic violence court orders that legally protect victims from abuse in Washington State, and each of these has slightly different rules:

1. Order of Protection

This order is typically filed by a spouse, girlfriend / boyfriend, domestic partner, or family member of the abuser. The abuser will be legally required to vacate a shared residence with the victim and will be prohibited from entering any shared space. The victim will often be given temporary custody of children—with or without visitation—until the abuser completes a domestic violence counseling program. If the abuser violated the order, he or she may be placed under arrest and place possible criminal or contempt charges if it is clear that the violation was willful and the abuser intended harm toward the victim.

2. Restraining Order

Unlike a protection order, those who file for restraining orders in Washington do not need to have experienced physical assault or threats of violence. These orders are often filed by married persons in order to protect a child during divorce proceedings, legal separation, or while waiting to determine parentage. Restraining orders can include all measures as an Order for Protection, but can also order child support payments and maintenance income, divide property to both parties, and establish permanent child custody. Violators may be arrested and face possible criminal or contempt charges.

3. Anti-Harassment Order

These orders may be filed against abusers who have no relation with the victim, have not yet resulted in abuse, but have caused alarm, annoyance, or harassment of the victim—such as stalking. The order prohibits harassment by preventing all forms of contact, including limiting the specific distance the abuser may travel toward the victim's residence, workplace, or school. An abuser who violates the mandatory distance limits may be arrested.

4. No Contact Order

This is a specific order that may only be filed after a victim has reported an incident to the police and is waiting for the results of criminal charges. Victims may request a no contact order after the abuser’s arrest, which prohibits contact of any kind as long as the criminal case is active in order to protect the victim until the trial. Violation of the order can carry further criminal charges, and victims should report the violation immediately to have the abuser arrested.

What Should I Do If My Legal Protection Order Has Been Violated?

If you are in danger, you should always respond by calling the police. If the abuser shows up at your home or in your parking lot at work, dial 911 and keep the police on the line while staying safely inside. Tell them you have a court order and it is being violated. You should keep a certified copy of your order with you at all times to prove to police that they have the authority to arrest the abuser for committing a crime.

If you or your family members are in danger, we can help. Find a local shelter or safe location in Seattle, or click the contact link above to let us know how we may contact you privately.

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