May 21st, 2023
The Importance of Civil Protection Orders in Washington State
Close relationships are inherently complex, especially those involving spouses, dating partners, ex-partners, family members, and roommates. While all relationships have their share of ups and downs, some individuals become overly aggressive, controlling, or abusive over time. If you are struggling with a spouse, dating partner, or family member who is subjecting you to abuse, harassment, stalking, or other forms of unwanted contact, it’s essential to recognize that you can seek a protection order to stop the abuser’s behavior. Washington State allows petitioners to seek protection orders that remove them from harmful environments and shelter them from continued abuse. This post will explore the purpose of civil protection orders and the process for obtaining a protection order in King County.
The Purpose of Protection Orders in Washington
Over the last few decades, state legislatures have taken steps to help protect victims of domestic violence and abuse. The Washington state legislature considers protection orders to be a “valuable tool to increase safety for victims and to hold batterers accountable.” Lawmakers and advocacy groups encourage victims to seek these protections early on in an abusive relationship, as they can prevent the abuser from escalating their behavior and inflicting catastrophic injuries or harm on the victim. While victims may petition the court for a protection order at any time, periods of separation tend to be especially ripe for abusive behaviors. When one spouse or dating partner tries to leave the other, the abusive individual may use force, coercion, or manipulation to keep the other within their control. Protection orders aim to protect victims from abuse and harm as they separate or seek a divorce from their abuser.
When to Seek a Civil Protection Order
Many domestic violence victims hesitate to seek a protection order because they do not believe their experiences warrant such action. For instance, someone who experiences emotional manipulation or verbal abuse from a partner may assume that protection orders only apply to victims of physical abuse. It’s essential to recognize the scope of abusive behaviors that can be addressed by putting a protection order in place. In fact, Washinton provides several different types of protection orders. Below are some of the most common types of civil protection orders that petitioners seek.
Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO)
This type of protection order is intended to safeguard the petitioner against domestic violence or the threat of violence by an “intimate partner” or a “family or household member.” Domestic violence encompasses several behaviors, such as inflicting or threatening physical harm, harassment, stalking, or exerting coercive control (i.e., controlling the victim’s behavior and autonomy).
Sexual Assault Protection Order (SAPO)
Victims of nonconsensual sexual conduct or assault may seek a SAPO to prevent the perpetrator from contacting, harassing, or stalking them. It’s important to recognize that you can seek a SAPO after a single incident of nonconsensual sexual conduct or assault has occurred–you do not need to prove that the abuse is ongoing. Your attorney can help you determine whether this type of protection order will give you the relief and protection you need.
Antiharassment Protection Order (AHPO)
Those who suffer ongoing unwanted contact or behavior from another person may seek this type of protection order. You will need to demonstrate that the other person has an established pattern of behavior that causes you substantial emotional distress (or that they have made a threat of violence against you). These types of unwanted behaviors may be seriously alarming, annoying, harassing, or detrimental to your well-being.
Stalking Protection Order (SPO)
This form of protection order prevents a person from exhibiting behaviors that cause you to feel intimidated, frightened, under duress, significantly disrupted, or threatened. The respondent needs to recognize that their behaviors are unwanted and that they cause you to experience these feelings of intimidation and fear, even if they did not intend to unsettle you.
Pursuing a Civil Protection Order in Washington
Lawmakers and courts aim to make the petition process as smooth and accessible as possible to ensure that victims can secure the protections they need. First, consider enlisting the support of a trusted and compassionate family law attorney to assist you with this process. Your lawyer can assess the specifics of your situation and identify the most appropriate course of action. You’ll need to locate and complete the petition, detailing the reasons why you are seeking the protection order. Once you’ve filed the petition, the court will review it and decide whether to grant or deny a temporary order. From there, the court will hold a hearing to determine the terms and duration of the protection order.
Start Protecting Your Future Today
A protection order can help you regain control of your life. Additionally, protection orders can serve as a useful tool in custody and divorce cases, as they can protect you and your children from an abusive spouse or parent during this turbulent time. If you’re ready to move forward into a brighter future, reach out to a compassionate and dedicated attorney today.
If you have questions about obtaining a civil protective order in the Seattle area, call the Hemmat Law Group today at (206) 682-5200 to speak with a caring and knowledgeable family law attorney.
Andrew Linden is an Associate Attorney at Hemmat Law Group. Mr. Linden graduated from Knox College in 2016 and received his J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School in 2019. He is a member of the Washington State Bar.