When and How to Seek a Domestic Violence Protection Order

If you’ve been abused by a spouse, partner, or another relative or member of your household, you should seek help right away. In order to prevent further harm to yourself and your children, ask the court for a domestic violence protection order.

A domestic violence protection order ensures the perpetrator will stay away from you. If he or she breaks the order, he or she will face arrest.

What Qualifies as Domestic Violence?

You might wonder if what someone is doing to you is considered domestic violence. Domestic violence applies to more than just physical harm, although it certainly includes physical harm. Domestic violence also includes:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Attempting or verbally threatening to harm you physically or sexually
  • Stalking you when you leave the house
  • Performing violent actions, such as breaking furniture
  • Preventing you from leaving the house

If you’re a victim of any of the above, it is in your best interest to receive a domestic violence protection order.

What Is a Domestic Violence Protection Order?

A domestic violence protection order is a legal order obtained from your local court that tells the perpetrator not to harm you.

The domestic violence protection order can also:

  • Give you temporary custody of your children.
  • Order the perpetrator not to enter your home or to leave your shared home.
  • Prevent the perpetrator from coming near you or attempting to contact you.
  • Order the perpetrator to attend counseling.
  • Allow you to keep your personal items.

You cannot obtain an official domestic violence protection order until you and the perpetrator meet with a judge, which might not happen for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, the court can offer you a temporary order that’s effective until you can meet with the judge.

Other Types of Protection Orders

 A domestic violence protection order might not apply in every situation. There are several other types of protection orders in Washington State.

  • No-Contact Order: If your spouse or partner is being tried for a crime, the court may issue a no-contact order to protect you from him or her during the trial period.
  • Restraining Order: A restraining order is issued as part of a family law case, such as a
    divorce case. It covers more legal ground than a domestic violence protection order. It can address issues such as spousal support, child support, and property rights.
  • Civil Anti-Harassment Order: This applies if you are being harassed or threatened by a nonfamily member or non-partner, such as a neighbor, coworker, or even a stranger.

If you’re unsure which type of protection order to pursue, talk with a lawyer.

What Happens at the Hearing?

At the hearing for a permanent domestic violence protection order, both you and the perpetrator will discuss the case with a judge. You will want to bring evidence, such as photos, police reports, and medical reports. You should also bring any witnesses.

The judge will ask why you are seeking a protection order. They may also ask about how and when the perpetrator has abused you.

You don’t have to hire a lawyer to get a domestic violence protection order. However, a lawyer can help you prepare for your hearing. You’ll also benefit from working with a lawyer if you’re planning to seek other legal actions against your family member, such as divorce. Also, if you know your family member has hired a lawyer, you may wish to hire one as well.

If you’re the victim of domestic violence, don’t suffer alone. The law can help you find safety for you and your family. Seek out a domestic violence protection order to protect yourself from the abuser.

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