Domestic Violence

Spokane Washington Domestic Violence Attorneys

Unfortunately, domestic violence is all too prevalent in the United States today. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four women and one in nine men nationwide have suffered some form of severe physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. One in fifteen children nationwide is exposed to intimate partner violence, and ninety percent of those children are eyewitness to a violent incident.

Domestic violence has an enormous impact on the long-term physical and mental health of domestic survivors. Beyond the immediate risk of physical injury, survivors of domestic violence have higher rates of reproductive health issues and mental illness including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, even if they succeed in leaving their abusers. Domestic violence also has tremendous adverse negative effects. At least twenty percent of people who have experienced domestic violence will lose their job from reasons related to the abuse.

Faced with these startling and upsetting statistics, it can be difficult to understand why someone whose intimate partner treats them this way would not “just leave.” It’s true that escaping an abusive relationship is most often the best solution for people experiencing domestic violence, but the reality is that “just leaving” is incredibly difficult. An abuser may threaten to further harm his partner or two harm the couple’s children or family if they try to leave. They may threaten to ruin them financially or to take custody of the children. What’s more, the partner experiencing abuse may feel a sense of shame or isolation from their friends and family, which leads them to the conclusion that he or she has nowhere else to go.

The good news is that Washington law provides several remedies that can help protect someone experiencing domestic violence, including restraining orders and orders of protection. Washington law also handles divorces differently when domestic violence was committed during marriage and may help the spouse who suffered the violence win more favorable terms in a divorce decree.

How Does Washington Family Law Protect Victims of Domestic Violence?

Courts in Washington can protect you by issuing an Order for Protection or a Restraining Order. These are both court orders that can help keep an abuser away from the person who asks for the order and that person’s children. However, there are several differences between Restraining Orders and Orders for protection, both in terms of the protection they offer and the process for obtaining one.

A restraining order is entered at the end of another family law proceeding, such as a divorce, an action to establish parentage of a child, or a petition to change a parenting plan. Restraining orders can tell the respondent to stay away from the petitioner and their children, order them not to take the children outside the court’s jurisdiction, or place other similar restraints.

An Order for Protection can help keep an abuser away, regardless of whether the abuser is married to the person seeking the order (the petitioner). The subject of the order (the respondent) can be any of the following people:

  • A relative
  • Someone you live with
  • A spouse or former spouse
  • A domestic partner or former domestic partner
  • Some you are dating or used to date

A Temporary Order for Protection can also be attained much more quickly than many other court orders, and without the help of a lawyer if necessary. There is no fee to file for a Temporary Order for Protection, and the forms anyone must fill out to get a Temporary Order will be available at any District, Municipal, or Superior Court, anywhere in the State of Washington. You can also find the form online at this link. The form will ask you to provide facts that demonstrate that the respondent has committed an act of domestic violence against either you or your children. The violent event does not necessarily need to be recent if the past events still make you afraid for your own or your children’s safety.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Order for Protection?

A Temporary Order for Protection will go into effect immediately if it is signed by a judge. This means that you have the order enforced right away. If an abuser violates the order, you can enforce it by calling the police, and the police are obligated to arrest the person violating the order. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep a copy of the Temporary Order with you.

When the Temporary order is entered, the court will schedule a return hearing, typically two weeks from the entry of the order. At this hearing, both sides will have the opportunity to present evidence showing why a longer-term order should or should not be put in place. If the court decides to extend the order, it can do so permanently or for a fixed period of time. If the order protects children, it cannot be extended for more than one year.

What Does an Order for Protection Do?

An Order for Protection can do any of the following:

  • It can order the Respondent to stop contacting you
  • It can order the respondent not to harass you in person, on the phone, or electronically
  • In can prevent the respondent from coming to your home, workplace, school, or your children’s school or daycare facility
  • It can prevent the respondent from having any contact with your children or pets, or set up a visitation schedule for the children
  • It can award possession of personal belongings or a vehicle.

My Abuser Is Not Following My Order for Protection. What Should I Do?

To enforce an Order of Protection or a Temporary Order for Protection, call the Police. It is a good idea to have a copy of the order on you at all times, so you can show the responding officer exactly which term the respondent violated. At this point, the officer must arrest the respondent, and he or she could face criminal charges.

I Am Experiencing Domestic Violence. Do I Need a Lawyer?

Fortunately, Washington law makes it possible to get emergency protection very quickly, and you will likely not need a lawyer to get a two-week Temporary order. However, to ensure that you are permanently protected, anyone facing a domestic violence issue will benefit from the experience of a family law attorney that knows how to document and prove the circumstances of your case and to win the long-term protection you and your children need.

If you are experiencing domestic violence and need legal assistance, we encourage you to call us today. We’d be happy to help.

Crouse Erickson