As an attorney, I have been involved in Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) litigation on both sides in multiple jurisdictions in Washington State. What I have learned is that jurisdictions vary greatly in regards to the amount of time, and the type of evidence that they will entertain in evaluating the merits of a Domestic Violence Protection Order case. Some jurisdictions will allow witness testimony from individuals who are not parties to the action, and some will not. In Clark County (Vancouver, WA), where the majority of my practice is, we are fortunate to have a judiciary that will allow (in most cases) additional evidence and testimony than simply the parties themselves, which ultimately can make the difference in the decision to either grant or deny the petition. If you are thinking about petitioning the court for a DVPO or are a named respondent in a DVPO action here are some things to think about:
Under RCW 26.50.010, “Domestic violence” means: (a) Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, between family or household members; (b) sexual assault of one family or household member by another; or (c) stalking as defined in RCW 9A.46.110 of one family or household member by another family or household member. Thus, the Petitioner in a Domestic Violence Protection Order has the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the Respondent in the Domestic Violence Protection Order case has committed one or more of the previously listed acts to establish the need for the Order. In addition, the Petitioner will also have to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the Respondent is someone who fits within the definition of a “family or household member.”
A “family or household members” for DVPO purposes means spouses, domestic partners, former spouses, former domestic partners, persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time, adult persons related by blood or marriage, adult persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past, persons sixteen years of age or older who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past and who have or have had a dating relationship, persons sixteen years of age or older with whom a person sixteen years of age or older has or has had a dating relationship, and persons who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship, including stepparents and stepchildren and grandparents and grandchildren. “Dating relationship” means a social relationship of a romantic nature. Factors that the court may consider in making this determination include: (a) The length of time the relationship has existed; (b) the nature of the relationship; and (c) the frequency of interaction between the parties. So if you are a Petitioner and the circumstances of your situation meet those definitions then you may want to file a DVPO. Of course, if you are a Respondent and you do not qualify as a family or household member and/or you have not committed the actions alleged by the Petitioner then you should defend the action.
The action is commenced in the jurisdiction where the petitioner lives or where the petitioner has gone to in order to avoid the domestic violence. Any person thirteen years of age or older may seek relief by filing a petition alleging he or she is a victim of domestic violence in a dating relationship and the respondent is sixteen or older. In addition, a person under the age of eighteen years of age who is sixteen years or older may seek relief under this chapter without the aid of a guardian or next friend. Persons under sixteen need to have a qualified adult to petition on their behalf if they do not meet the previously discussed criteria.
If the Court grants a DVPO, the following is a list of relief that can be granted to the Petitioner:
(a) Restrain the respondent from committing acts of domestic violence;
(b) Exclude the respondent from the dwelling that the parties share, from the residence, workplace, or school of the petitioner, or from the day care or school of a child;
(c) Prohibit the respondent from knowingly coming within, or knowingly remaining within, a specified distance from a specified location;
(d) On the same basis as is provided in chapter 26.09 RCW, the court shall make residential provision with regard to minor children of the parties. However, parenting plans as specified in chapter 26.09 RCW shall not be required under this chapter;
(e) Order the respondent to participate in a domestic violence perpetrator treatment program approved under RCW 26.50.150;
(f) Order other relief as it deems necessary for the protection of the petitioner and other family or household members sought to be protected, including orders or directives to a peace officer, as allowed under this chapter;
(g) Require the respondent to pay the administrative court costs and service fees, as established by the county or municipality incurring the expense and to reimburse the petitioner for costs incurred in bringing the action, including reasonable attorneys’ fees;
(h) Restrain the respondent from having any contact with the victim of domestic violence or the victim’s children or members of the victim’s household;
(i) Restrain the respondent from harassing, following, keeping under physical or electronic surveillance, cyberstalking as defined in RCW 9.61.260, and using telephonic, audiovisual, or other electronic means to monitor the actions, location, or communication of a victim of domestic violence, the victim’s children, or members of the victim’s household. For the purposes of this subsection, “communication” includes both “wire communication” and “electronic communication” as defined in RCW 9.73.260;
(j) Require the respondent to submit to electronic monitoring. The order shall specify who shall provide the electronic monitoring services and the terms under which the monitoring must be performed. The order also may include a requirement that the respondent pay the costs of the monitoring. The court shall consider the ability of the respondent to pay for electronic monitoring;
(k) Consider the provisions of RCW 9.41.800;
(l) Order possession and use of essential personal effects. The court shall list the essential personal effects with sufficient specificity to make it clear which property is included. Personal effects may include pets. The court may order that a petitioner be granted the exclusive custody or control of any pet owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by the petitioner, respondent, or minor child residing with either the petitioner or respondent and may prohibit the respondent from interfering with the petitioner’s efforts to remove the pet. The court may also prohibit the respondent from knowingly coming within, or knowingly remaining within, a specified distance of specified locations where the pet is regularly found; and
(m) Order use of a vehicle.
In addition, Federal Law will prohibit a Respondent from owning and possessing firearms or ammunition while the order is in effect. If the respondent continues to possess either firearms or ammunition while the order is in effect then the Respondent could be prosecuted under Federal or State law.
DVPO’s are a serious civil matter that have dramatic consequences to all sides of the dispute. If you are thinking about filing an order, don’t assume that the court is just going to give you one…be prepared. If you are the Respondent, don’t just assume that the Court will “see through the lies”..you also need to be prepared. An experienced attorney can make all the difference in these matters. Please do not hesitate to call me at (360) 869-0699 or contact me.
Nicholas “Nick” Wood – Law Office of Nicholas Wood, P.S.
Nick Wood received his J.D. in 1999 from Lewis and Clark’s Northwestern School of Law in Portland Oregon. The Law Office of Nicholas Wood, P.S. has represented clients for various criminal defense matters since 2006.