How do I file for a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) ?
Any person seeking a protective order will need to find and fill out the appropriate forms. All forms needed for protective orders in the state of Washington can be found at the following link: https://www.courts.wa.gov/forms/index.cfm?fa=forms.home&dis=y. The website listed has all forms needed to file a protective order and detailed instructions for filling the forms out properly. If there is confusion over what specific forms need to be filled out, the clerk can assist with providing the correct ones. Legal Atoms can be used to find and fill out all forms needed for any protective order if the petitioner, or person seeking the protective order, is planning on filing in King County.
One of the most important pieces of the paperwork is the petitioner’s statement. This is the area where the event or events that occurred are described. This portion needs to be filled out with as much specific detail as possible. Details that are important include date, time, location, exact events as they unfolded, any weapons or instruments used, any witnesses, medical injuries and treatment. If an immediate temporary order of protection is needed, an explanation of the emergency is required, as well. An example of a detailed statement is as follows: on March 26th around 8pm at my house, Adam Smith hit me on my left cheek. My mother witnessed the event and took me to the emergency room for immediate medical assistance.
All of the information provided in the petition for a protective order, such as address and contact information, is confidential. The respondent will not be able to access any of the petitioner’s confidential information.
Once the forms are filled out, the person seeking a protective order will need to bring them to the clerk’s office of their local court. There is no fee for filing a petition for a protective order. The clerk will generate a case number, create two copies of the original paperwork, one for the petitioner and one to be served to the respondent, then direct on next steps.
During COVID-19, many counties allow for forms to be filled out and submitted virtually. However, it is best to ask the clerk of the court you plan on filing with how they would like the documents submitted. For example, some counties allow for the documents to be emailed to clerk, other counties, including King County, require the petitioner to meet with the clerk over Zoom before submitting. The following link provides the access and instructions to virtually file a protection order in King County: https://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/clerk/PO.aspx.
What is an ex parte hearing?
Ex parte is when the judge reviews the protective order petition in front of the victim only. An ex parte hearing can be requested if the person filing for a protective order, or petitioner, is in immediate danger. These hearings are generally held on the same day the petition for a protective order is filed. This hearing allows for temporary orders of protection to be granted without waiting to hear from the respondent, the person the petition is being filed against.
Once a temporary order for protection is granted, it is important for the petitioner to have a copy on them at all times. Additional copies for schools, places of employment or children’s schools may be needed as well. Petitioners may wish to also consider is a safety plan because the respondent is notified of the temporary protection order shortly after it is granted.
In the state of Washington, a temporary order for protection is good for 14 days, at which point a full hearing is required. Generally, at the time a temporary protection order is granted, the judge will also provide a date for the full hearing.
During COVID-19, the clerk will send the paperwork to a judicial officer, who, in most cases, will sign off on the temporary protective order without the need for a virtual video or telephone meeting. This process may take up to 24 hours for a temporary petition to be granted.
How is the respondent notified that a protective order has been filed against them?
In order for a permanent protective order to be granted, the respondent, or the person the petition is being filed against, must have the opportunity to participate and rebut the allegations in the full hearing, if they so choose. The respondent must be notified of the date of the full hearing at least five days before the scheduled time. The notification is accomplished by service of process. The respondent can be “served” in a couple different ways: the first way is to have any person over the age of 18, other than the petitioner, serve the papers to the respondent. The second, and most common way, is have the police serve the papers. For the second option, a Law Enforcement Information Sheet (LEIS) must be filled out by the petitioner.
If the respondent is located in another state, law enforcement in the county where the respondent’s address is listed will serve the papers. If the petitioner doesn’t know the current address of the respondent, there are alternative options. The first option is to mail the service papers to the last known address and the service is considered accomplished within three days. The second option is called “service by publication,” in which the service announcement is printed in publications local to the respondent. This option takes the longest, as the announcements need to be printed for several weeks.
If the service of process takes longer than the allotted 14 days after a temporary protection order is granted, the judge will typically extend the temporary order until the date of the full hearing. The judge will generally give the respondent two opportunities to appear at the full hearing before granting a default judgment in favor of the petitioner.
Do I need to face my abuser during the protection order hearing?
If a temporary order for protection is requested and the petitioner, or person filing for a protective order, participates in an ex parte hearing, the respondent, or person the petition is being filed against, will not be present. The ex parte hearing happens the same day the petition for a protective order is filed and before the respondent has been served or notified of the full hearing.
For the full hearing, the respondent must be in attendance. If the petitioner does not feel safe to be in the same room with the respondent, they may ask to attend telephonically. During COVID-19, all hearings are virtual and the petitioner and respondent are not expected to be in the same location.
What are the events that occur in the full hearing for my protective order?
During the full hearing for a protective order, both the petitioner, the person seeking the protective order, and respondent, the person the protective order is against, are able to submit evidence to the court and both have the opportunity to speak in front of the judge. Each side will have roughly five minutes to state their cases, however, most judges allow for longer if needed.
The affidavit-based court will hear any and all evidence presented. This includes “hearsay” evidence, meaning, statements said by others out-of-court can be used as legitimate evidence. This also includes witnesses that can corroborate any alleged wrongdoings. Other common forms of evidence are letters, emails, photographs, medical records, articles of clothing, illustrations, charts, personal testimony and testimony from friends, family or witnesses. Because of the nature of this court, the more evidence that is provided, the more the judge can rely on to make a determination.