What does a Domestic Violence Protection Order do?

What does a Domestic Violence Protection Order do?

A domestic violence protection order (DVPO) is an order that a civil court issues after a survivor successfully petitions the court. The goal of the order is to protect the victims of domestic violence.  This order can also apply to minors, in certain situations. If you are experiencing physical harm, bodily injury, assault, infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, sexual assault, and stalking you are able to file a DVPO. A DVPO orders your abuser, referred to as the respondent in the order, not to threaten you, enter your residence, leave your residence, attend counseling, grant one parent temporary custody, grant you possession of your personal items, and grant you use of a vehicle. The DVPO cannot order child support to be paid, order alimony to be paid, assign property to either party, or establish permeant child custody to either party[1]. The DVPO can order the respondent to cease actions such as physical harm, bodily injury, assault, infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, sexual assault, and stalking[2]. But one issue with the DVPO is that it is only as good as the respondent who is willing to follow it.

However, DVPO’s remain in effect for a limited amount of time, the court will grant an ex parte temporary order first. Ex parte means that your abuser does not have to be present for the first hearing. The court will determine whether you meet the standard for receiving a DVPO on a temporary basis by reviewing the statement in your petition. This temporary DVPO lasts for 14 days. After that, you must attend a hearing. At that hearing, your abuser will also be required to attend. You must provide evidence of the abuse that you endured in order to have the court issue a permanent DVPO. These orders last one year, but they are renewable.

Once the court has issued you the DVPO, it will be served to your abuser. During Covid, that usually occurs via email. it becomes effective. Once the order is served, the respondent, you, or any representative do not have the ability to make adjustments to the order. These adjustments would need to happen through the court[3]. The respondent may react to the order in a violent matter, please refer to the “Should I have a Safety Plan?” section for further information regarding your options.

In order to have the order served, you must have the documents delivered to the respondent by someone who is not involved in the DVPO process. This service can be done by a local personal service company for a fee. Also, service of the documents can also be done by the police department for a fee. Below is a link to have the King County Sheriff’s department serve your documents.  Please be advised that different counties may require a different contact sheet than the one linked below. Please check with your local sheriff’s department. 

https://www.kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/sheriff/documents/services/Civil/D-149_Service_Contact_Info_Sheet_12_6_16.ashx?la=en

http://www.seattlelegalmessengers.com/

What are the safety implications of getting a DVPO?

               When filing for a DVPO, the documents filed must be served to the respondent (whom you are seeking protection from). Please see the section on “What does a DVPO do?” for more information on service. Both you and the respondent will need to appear at a hearing. You may need to appear in front of your abuser multiple times depending on how often you will need to extend your DVPO.

If children are involved, the Court may grant the respondent visiting rights. Although you will not need to be around the respondent, there may be a possibility that the children involved will still see the respondent. This is decided at the hearing. Also, a DVPO is only effective if the respondent follows the order. If the respondent is not following the DVPO order please speak to an attorney or a legal advocate on another protection order available to you.

Can I get a DVPO if I am undocumented?

               Yes, if you are undocumented you can still obtain a DVPO. Since obtaining a DVPO means you will have to appear in court it could be unsafe. If you are undocumented and worried about appearing in court please reach out to a domestic violence advocate. The domestic violence advocate can help people who are not citizens by ensuring they are not detained by ICE[4]. If you are undocumented and experiencing domestic violence and would prefer a type of protection that does not involve court appearances, please speak to a legal advocate to discuss other civil protection orders available and that apply to your circumstances. If you are fearful of applying for a DVPO because the respondent is a citizen or a legal resident, we recommend you speaking to an attorney about the Violence Against Women Act, section III gives protection to spouses and children who are undocumented and experiencing domestic violence.

               If you would like to contact a domestic violence advocate you can call 1-800-799-SAFE, they will direct you to a local agency. The websites below can direct you to local agencies:

https://www.womenslaw.org/find-help/wa/advocates-and-shelters/local-programs/K
https://www.kingcounty.gov/council/vonReichbauer/Services/domesticviolence.aspx

Should I have a safety plan in place?

               When applying for a DVPO you can file for an emergency order lasting 14 days until your DVPO order is approved. Please see, “How to Obtain a DVPO” for this information. If you do not feel safe in your home, please look at the links below to find a shelter in your area. We understand that you may not feel safe at home, if you plan to leave your home and are in need of a safety plan please take a look at the links below. The links outline a few safety plans and advises depending on the circumstances (children being involved, living with your abuser, use of internet, getting ready to leave and many others). If you are in need of more assistance thinking of a plan or need more options, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by phone or by chat online. The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) website has shelter information in different areas in Washington state.

https://www.womenslaw.org/about-abuse/safety-tips/domestic-violence-victims/safety-abuser
https://www.courts.wa.gov/dv/?fa=dv.safeplan
https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/community-services-offices/domestic-violence-emergency-shelter-programs-and-advocacy-services

Do I need a lawyer?

No, you do not need an attorney or a legal advocate to file a DVPO. The forms to file a DVPO can be provided to you at the courthouse or found online at www.courts.wa.gov/forms. There is no filing fee for a DVPO[5]. Even though you do not need an attorney or a legal advocate it can be helpful when navigating the hearings. The attorney or legal advocate can help you will understand if you need to extend your DVPO or see if there are better options as to what you can file for your circumstances. Also, if the respondent has hired an attorney it would be recommended to hire one as well. 


[1] https://www.courts.wa.gov/dv/?fa=dv_order.ordtypes

[2] § 58:5.What actions are prevented, 21 Wash. Prac., Fam. And Community Prop. L. § 58:5

[3] 25 Am. Jur. 2d Domestic Abuse and Violence § 31

[4] https://www.womenslaw.org/about-abuse/abuse-specific-communities/abuse-immigrant-communities#node-70362

[5] § 58:5.What actions are prevented, 21 Wash. Prac., Fam. And Community Prop. L. § 58:5

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