Protection orders: Can the civil legal system help protect me?
Protection Orders can help if you are experiencing domestic violence, harassment, stalking, sexual assault, or the threat of any of these. Protection Orders can also help a vulnerable adult who is being abused or neglected. #3700EN
- Read this only if you live in or have recently experienced domestic violence, harassment, or stalking in Washington State, or if you are helping a vulnerable adult in Washington State.
- If you are currently experiencing domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault, or stalking, get help from your local domestic violence shelter. Shelters provide safety planning, temporary shelter, legal advocacy, counseling, and other services. To find the program nearest you, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or text “START” to 88788.
Part 1: Basics
You will learn:
- What a protection order is
- Types of protection orders that help or prevent domestic violence or other kinds of behavior that frightens you or puts you at risk
- Asking for a protection order is free and you don’t need a lawyer
- How your protection order protects you and how long it can last
It is a civil court order (an order you request), issued by a judge, meant to protect you from another person. You can ask for a protection order if you are experiencing domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault, or stalking. See definitions of each of these below.
You can also ask for a protection order if you are a vulnerable adult experiencing abuse or neglect, or on behalf of such an adult.
Washington State law RCW 7.105.010(8) says domestic violence happens when you are related to, living with now or have lived with, or have ever been in an intimate relationship with does any of these:
- Harms you physically, including sexual assault
- Causes you to fear immediate physical harm or assault
- Stalks you, including online (cyberstalking)
- Engages in behavior that causes you physical, emotional, or psychological harm, and unreasonably interferes with your free will and personal liberty (coercive control)
* No one has the right to threaten or hurt you. The abuser’s relationship to you does not matter.
* To read Washington State law at the public library or law library instead of online, ask the librarian to direct you to the set of RCWs (Revised Code of Washington).
These are a few examples:
- Driving recklessly with you and/or the children in the vehicle to scare and force you to do what the person wants you to do over your own wishes
- Threatening to kill themselves if you don’t stay in the relationship with them
- Telling your friends and family that they are going to destroy your career or report you to immigration because you are ending the relationship
- Threatening to blackmail you
You can read the law to see more examples at RCW 7.105.010(37).
Washington State law defines it as someone’s behavior that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses you RCW 7.105.010(35).
This behavior has no legitimate purpose.
Under state law, stalking as a crime happens when all these are true:
- Someone intentionally harasses or follows you.
- You have a reasonable fear that they want to hurt someone (it does not have to be you), or someone’s property (it does not have to be yours).
- The stalker knows or should know that they are frightening, intimidating, or harassing you.
If this describes your situation, call the police.
* You can read the law defining stalking at RCW 9A.46.110, RCW 9.61.260, and RCW 7.92.020.
* Cyber harassment is also a stalking crime RCW 9.61.260.
To get a protection order for stalking, you can be experiencing stalking as described above, or any repeated contacts or attempts to contact you, monitor you, track your whereabouts, keep you under observation, or follow you that intimidate, scare or threaten you RCW 7.92.020.
Read Protecting elders and vulnerable adults from abuse and neglect to learn more. That fact sheet also talks about other options for vulnerable adults besides protection orders.
It includes rape, but for purposes of getting a protection order, state law defines it more generally as any sexual conduct or penetration that you did not freely agree to (is nonconsensual). Read the law at RCW 7.105.100(b) to learn more.
No. You can only ask for a restraining order as part of a family law action (like a divorce or parentage case) you are filing or responding to. You do not need to be involved in a family law case to ask for a PO. Read Should I file a domestic violence protection order (DVPO)? to learn more.
Part 2: Getting a protection order
There is no fee.
The forms are available in District and Superior Courts statewide. Check with your local court first.
You can also use our printable Get a Protection Order packet, or our do-it-yourself interview program, Washington Forms Online, to fill out the forms at WashingtonLawHelp.org.
- Are you a Tribal Member or living in a Tribal Community or on a Reservation? You may have the choice of filing for a protection order in a State Court or a Tribal Court. Each Tribe's code and/or process may differ. Contact the Tribal Court to learn more. State court forms may not work in Tribal Court.
Part 3: After you get your protection order
You should carry a certified copy of it with you at all times. A certified copy is a copy the clerk makes for you with a raised seal on it.
You must call the police to report a violation.
Yes. They enter your Order for Protection in a statewide computer system. It is enforceable statewide and in other states.
It lasts either for a fixed period or permanently RCW 7.105.310. If it protects children, the part of it that relates to the protection of the children can only last, at the longest, one year.
You can ask the court to renew the order before it expires. The court must renew your order unless the person the Order protects you from can prove they are no longer a risk to you and/or your children.
This is a crime. The police must enforce your order and arrest the person who has harmed you RCW 7.105.450.