Apply for one. Law enforcement may not be able to help until you get a custody order. You must call them first and make a report anyway.
- The rest of this section explains what to do right away to get a custody order.
If you and the abducting parent are married, you can file for divorce and ask for a temporary order giving you custody. You must file a motion for temporary orders, schedule a court hearing, and give the other parent notice. You may be able to get an emergency temporary custody order.
- You can file for divorce and temporary orders on your own. Visit WashingtonLawHelp.org for packets with forms and instructions, or for online interviews that will create the court forms you need. It is better if you can afford a lawyer.
If there has been any physical violence or threat of it against you/your child by the abducting parent, you can apply for a protection order to keep the abducting parent from bothering or harassing you and/or your children. It can also give you custody.
Even if you and the abducting parent were not married, you can get a protection order if you had the child, lived, or were in a relationship together.
You can get a protection order without a lawyer. There is no filing fee. You first get a two-week temporary order (an ex parte order). Then the sheriff tries to serve the abducting parent before you return to court for a "permanent" (one year) protection order.
At that return hearing, you should offer all the evidence you can about abuse. This might include police reports, medical records, and witnesses’ written statements.
There are several ways to get protection order forms. You can get them from the court clerk or your local domestic violence program.
- You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233)
- Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-4673)
- Use our do-it-yourself interview program, Get a Protection Order, to fill out the forms at WashingtonLawHelp.org, or our printable How to File for a Protection Order packet.
* Talk to a lawyer before filing for an Order for Protection if the court has entered a temporary parenting plan or custody order very recently.
If you cannot get the other parent personally served, you may be able to get court permission to serve by certified mail at their last known address. Then the court will enter your permanent order if the other parent does not show up at the hearing. The permanent protection order acts as a custody order.
If you and the other parent are not married and you do not need a protection order, you must file a petition for the court to decide parentage and a motion for a temporary custody order. Our Filing a Petition to Decide Parentage packet has forms and instructions.
You can also hire a lawyer or ask the prosecuting attorney to file for you. The prosecutor represents the state's interest, not yours, but can help you get a temporary custody order.
- It will take time before the prosecutor can file all the needed papers. You should get a private lawyer to do this for you if possible.