What is a temporary restraining order?  A restraining order is an order of the court, ordering a named person not to engage in conduct specified in the order.  Such orders can be issued anytime during a pending family law case, including cases for divorce, establishment of parentage, for non-parental custody and to modify an existing custody order or parenting plan.  Orders issued while a case is pending are called “temporary” restraining orders because they last only until the case is fully resolved by settlement, trial or dismissal.  If the pending case involves the division of property between spouses or co-habitants, the court can restrain the parties from selling property etc. until final division of property is made by agreement or trial.  In all family law cases, the court can enter temporary restraining orders as needed to preserve the peace and protect the parties and/or their children from harm pending trial.  Such orders can restrain all contact between the parties, or impose lesser restraints, such as “do not harass” the other party to fit the circumstances as the court sees them.

The temporary order may address a number of scenarios, including some or all of the following:

    * Ordering one party to leave the family home and have no contact with the spouse/partner or children
    * Barring the other party from taking money from bank accounts
    * Forbidding the other party to leave the state with the children
    * Removing one party from health insurance or auto insurance

2.  Can a restraining order continue after a family law case is resolved?  At trial or as part of settlement of a family law case, the final decree may contain continuing restraints on all contact or on specified anti-social behavior such as stalking.  The parties may agree to the restraint of one or both of them, or the trial court may order continuing restraints if the facts of the case warrant such imposition.  

3.  Can I get a restraining order if no lawsuit is pending?  Yes, if there is a factual basis for the court to order the offending person from contact with you.  Washington has two forms of civil restraining orders that it can issue to prevent domestic violence or other injury to the petitioning person.  “Protection orders” may be sought against members of a person’s household.  Who is a “household member” is defined by legislative enactment (“statute”) and is a deliberately broad category since the purpose of the legislation is to help prevent domestic and intimate partner violence.  RCW 26.50  If the person you are afraid of is not a member of your household, you may seek an “anti-harassment” order under RCW 10.14.020 if
the bad behavior is a "[1] knowing and wilful [2] course of conduct [3] directed at a specific person [4] which seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses such person, and [5] which serves no legitimate or lawful purpose." RCW 10.14.020(1). Complained of conduct is tested by the judge, both subjectively and objectively:  the bad conduct must be such that would cause any reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and actually does cause the petitioner substantial emotional distress.

How can I get a restraining order?  An person who has been the victim of domestic violence or threat of domestic violence, regardless of whether he or she is involved in a pending family law or other lawsuit, may seek a protection order from any court in the state of Washington RCW 26.50.020.  A person who seeks an anti-harassment order may likewise seek relief from Washington courts.  RCW 10.14.040.  A domestic violence protection order or anti-harassment order are granted on an emergency basis, on written petition of the person seeking the relief, without prior notice to the person against whom relief is sought.  RCW 26.50.070 and RCW 10.14.080.  The order becomes effective when it is served on the person to be restrained, and remains effective until the “return” hearing, which is a mandatory follow up hearing provided by law to give the responding person an opportunity to defend him or herself.  At the ‘return” hearing the emergency restraining order is either dismissed, if the responding person persuades the court that there is no reason for the restraint, or continued for a specified amount of time. 

If you feel you are in need of a domestic violence or anti-harassment order and you do not have an attorney, you may rest assured that your petition for the order will be facilitated by the court you approach for relief.  The legislature has made its intention clear, that these forms of relief are to be readily available to all who seek it, by mandating that there be no court filing fee RCW 26.50.040 and requiring the courts to assist the petitioners by providing the necessary forms and instructions  RCW 26.50.035.  The court may appoint an interpreter if required.  RCW 26.09.055.  All completed petitions for domestic violence protection orders are heard by the court as quickly as possible, typically the same day and if the requested protection order is granted, the court employees will also assist the person in obtaining service of the order by law enforcement officers, also without charge.  Most Washington courts also have “domestic violence advocates” and similar employees to assist any person requesting help in seeking a protection or antiharassment order and will further assist persons in need of community resources such as temporary shelter, to locate the help they need if it is available in the community.

Seattle Family Law
108 S. Washington St.
Suite 304,
Seattle, WA 98104

phone: 206 340-1580
fax: 206 888-2592

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Seattle Family Law handles divorce and family law for people in the Seattle and Puget Sound areas of Washington State, including Bellevue, Renton, Kent, Tacoma, Everett, Edmonds, Kirkland, Federal Way, Issaquah, Lynwood, Shoreline, Auburn and other communities in King County, Snohomish County, and Pierce County.