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Restraining Orders

The term “restraining order” is used in many contexts in Washington law, generally to mean an order of the court that prohibits a person from doing something or facing criminal charges or civil contempt sanctions.

More specifically, there are several types of “restraining orders”. The primary types of restraining orders include: temporary restraining orders; 5 different types of protection orders, including anti-harassment protection orders; domestic violence protection orders; vulnerable adult protection orders, anti-stalking and sexual assault protection orders; and no-contact orders.

Restraining orders are also somewhat synonymous with the term “injunction”.


Temporary Restraining Orders

These can, and often are, imposed by the court upon initiation of a court case or soon thereafter.  CR65 provides for this for all civil cases generally. Specific statutes also provide for the court to restrain a party. For example, RCW 26.09..050 authorizes a judge to prohibit either or both parties to a divorce from a variety of activities, such as relocating with a child out of state or moving money from bank accounts.  Such restraining orders can be obtained in emergency circumstances by formal motion to the court and are called “ex parte restraining orders”. Such restraining orders are often obtained for the duration of the litigation and are called “temporary restraining orders”.  See RCW 26.09.060(2).  In some courts certain restraints are imposed mutually, on both parties, automatically when the case is filed.  See Snohomish County Superior Court Local Rule 94.04(b)(2).


Protection Orders

Protection orders are typically obtained to protect the petitioner from future unwanted contact with the defendant, based on various types of conduct the defendant has already done.

For example, anti-harassment protection orders can be obtained to protect from “a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or is detrimental to such person, and which serves no legitimate or lawful purpose.” This relief is authorized by RCW 10.14.

Domestic violence protection orders can protect a person who has a family or dating relationship with another from contact with that person when shown that the defendant has engaged in domestic violence, defined as follows: ” (a) Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, between family or household members; (b) sexual assault of one family or household member by another; or (c) stalking as defined in RCW  9A.46.110 of one family or household member by another family or household member.”  See RCW 26.50 and RCW 26.52.

Vulnerable adult protection orders are available to those who are 60 years or older, or who have disabilities or receive caregiving assistance of some kind. RCW 74.34  protects such “vulnerable adults” from financial as well as physical exploitation or neglect by others and such a suit can be brought by any “interested person” on behalf of the vulnerable adult, in addition to DSHS Adult Protective Services.

Anti-stalking protection orders authorized under RCW 7.92 protect people who are being stalked or cyberstalked. These are available to people who are not covered by the domestic violence protection orders, which require some type of prior relationship.

Similarly, sexual assault protection orders protect people from future unwanted contact by those who have engaged in nonconsensual sexual contact with the petitioner, per RCW 7.90.

No Contact Orders

NCO’s are a specific type of restraining order, though the terms are often used informally as if interchangeable. NCO’s are typically issued in criminal proceedings.  For example a suspect arrested by the police for domestic violence typically has a NCO issued under RCW 10.99 to prohibit further contact with the alleged victim during the legal proceedings.

Frequently a single incident of alleged domestic violence can result in; 1) criminal charges and a no-contact order, 2)a domestic violence protection order and 3)an ex parte and/or temporary restraining order as part of a divorce proceeding. The interplay between the different types of proceedings and the different types of restraining orders  can be complex and have dire consequences. Thus, retaining an experienced lawyer can be critical.

One can obtain a court appointed  criminal defense attorney if facing criminal charges, but there is no such right to a free lawyer  in protection order proceedings or in divorce or family law proceedingd generally.

For additional resources, see the King County Superior court Clerk’s webpage on protection and restraining orders.