In order to remove a restraining order, also known as a protection order, in Washington state a person should ask the court to modify the terms of the order or terminate it. They can receive help from a protection order advocate, who is with the office of the county in which they filed the case. If the petitioner, or the person who filed for the civil protection order, got the order from a court without advocates, they should go back to the court and request the paperwork to modify or terminate the order.
When to Modify Order
There are two types of protection orders: A temporary protection order that is in place for 14 days but can be continued, and a full order, which is typically entered for one year but can be in place for a longer period of time. The petitioner can ask the court to modify or terminate the order at any point during the life of either type of protective order.
What to Include in Protected Person's Motion to Have Order Lifted
Along with the original documents, the petitioner should include items, such as photos and text to support their motion to modify or terminate the protection order. The court will reject photos taken of original documents and documents that are illegible or of poor quality. A petitioner should monitor their phone messages and emails after submitting the documents because the court may need to ask for additional information.
The respondent in the case must be served with the papers, and the petitioner must file a return of service with the court’s office for the hearing to go forward. If the other party is not served, the petitioner may ask for a continuance for additional time to serve the other party.
Changes Due to COVID-19
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the protection order office may be closed to the public. An individual must submit the paperwork for a protection order by filing electronically via email or by fax. They can also submit the paperwork in person by putting the documents under the door of the appropriate office at the courthouse.
Hearings by Zoom
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hearings to modify or terminate a protection order may take place over Zoom. A party must connect with Zoom 15 minutes before the start of the hearing, and parties who are late may not be able to participate in their hearing.
Participants do not activate the video feature during Zoom court proceedings. The hearings by Zoom are audio only. The court has set up Zoom hearings to partially block telephone numbers for call-in participants.
Reconciliation Doesn’t Lift the Order
A protection order is not terminated when the petitioner and respondent, or person who responded to the order, reconcile. The order also is not terminated when the petitioner invites the respondent to live in or visit the petitioner’s residence.
A protection order can only be terminated by a court order. A respondent who enters a petitioner’s residence can be arrested by a law enforcement officer for a violation of the order, even if the petitioner invited the respondent to the unit, and the respondent has not committed an act of domestic violence.
Order Is in Effect 24/7
Once the court issues an order, it is enforceable 24/7 until the day it expires. The protection of an order can extend to minor children, as well. An order for protection may not prohibit all forms of contact between the parties. For example, parties may have contact because of children, dissolution proceedings, shared property and counseling sessions.
Such contacts should not include harassing or threatening behavior. A petitioner can specifically request that the judge prohibit any form of direct contact by the respondent. The judge can make arrangements for a third party such as an attorney or mutual friend to act as a go-between.
What an Order Doesn’t Do
A protection order cannot order child support or alimony. It cannot assign most property to either party. A protection order also cannot establish permanent child custody or use of the shared residence. This means that the modification or termination of a protection order will not affect such support and property.
A protection order can require the respondent not to hurt or threaten the petitioner or the petitioner’s minor children. The order can give one parent temporary custody of the children and set a schedule for visitation with minor children. The protection order can order the respondent to leave a shared residence and grant the petitioner possession of essential personal effects.
The protection order can also grant the petitioner use of a vehicle and order the respondent to attend counseling. The modification or termination of a protection order can mean that any or all of these requirements can be changed or dropped.
Violation of the Protective Order
If a petitioner invites a respondent over, the petitioner has not violated the protective order by contacting the respondent. This is because the order restrains the respondent. The fact that the petitioner has invited the respondent does not allow the respondent to violate the order by accepting the invitation. There is an exception to the rule that the order restrains only the respondent. If a court restrained the petitioner from contacting the respondent, the court will find the petitioner also violated the order.
For example, if there is a no contact order in a criminal case that requires the petitioner not to communicate with the respondent, that would present a concern for the petitioner. A law enforcement officer may arrest a petitioner if they believe the petitioner is an accomplice in violating a protective order. Violating the order may be considered contempt of court.
A violation of a protection order is a gross misdemeanor. The penalty includes up to one year in jail and a fine up to $5,000. Upon conviction, the court may require the respondent to submit to electronic monitoring and pay for the cost of the monitoring. The court will consider the ability of the convicted person to pay costs.
Why a Court Order Terminates
An order for protection states the date on which the order ends. Law enforcement places the order on WACIC, a statewide computer system. When there is no court order to terminate the protection order, a law enforcement officer is unable to remove the protection order from WACIC before the expiration date.
No-Contact Orders Are Different
In Washington state, a no-contact order is different from a protection order. A court issues a no-contact order in a criminal case after an alleged abuser is charged with a criminal domestic violence offense. The court may also issue a no-contact order as part of the sentencing for a criminal domestic violence case. A no-contact order is usually in place for the duration of the case. It lasts as long as the court has jurisdiction over the case after sentencing.
An alleged victim may express a desire to have a no-contact order issued on their behalf, but the final decision to enter the order is up to the judge or commissioner who hears the case. If a defendant violates a no-contact order, they can be arrested and incarcerated until the case is resolved.
- Consider engaging the services of a qualified attorney to assist you in removing or terminating a restraining order. Although the organization cannot make a specific referral, the Washington State Bar Association maintains a directory of attorneys in different practice areas. Contact information for the group is:
- Washington State Bar Association
- 1325 Fourth Ave.
- Suite 600
- Seattle, WA 98101-2539
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.