A restraining order is a court order that restricts or requires certain actions that one individual can take, typically related to another individual. In Washington, there are eight unique types of protection orders that a person may request to seek protection from harassment and other threatening behavior by another individual. A restraining order is one of these eight types of protection orders and are for individuals working through family court proceedings, like divorces and paternity cases.
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To check the status of a restraining order, contact the superior court of the county where the order was filed.
County Courts Handle Restraining Orders
In Washington, restraining orders are put into place and enforced by county-level superior courts. When an individual completes a petition for a restraining order, she may file it with the municipal, district or superior court where she resides. Although the order is filed with the county court, it is enforceable throughout the state of Washington and throughout the country when the filer is visiting any other state. If the filer moves permanently to a new state, though, she must register the restraining order with the appropriate court in her new state in order to renew it.
A restraining order can impose restrictions on a person, including:
- Prohibiting all contact between the parties.
- Granting one parent permanent custody of the couple’s children.
- Requiring one party to pay child support.
- Requiring one party to pay spousal support.
- Removing an individual from a shared home.
- Requiring a party to complete counseling or another type of treatment.
Additionally, a restraining order may include requirements as deemed appropriate for a specific situation. For example, a restraining order may require that the named party surrender all the firearms she owns.
Checking a Washington Restraining Order
To find out whether a Washington restraining order is still in effect, an individual can contact the clerk of the superior court where the order was filed. In most cases, restraining orders are public record, but they may be sealed when the court deems doing so is in the best interest of the parties named in the order.
When an individual contacts the court clerk to check on a restraining order’s status, he must provide certain information, including:
- Name of petitioner.
- Name of the other party named in the restraining order.
- The court case number, if possible.
If a restraining order is in place, all parties named within it must comply with its terms completely. Ignorance of an order’s existence or its terms is not a valid reason for violating an order. A violator may be prosecuted and potentially face criminal consequences for violating the order. The person subject to a restraining order may work with a lawyer to ensure that he fully understands the restrictions placed on him by the order and how he can avoid inadvertently violating it. He can also discuss his options for modifying or dissolving a restraining order if he feels it is unfair or no longer appropriate for his case.
Renewing a Restraining Order
A temporary restraining order is valid for only 14 days after it is filed with the court. Often, a restraining order is filed along with a pending divorce. During that 14-day period, the court schedules a hearing at which both parties named in the restraining order must make their cases to the judge regarding the terms of the order. After the hearing, the judge can extend the restraining order for a period of one year or longer or allow it to expire, depending on the evidence and testimonies presented.
The court has the discretion to set an expiration date for a restraining order, but it may opt to make the order permanent instead of setting an expiration date if it deems this to be in the filing party’s best interest.
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