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Washington Protection Orders Entered Pursuant to a Dissolution Decree or Parenting Plan

In Washington, a domestic violence protection order restraining a parent from contacting his or her children is generally limited to one year, RCW 26.50.060, but Washington civil protection order attorneys know that there are exceptions to this limitation.  One such exception is when the order is issued under Chapter 26.09, RCW, Dissolution Proceedings – Legal Separation.  This issue was before a Washington court of appeals in a recent case.

planeThe wife was an American citizen who married an Egyptian citizen in Egypt.  The couple had a son together.   The wife stated her husband frequently abused her physically, verbally, and emotionally.  She stated he controlled what she wore and sometimes confined her and the child to the apartment.  She stated he hit her in front of the child.  The husband disputed the allegations but admitted to slapping her at least one time.

The husband became angry with his wife, took the child’s passport, and told his wife she had to leave Egypt within three days without her son.  The wife went to the U.S. Embassy and obtained an emergency passport for the son and assistance in leaving Egypt safely with her son.

She moved to Seattle and filed for dissolution and a domestic violence protection order shortly afterwards.  The court issued a temporary domestic violence protective order for both the wife and the son and awarded her temporary custody.

The husband filed a response to the wife’s dissolution pleading, wherein he stated he had already obtained a divorce in Egypt.  He had also filed an appeal seeking to terminate his wife’s custody rights.  The wife had not received notice of the proceedings and was not given an opportunity to participate in the divorce proceeding or the appeal.  The trial court denied the husband’s motion to dismiss the custody case, finding that the Egyptian court had not made a valid custody decision and that the Washington courts had exclusive continuing subject matter jurisdiction over the child.

The parties agreed to include the restraints from the temporary restraining order in the decree of dissolution and to allow the wife a permanent protection order if the husband violated any of those restraints.  The permanent order would include at a minimum the provisions set forth in that same paragraph of the decree.

The final parenting plan allowed weekly Skype visitation between the child and the husband, during which the husband and wife should only have the contact needed to initiate and facilitate the visitation.  The parenting plan prohibited the husband from discussing the mother, her personal life, or any legal matters with the son.  The plan specifically stated the father’s visitation rights were contingent on his compliance with these restrictions.

The appeals court stated the husband began violating the restrictions soon after the final orders were entered.  He contacted the wife outside the permissible scope and asked about her personal life and the child’s religious upbringing.  He also sent her threatening text messages.  The wife moved to enforce the decree and requested a permanent protection order.

The family court commissioner found that the husband had violated the no contact provisions and that the parties had agreed the wife could obtain a permanent protection order for both herself and the child in the event of such violations.  The commissioner found, however, that case law “overrule[d] the parties’ agreement,” and the son should not be included in the protection order.

The wife sought a revision of the commissioner’s order, and a superior court judge entered a permanent protection order for the wife and son.  The judge found the entry of the protection order was not modifying the parenting plan because the parties had agreed to the wife’s right to obtain the protection order at the time the parenting plan and decree were entered, so the case cited by the commissioner was inapplicable.

The husband appealed, arguing the trial court misinterpreted the custody agreements by including the child in the permanent protection order.

The appeals court found the parties incorporated the parenting plan into the dissolution decree.  The decree stated the mother had the right to obtain a permanent domestic violence protection order against the father, including at a minimum the provisions set forth in that paragraph, if the father violated any terms of the order.  The provisions in the paragraph included both the wife and the child.  The paragraph included a provision restraining the husband from physically harming, molesting, harassing, threatening, or stalking either the wife or the child.  The husband was also restrained from following or monitoring communication of the wife or the child.  He was restrained from coming near or having contact with either the wife or the child, except as set forth in the final parenting plan.  He was also “excluded from” the wife’s home, her place of work, her school, and the child’s school or day care, and he was prohibited from knowingly coming within 500 feet of any of those locations.  Furthermore, the final parenting plan made the father’s visitation contingent on his compliance with the restrictions.

The appeals court found the terms of the decree and the final parenting plan, when read together, provided for a permanent protection order for both the mother and the child if the father violated the restraints in the orders.  The commissioner and the judge both found that the father had violated the restraints.

The father argued that the trial court could only grant a one-year protection order for the child pursuant to chapter 26.50 RCW.  The order, however, was implemented under chapter 26.09 RCW. The appeals court therefore rejected this argument and affirmed the decision of the superior court.

This case shows that the one-year limitation for a protection order for a child does not apply if the right to seek a permanent protection order on behalf of the child was part of the final parenting plan and dissolution decree.

The Washington civil protection order attorneys at Blair & Kim, PLLC, know the law surrounding civil protection orders and divorce.  If you are seeking an order or opposing an order being pursued against you, call us at (206) 622-6562 to discuss your case.

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