The Washington legislature recently passed legislation that makes significant changes to Washington civil protection order law. The legislation expressed an intent to clarify and simplify civil protection laws, in part to provide greater access to protection orders and the related court processes. To further this goal, the new legislation consolidates the six types of civil protection orders into one chapter of the Revised Code of Washington (“RCW”). The laws relating to the different types of orders were previously scattered in multiple chapters of the RCW.
The new legislation also requires the administrative office of the courts to review the different approaches to jurisdiction for the different types of protection orders and evaluate “whether jurisdiction should be harmonized, modified, or consolidated. . . .” This review is to be done through the state supreme court’s gender and justice commission with support from the state women’s commission.
The new laws also require the administrative office of the courts to develop a single form that may be used for five of the types of civil protection orders, excluding only extreme risk protection orders. Courts will be required to allow petitions to be submitted electronically. Superior courts must meet this requirement by January 1, 2021 and all courts of limited jurisdiction must do so by January 1, 2026. Courts must also implement electronic tracking of the case by the petitioner and respondent within that same timeframe.
The new laws allow hearings on protection orders to be held in person or remotely. The court generally must grant a request for the parties or witnesses to appear remotely unless it finds good cause to require them to be in-person or attend through some other specific means. Courts should protect contact information of the parties and witnesses. Remote participants may use virtual backgrounds to prevent revealing their location.
These procedural changes will simplify the process and may make it more convenient for both parties, as well as attorneys, judges, and, in some cases, law enforcement. The legislation also makes some more substantive, and sometimes controversial, changes. These changes include changing the definition of “domestic violence,” reducing the age included in the definition of “intimate partner” to thirteen, expanding the definition of “family or household members” to include “a parent’s intimate partner and children,” allowing a court to re-align the parties in domestic violence and anti-harassment protection cases if it finds the original respondent is the victim of abuse or harassment by the original petitioner, and revising requirements related to the surrender of firearms.
Although the new laws will simplify things somewhat, the issues involved in a civil protection order can still be complex. Most of the laws will take effect July 1, 2022, although some sections, including the section on remote hearings, took effect July 25, 2021. Some of the actual changes, however, will take place over the course of the next few years, and some issues remain unsettled. Whether you are seeking or opposing a protection order, an experienced Washington civil protection order attorney can help you navigate the process and ensure your rights are protected. At Blair & Kim, PLLC, we have a thorough understanding of civil protection orders and how they intersect with both criminal and family law. Schedule your consultation by calling us at (206) 622-6562.