Duration of Washington DVPO

Washington civil protection orders have undergone significant changes recently, including changes to the duration of protection orders.  However, there are some cases filed before the new laws took effect that are still subject to the previous laws.  A husband recently challenged the duration of a Domestic Violence Protection Order (“DVPO”) under the former DVPO statutes.

According to the appeals court’s unpublished opinion, the petitioner and respondent were married for 25 years.  The wife filed a petition for a DVPO against the husband on September 20, 2021.  She alleged he had “assaulted [her] with his iPhone.” She also alleged he stood in the door to keep her from leaving.  The husband was not arrested, but police officers ordered him to leave the home.

The wife’s petition included information regarding past incidents of domestic violence by the husband, including  hitting her with a gallon of milk in 1998, kicking a coffee table at her injuring her legs in 2003, and throwing a bottle and hitting her shoulder in 2006.  The husband was arrested for the 2006 incident after the wife’s doctor reported it to the police. The husband was sentenced to probation and ordered to go to anger management classes.

The wife also described a road rage incident resulting in charges for assault with a deadly weapon and giving a false statement to police.  After pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, the husband was ordered to take anger management classes.

The wife requested a DVPO protecting her for more than a year, asserting the husband was likely to resume acts of domestic violence against her if it expired at one year.  She said she was frightened of the husband’s “very unpredictable, angry responses, to a very mild situation.” She also expressed concern that her petitions for the DVPO and for divorce might set him off and make him “go really wild.”

The commissioner entered a temporary DVPO pending the hearing.  The husband was also ordered to surrender weapons.

The husband denied the wife’s claims and asserted that she was abusive.  He provided sworn statements from his family regarding his character.  He also introduced emails, a text message from the wife, and a picture of a domestic violence pamphlet. He also provided a floor plan of their home to show where she could have left the room during that 2021 incident.

The wife denied the husband’s allegations.  She provided a sworn declaration from her daughter who stated there was a “constant cycle of intimidation” and “verbal and physical abuse” when she lived with the husband.  The daughter also stated her mother was in a “dangerous situation.” The wife also alleged the husband had not surrendered all of the firearms in his possession. She claimed he had falsely accused her son of stealing them so he would not have to surrender them.

At the hearing in November 2021, the wife showed the husband had failed to surrender firearms in violation of the temporary order.  The commissioner also found she met the burden of proving domestic violence.  The commissioner granted a DVPO protecting the wife for two years.

The husband appealed, arguing the commissioner erred in entering the two-year DVPO without evidence showing he would resume acts of domestic violence after one year.

The wife’s petition was governed by the Domestic Violence Protection Act in former chapter 26.50 RCW.  Pursuant to former RCW 26.50.030, the petition must allege domestic violence. The petitioner must also submit sworn affidavit describing the facts and circumstances.  A DVPO prohibiting the respondent from contacting their minor children may not be longer than a year.  If there are not any minor children involved the court may grant a DVPO for any period of time or even permanently, if “the respondent is likely to resume acts of domestic violence against the petitioner” after expiration of the order. Former RCW 26.50.060.

The appeals court found substantial evidence supported a finding that an order of a year or less would not be sufficient.  The wife detailed multiple incidents of domestic violence throughout their marriage.  The husband continued aggressive and sometimes violent behavior even after being ordered to go to anger management classes twice. The appeals court also noted that the divorce proceedings provided an “ongoing opportunit[y] for conflict.”

The husband argued the commissioner erred in ordering a protection period longer than a year without explaining the basis. The appeals court noted the husband did not cite to any legal requirement for additional findings for a DVPO of longer than a year.

The appeals court affirmed the order and awarded the wife attorneys’ fees.

The current statutes do not include the same requirements for DVPOs exceeding a year.  Under the new statutes, after notice to the respondent and a hearing, the court may grant a protection order for a fixed period or enter a permanent order.  The court may not grant relief for less than a year unless the petition asks for a shorter duration.  However, a civil protection order restraining the respondent from contacting their minor children are still generally limited to one year, except for protection orders issued under certain Domestic Relations laws. RCW 7.105.315.  A petitioner may move to renew a protection order within 90 days before it expires. The motion must state the reasons the petitioner wants to renew the order.  The court must grant the renewal unless the respondent shows by a preponderance of the evidence there has been a substantial change in circumstances, and, for a DVPO, that they will not resume acts of domestic violence against the petitioner or the petitioner’s family or household members who are vulnerable adults or minors on expiration of the order.  The statute provides a list of factors the court may consider in determining if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. RCW 7.105.405.

The Washington civil protection attorneys at Blair & Kim, PLLC, have a thorough understanding of civil protection laws.  Whether you are seeking or opposing a DVPO or a renewal, we have the experience to help.  Call us at (206) 622-6562 to set up a consultation.


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