Washington Appeals Court Reverses Denial of DVPO

A wife recently appealed a trial court’s decision not to grant a domestic violence protection order (“DVPO”) in a divorce proceeding.  She argued that RCW 7.105.225(1)(a) required the court to issue the DVPO after a finding of domestic violence and that the court incorrectly interpreted the statute to require it to perform a risk analysis after it found domestic violence had occurred.  She also argued the court erred in denying the DVPO for reasons that were expressly prohibited in the statute.

RCW 7.105.225(1) states “the court shall issue a protection order” if the petitioner proves the statutory requirements by a preponderance of the evidence.  To obtain a DVPO, the petitioner must prove they were “subjected to domestic violence by the respondent.”  The statute further sets forth grounds for which the court may not deny or dismiss the petition for a protection order, including: either party being a minor, unless relief or remedies are specifically limited elsewhere in Chapter 7.105 based on a party’s age; the petitioner’s failure to report the conduct to law enforcement; a no-contact order or restraining order having been issued in a criminal or domestic relations proceeding; the petitioner’s ability to obtain relief in another action or proceeding; pending criminal charges against the respondent; the time since the last incident; or the respondent not living near the petitioner.  RCW 7.105.225(2).

In this case, the court found the wife had been subjected to domestic violence by the husband.  The court concluded the statute suggested the court is then to conduct a risk analysis to determine whether to grant the DVPO. The trial court then concluded that the statute allowed it to deny the DVPO because of the combined reasons of the passage of time since the incident occurred and the husband no longer living near the wife.

The husband acknowledged that the court was required to issue a DVPO after finding the wife had been subjected to domestic violence by him. He also acknowledged the statutory language did not support the court’s conclusion it could deny the DVPO petition based on multiple prohibited bases because the court had implied discretion to conduct a risk analysis.

The appeals court concluded the trial court’s decision “was contrary to the plain terms of RCW 7.105.255.  The statute requires the court to issue a DVPO when it finds domestic violence without any further risk analysis.  The appeals court further noted that there is nothing in the statute that authorizes the court to deny a DVPO if more than one of the prohibited bases for denial are present.  The appeals court accepted the husband’s concession, reversed the denial of the DVPO, and remanded the case to the trial court.

This case illustrates how a trial court may misinterpret the law relating to protection orders. RCW 7.105.225(1)(a) requires the trial court to issue a DVPO upon a finding of domestic violence.  Whether you are seeking or opposing a DVPO or other protection order, a knowledgeable Washington civil protection order attorney can help protect you and your rights.  Blair & Kim, PLLC, is also experienced in family law and criminal defense and can assist with related matters as well.  Contact us at (206) 622-6562 for a consultation.


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