Many people think “domestic violence” is limited to people who are or have previously been married or in a romantic relationship. Under Washington law, however, domestic violence is defined to include incidents between family or household members. Sometimes, whether a Washington domestic violence protection order can properly be issued turns on the relationship between the parties, as seen in a recent case.
A woman petitioned for a domestic violence protection order against a man to whom she referred as her “uncle.” The man was seeking repayment of money he had lent the woman, and she alleged he made threats against her and her children.
The man’s attorney challenged whether a domestic violence order was applicable because the parties had never lived together and were not closely related. The woman had to explain her relationship to the man through an interpreter. She told the court her father had told her the man was the son of her grandmother’s first cousin. The court asked her if there was a blood relationship, and she responded, “possibly, yes.”
The trial court found that any blood relationship would qualify and that a blood relationship existed. The court issued a protection order for one year. The man appealed. The woman did not respond or participate in the appeal.
The appeals court also found that any blood relationship between the parties would satisfy the statute. The appeals court found the case turned on the meaning of “related by blood or marriage” in RCW 26.50.010(6).
The appeals court noted that the legislature did not define “related by blood.” Case law provides some guidance but more commonly addresses the meaning of “relative.” Courts have identified two meanings for the word relative, one that includes everyone who is related by consanguinity or affinity, both lineal and collateral, and another that is limited to those relatives who would qualify as heirs under the laws of succession.
The man argued that blood relatives should be limited to the immediate family, or those sharing common grandparents. The appeals court noted, however, that the domestic violence statute did not include any limiting language and found any blood relationship qualified under the statute.
The appeals court noted that, based on the information provided, the man could be the woman’s second cousin once removed. The court found that relationship did not necessarily exist, however. The appeals court pointed out that there could be multiple marriages or “half-blood” relationships that meant there was no common ancestry.
The appeals court found that a petitioner should identify the common ancestor shared with the respondent to show a blood relationship. The appeals court found that a domestic violence order should not be based on speculation, but on a properly established relationship.
The appeals court further noted that an anti-harassment order for protection may have been more appropriate in this case.
The appeals court reversed the trial court’s order.
In this case, the woman may have sought protection under the wrong statute. If she could not prove the respondent was “family,” she may have instead been able to obtain protection under a statute that is not limited to family or household members. This case shows that a person seeking a domestic violence protection order needs to be able to show the family relationship.
The Washington domestic violence attorneys at Blair & Kim, PLLC, have a thorough understanding of all types of protection orders. If you are facing an issue involving a civil protection order, call us at (206) 622-6562 to discuss your case.
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