Restraining Orders

What is a Restraining Order?

A restraining order is a type of protective order that is filed within the context of an ongoing family law matter, including divorce, parentage, paternity, modifications, etc. When you file for a restraining order you will be the petitioner and the other party will be the respondent. If a restraining order is granted, the court will order the other party not to engage in certain offensive behaviors; or to remain a certain distance away from your home, school or workplace or those of your children or other protected parties. Prohibitions against the possession of firearms can also be included if necessary. Restraining orders carry criminal sanctions if they are violated. Restraining orders under dissolution actions (divorce/separation) are covered under RCW 26.09. Paternity actions are covered under RCW 26.26. Non-parental actions are covered under RCW 26.10.

What if I Already Have a Protection Order?

If you have already been granted a protection order, you can ask the court to consolidate those orders under any ongoing family law action. This will make the protection order a part of your family law action. Regardless of whether this is done, the protection order should still remain in effect and ought to be a relevant part of your family law action. Consolidating the cases can make it easier for the court and parties to access the appropriate information. You should discuss what actions may be appropriate, under your specific circumstances, with a legal professional prior to taking any actions.

What is the Difference between a Restraining Order and a Protection Order?

Both a restraining order and protection orders (Anti-Harassment, DV, No-Contact, Sexual Assault, and Vulnerable Adult) are types of protective orders. Both types of orders have similar prohibitions on contact by the offending party, but the consequences of breaking a protection order has more serious sanctions. The sanctions for violating a protection order could be a Class C Felony, while the sanction for violation of a restraining order is a Gross Misdemeanor. A restraining order can also include prohibitions concerning the mutual property of the parties. As mentioned above, a restraining order can only be filed when there is another action pending with the courts. As these matters are all filed within the Superior Courts; restraining orders may only be filed in the Superior Court. Protection orders are generally issued for one year, but can be granted on a permanent basis. Restraining orders, as part of a final decree, are generally permanent unless later modified. In protection order cases the court does not have to follow the rules of evidence meaning that hearsay and other evidence may be considered by the court. In restraining order actions the court should follow the rules of evidence. The rationale for mandating the rules of evidence for restraining order hearings is that the parties are generally afforded more time to prepare for a full trial on the issues and engage in discovery and call witnesses if necessary.

How Can I Obtain a Restraining Order?

Each county has its own procedures for filing restraining order actions. The best place to get started is by contacting the family advocacy offices of your local superior court, or contact an experienced family law attorney for advice. There is a great deal of information available on the internet that will allow you to get in contact with an appropriate agency to assist you if necessary. The Superior Courts have the ability to allow the granting of temporary restraining orders on an emergency basis, generally done in Ex-parte, that become effective upon the service of the offending party. These Ex-parte temporary restraining orders are generally effective for 2-weeks, but can be extended if necessary to allow for proper service, or other good cause. A restraining order is only effective when the other party has been served according to the proper court procedure. At the hearing on the temporary restraining order, the court will hear evidence from each party and make its considerations based upon the preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). It should be noted that the standard rules of evidence will apply. The standard for issuing the restraining order is whether the requesting party has a reasonable fear for their safety from the actions of the respondent. The temporary restraining order, if granted, will last until further orders of the court or the issuance of a final decree in the matter. Only upon the issuance of the final decree will a permanent restraining order be issued.

Is There a Cost Associated with Filing a Restraining Order?

Effectively no, but as restraining orders are filed in conjunction with a current family law action; the fee is the original fee for the underlying action. These fees can also be waived by application to the court under indigent standards.


This is a legal discussion and not legal advice. Restraining Order cases can have long lasting impact and impair proper relationships with your loved ones; or provide suitable avenues for their protection. Our office cannot stress enough the importance of seeking out experienced legal advice when you are involved in a restraining order action. Due to the serious consequences of these kinds of actions you owe it to yourself to seek out expert guidance. Please contact one of our experienced Family Law attorneys for a free consultation.

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