In our “What is Domestic Violence?” post, we outlined the behavioral and legal definitions of domestic violence. Unfortunately, most of the people that we work with are very familiar with this kind of violence, and are coming to us because they are leaving or are wanting to leave an abusive relationship. Because separation is generally the most dangerous time, we are often working together to develop ways to ensure safety. From a legal standpoint, one way we can do this is by petitioning a court for a domestic violence protection order (DVPO). In this post, we’ll outline what a DVPO is and who it is geared towards. In future posts, we’ll chat more about how to get a DVPO and what happens if a DVPO is violated.
The Washington State legislature recognized domestic violence as a “crime against society,” and, enacted the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA) with the stated purpose of providing victims of domestic violence with the “maximum protection from abuse.” (RCW 10.99.010). The DVPA essentially streamlined the process, so as to provide survivors with “easy, quick, and effective access” to DVPOs. For example:
- No filing fees;
- Mandatory “pro se friendly” forms;
- Immediate ex parte temporary orders;
- Free service of process by law enforcement;
- No hard deadlines for submitting responses and replies;
- No confirmation process;
- Petitions can be heard any day of the week.
What is a DVPO?
Simply put, a DVPO is a civil protection order that protects one person (the petitioner / victim) and restrains another (the respondent / abuser). But what does that mean? When a court issues a DVPO, it may:
- Prohibit the abuser from physically harming, injuring, assaulting, molesting, harassing, threatening, or stalking the victim;
- Prohibit the abuser from keeping the victim under surveillance or monitoring the victim’s activities;
- Prohibit the abuser from contacting the victim, including using third parties to contact the victim on the abuser’s behalf;
- Prohibit the abuser from going to the victim’s home, school, workplace, or other specified locations;
- Prohibit the abuser from coming within a certain specified distance of the victim;
- Grant the petitioner temporary care of shared children;
- Grant the petitioner custody of shared pets;
- Order the abuser to vacate the shared home;
- Order the abuser to participate in treatment and / or counseling;
- Order the abuser not to posses any firearms, dangerous weapons, and / or concealed pistol license.
Who is a DVPO Geared Towards?
First, a DVPO is only an option for people who are in a specific kind of relationship* and who meet the legal definition of domestic violence (read more about both of this in our “What is Domestic Violence?” post). Still, not everyone in this situation needs or even wants a DVPO. Things to consider:
- Will a DVPO make you feel safer?
- Will a DVPO actually make you / your children safer? Sometimes victims suspect that getting a DVPO will actually make things worse.
- What might happen if you don’t file for a DVPO?
- Are there personal issues that your abuser may bring up in court, which you’d rather keep private?
- Is your abuser likely to obey the DVPO?
- Will you use a DVPO? Will you call the police if the order is violated?
Whether or not to petition for a DVPO is a deeply personal decision, that only you can make. Still, we always encourage individuals to speak with a trusted friend, family member, or professional.
*If you don't have the requisite relationship for a DVPO, but still feel that you need protection, there are other types orders available, we just aren’t discussing them in this post.