I need a "restraining order" in Washington. Which one should I choose?

Posted over 1 year ago. Applies to Washington, 2 helpful votes



Criminal No Contact Order.

A no contact order (or NCO) is only issued by a court following a criminal arrest, such as for assault. NCO's prohibit all contact between the defendant and the victim, including third party contact made on behalf of the defendant. Violation of an NCO is a criminal offense in and of itself.


Civil Domestic Violence Protection Orders

Domestic violence protection orders (DVPO's) are obtained by an individual on their own behalf from a superior or district court. Unlike above, a pending criminal matter is not required, though in many cases, a victim will seek a DVPO in addition to any NCO they may have. To qualify, the petitioner must be related to the offender, or must be living under the same roof. Like NCO's, they also prohibit all contact from the offender, and a violation is a crime.


Civil Anti Harassment Orders

Protections orders for unlawful harassment are similar to domestic violence protection orders, except that instead of an act of DV, the basis is a course of unlawful conduct that is intended to annoy, harass, or scare the recipient. These are commonly obtained in neighbor disputes gone bad, or in cases of cyber stalking, to cite just two examples. As with the prior two orders, these prohibit all contact from the perpetrator and the victim, and a violation of this provision is a crime.


Domestic Relations Restraining Orders.

A restraining order is actually a specific kind of protection order that is only available to parties who are involved in a domestic relations matter, such as dissolution, legal separation, or nonparental custody. They do not prohibit all contact between the parties, but they do restrain one party from coming within so many feet of the victim, or from going to their home, work place, and/or school. These are called personal restraints, and a violation of one subjects the restrained party to arrest. There are also property restraints available, which are typically placed on both parties, preventing them from giving away property, cancelling insurance policies, and the like. A violation of a property restraint does not subject one to arrest.


Sexual Assault Protection Orders.

These protection orders are available to victims of a non-consensual sexual act that don't otherwise qualify for a DVPO. These were created by the legislature somewhat recently in order to fill the gap created by the requirement that a petitioner for a DVPO live with or be related to the perpetrator. For example, a victim of stranger rape would not be able to file for a DVPO. Because sexual violence is included in the definition of domestic violence, if a party qualifies for a DVPO by being related or living together, they must file a DVPO instead. As with a DVPO, a sexual assault protection order prohibits all contact with the victim, on penalty of arrest.


Vulnerable Adult Protection Orders.

VAPO's are usually supplemental to the filing of a guardianship. They protect a vulnerable adult from harm, either financially or physically. As with the DVPO and others of its ilk, the VAPO prohibits all contact between the perpetrator and the victim. Note that the VAPO can be (and often is) filed by an interested third party - because the vulnerable adult typically lacks the capacity to act on their own behalf. In addition, the vulnerable adult does not have to agree with the filing of the petition.

Additional Resources

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