Domestic Violence Protection Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic in King County, WA
During this time of pandemic and home-isolation, we are seeing a rise in domestic violence cases and calls. If you or your child are victims of domestic violence, there is a hope and a path to safety - even during this complex time.
IF YOU ARE IN AN EMERGENCY, CALL 911.
Safety PlanningWashington State defines domestic violence as any physical harm, assault, stalking, sexual assault, or the fear of imminent threat of physical harm. This means domestic violence also comes in the form of psychological or emotional threats - not just physical harm.
Escaping your abuser, or protecting your children from theirs, is never easy. It takes time and attention to detail to safely escape. You are not alone - rely on your friends and family for support.
Safety planning includes where to go, who to contact, and timing for asking the court for an Immediate Protection Order. Some people have time for making a thorough safety plan, but sometimes you do not have the time at the expense of your safety. If you need immediate help, call 911.
During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, you do not have to make plans to physically appear at the courthouse. Rather, you prepare your documents in advance, submit them electronically, and appear at court via phone. If you do not have a safe place to access the internet or phone, you may need to make arrangements with family or friends to stay with them and access these resources.
If you have evidence to present to the court, you should have everything organized and prepared to put into your Petition. Be sure to write down - or memorize - as much detail about each and every incident of domestic violence. These details will help to ensure your story is heard and understood by the judicial officer reviewing your case. It will also help you when working with an attorney or other legal aid.
Consider Hiring an AttorneyAny court process can be cumbersome and difficult. In Washington State, we are fortunate to have accessible forms and DV resources. However, a lot of these resources are running on limited operation due to the coronavirus. This is where hiring an attorney is beneficial.
As experienced domestic violence attorneys, we know the ins and outs of seeking protection orders, as well as staying up to date on all the procedural changes hitting the courts almost daily.
Obtaining an Immediate OrderAfter preparing your Petition and other supporting documentation, you are ready to ask the court for immediate protection. If you are representing yourself, remember to check with the court clerk for any updates or changes to procedure during the pandemic.
A judicial officer will review your materials. Depending on the thoroughness of your materials, they may or may not have questions for you before making a decision - this is where that attention to detail is so important.
If you live with your abuser and the court grants an immediate order, it should include a provision requiring your abuser to leave your shared residence. It is best to make arrangements with your local law enforcement agency to have him served and they will assist with the move-out provision. You should not be present during this time - find somewhere safe, and preferably unknown to your abuser, to go for a short period of time.
You Have an Immediate Order - Now What?Once you obtain an Immediate Protection Order, your work is not finished!
The immediate order will include a return hearing date (usually 14-days later). At the return hearing, a judicial officer will review your materials, any response from your abuser, and any materials you provide in strict reply. Unfortunately, domestic violence cases have more lenient rules regarding evidence and timelines for service - don't be surprised if you receive materials as late as the day-of the hearing.
You should be prepared to argue your case over the phone at the return hearing. Be careful not to speak over other people, do not argue, and stick to the most important points of the domestic violence incidents.