There are two types of civil protection orders for victims of unwanted, harassing, or unlawful contact from a person with whom they do not reside and which is not domestic violence. This section deals with the circumstances surrounding and the process for obtaining the most common of those: The anti-harassment order for protection.
If you or your minor child is being harassed, you may petition the court for an order protecting you from the harassing individual. To prevail, you’ll need to prove that the person “seriously alarmed, annoyed or harassed” you, that the actions were detrimental to you and served no legitimate purpose, and that you suffered “substantial” emotional distress.
The process for obtaining a civil anti-harassment order has been designed so that attorneys are not required in order to bring or defend an action. Either party, however, may have an attorney represent them throughout any and all stages of the process. Often, if one party is represented by counsel while the other is not, it can provide a significant advantage to the party that is represented. And since this is a civil action, the court cannot appoint an attorney to the unrepresented party.
Below is information intended to assist you in obtaining an anti-harassment order for your protection. If you have questions or would like to discuss representation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We have decades of experience representing people who are in your position and need help.
Process for Obtaining and Anti-Harassment Order
The process for obtaining a civil anti-harassment order begins with the filing of a petition in the court of proper jurisdiction. In Washington, this petition must be filed either in a district or superior court within the county where the harassment is occurring or where the petitioner resides. The petition must allege under oath the specific facts that constitute the harassment and that can be brought on their behalf, on behalf of their minor child if the harassment is coming from an adult or, in certain circumstances, on behalf of their minor child against another minor child. Generally, a filing fee is required by the court and in most cases, the court must then schedule a formal hearing no later than 14 days from the filing of the petition.
Temporary Anti-Harassment Order
If you can show “reasonable proof” that you are being harassed and that there would be “great and irreparable” harm if the court does nothing, the judge may issue a temporary anti-harassment order. This would serve to protect you from additional harassment while awaiting a formal hearing. A temporary order would be effective from the time it is served upon the respondent until the formal hearing.
Serving Anti-Harassment Orders
It is the petitioner’s responsibility to make sure that the notice of the formal hearing along with any temporary orders and supporting documentation is served upon the respondent. While the hearing will be scheduled within 14 days of the petition being filed, the petitioner must serve the notices no less than five court days from the date of the formal hearing. If proper service is not made, the court will likely continue it to give the petitioner another opportunity to complete service. If the court continues the hearing, it will likely extend any temporary orders as well. This continuance and extension can be for up to an additional 24 days.
If satisfied that proper service was made and the parties are ready to proceed, the court will move forward with the hearing to determine whether a formal order should be entered. The process itself is essentially a trial held before a judge as opposed to a jury. Each party gets their opportunity to be heard, to present evidence and testimony, and ultimately to argue why the judge should rule in their favor. The petitioner, as the moving party, has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she is the victim of unlawful harassment. If successful, the court will issue an order preventing harassment. Otherwise, the action would be dismissed.
Anti-Harassment Order Contents
A granted order prohibiting future harassment can contain several provisions that will offer the victim protection. It can prohibit any form of contact, direct, indirect, in person, or by any electronic means. It can keep the respondent from going to the victim’s residence, workplace, school, or within a specified distance of the victim. It can order the respondent to surrender firearms and undergo alcohol, drug, or mental health evaluations and to follow up on any recommendations. Generally, the order cannot be put in place for more than one year. There is an exception, however, whereby the court can place the order in effect for more than a year if there is a finding that the unlawful harassment would be likely to resume.
Modification, Termination and Renewal
An anti-harassment order will contain an expiration date. Prior to the expiration, either party can request a modification of the terms or an early termination of the order. Also, the victim can petition the court for a renew of the order. For the court to modify or terminate the order prior to its expiration, good cause and a change in circumstances would need to be shown by the moving party. For the court to renew the order beyond its original expiration, the victim would need to show that the respondent would likely resume the harassing behavior were the order to expire.
If you are being harassed by a neighbor, co-worker, friend, family member, or even a complete stranger, don’t put up with it. Call us to set up a consultation. We will review with you the steps you’ll want to take to ensure that an anti-harassment order is granted in your favor.