Restraining Orders

Restraining orders in Seattle and King County.

A restraining order is a lesser variety of a domestic violence protection order.  When it comes to strength of the order, Domestic Violence Protection Orders (“DVPO”) are stronger.  If a person violates a DVPO, they have just committed a gross misdemeanor which is punishable by up to a year in jail.

If someone does it multiple times, it becomes a felony.  Meanwhile, a Restraining Order violation results in a misdemeanor which is punish by up to 90 days in jail.   However, restraining orders can do many things that domestic violence protections orders can not do.

What’s the difference between temporary and permanent restraining orders?

A restraining order is first filed as a temporary restraining order in the ex parte department in King and Snohomish County.  These hearings are conducted without due process to the other party.   The person obtaining the temporary restraining order must give a good reason for why the judge should give them the restraining order against the other party.

A good reason means that the party has met the burden of “show cause” or shown cause for why the order should be issued.  Good reasons include a legitimate fear of physical harm, emotional abuse, or other factors.  Oddly, protection orders tend to be easier to get than restraining orders.  Nevertheless, the restraining order is usually granted, and becomes effective immediately.

A restraining order may:

  • Require the person to leave the family home
  • Prevent them from having any contact with the children
  • Prevent them from going within a certain amount of distance of the home, school, or workplace of the spouse
  • Block the spouse from accessing bank accounts
  • Prohibit the spouse from transporting children out of state
  • Remove the person from family, car and life insurance policies


The temporary version is good for two weeks.  At the time the restraining order is entered, the person gets a hearing date and then must serve the other party.  The hearing date is called the return hearing.  Be mindful to also complete the Law Enforcement Information Sheet (LEIS) when seeking to get an order.  At the return hearing, the other party gets a chance to respond and then the court decides whether to make it permanent or to deny the order.

Dangerous behavior is upsetting and could bring harm to you and your children.  If you are in that situation, absolutely get a DVPO right now.  Unfortunately, not everyone has legitimate reasons for getting a restraining order or DVPO.   The DVPO and restraining order aspects of divorce is an area of law of frequent abuse by parties.  Some attorneys are widely known within the legal community to use DVPOs to get an advantage against the father or husband.

There is even a mini-cottage-industry of professionals dedicated to keeping people in the DVPO system.  Once a DVPO is introduced in a divorce case, the case tends to get ugly fast.  In our experience, restraining orders tend to be an easier way to go if the couple want to ever have any hope of speaking to each other again–critical if you have children.

Get the right legal protection.  Should you need to seek our help by contacting The Seattle Family Law Group, the earlier in the process the better we can serve you and deliver the outcome you want.  We assess your risk if you are in an abusive situation and help you get the protection you need.  If you are served with one of these orders, we will outline an aggressive strategy to get the order denied.  Do not take them lightly.