Frequently asked questions
How can I protect my children if the court orders visitation with my abuser?
Concerns for children’s safety in domestic violence cases often fall on a continuum from very high risk to lower risk. In the highest risk cases, it may be too dangerous for the respondent to have any contact with the children. In other cases, where there is less risk, the court may order that the respondent be allowed unsupervised visitation. For those cases that fall in between, you may believe that it is important for the respondent to have contact with the children but want that contact to be supervised by another person. This would be referred to as supervised visitation. There are two types of supervised visitation options available in King County: professional supervisors not affiliated with a visitation center (independent supervisors) and supervisors who provide their supervision services inside a visitation center (center based supervision). Both center-based and individual supervisors charge a fee for their services but the courts will generally require the respondent to pay the costs associated with supervised visitation.
To learn more about supervised visitation and whether it is right for your family, please view the following publication from The Family Violence Prevention Fund called, Supervised Visitation Programs: Information for Mothers Who Have Experienced Abuse. The publication includes information about supervised visitation, how to prepare children for visitation, how to handle concerns with visitation and key questions a parent should ask to determine if the visitation program is right for your family. The following questions have been excerpted from a larger list of questions in this publication:
1) How does the program provide a safe visitation environment for parents and for children?
2) How does the program try to make the visitation a positive experience for children?
3) What role, if any, will the program play in the custody/visitation court case?
4) How does the program collect, record, and handle information about families?
5) What rights and options do I have if I feel the supervisor or the supervised visitation center is not appropriately supervising my children or if they behave in an unprofessional or unsafe manner?
For more information about supervised visitation and to discuss the visitation provisions on your order, please contact the Protection Order Advocacy Program.
Full faith and credit
Full faith and credit is a federal law that says that an order entered in one state (or the District of Columbia, Tribal Lands, or US Territories) is enforceable in any other state, the District of Columbia, Tribal lands, or US Territories. Therefore, if you are issued a protection order in the state of Washington then your order is enforceable throughout the US.
If you have any questions about whether your order will be afforded full faith and credit outside of the State of Washington, please contact the Protection Order Advocacy Program. For more information about full faith and credit, please refer to the following website.
Should I hire an attorney?
When the Protection Order Statute (RCW 26.50) was originally passed, the process was specifically designed so that victims of domestic violence would be able to file the action on their own (also known as "pro se") and not have to hire an attorney to represent them through the process. As a result, the process is designed for non attorneys and the Commissioners and Judges who hear protection order cases are used to having unrepresented parties in front of them. The majority of people who pursue protection orders do so without attorneys. Regardless, you may decide that your case may be too complicated or too difficult for you to represent yourself. If that is the case, there are legal clinics and lawyer referral services to assist you in identifying someone who has expertise in family law and domestic violence cases (www.kcba.org). You can also contact a community based domestic violence program (click here for link) to see if they can refer you to low or no cost legal representation. If you are a resident of Seattle you may be eligible for legal services through the Seattle Domestic Violence Project of the Northwest Justice Program. Please contact the Protection Order Advocacy Program for more information.
Deciding to hire an attorney to represent you on a protection order action is a very personal and important decision.
Because a protection order is a civil legal matter, an attorney will not be provided to you for free. If you wish to have an attorney represent you, you would be responsible for hiring and paying for the attorney’s services.
When deciding whether to hire an attorney for your protection order proceeding or other related family law action, it is important to consider whether you can afford legal representation. The fees to hire an attorney may vary but typically include paying a "retainer fee" which can range between $500 – $5,000 plus an hourly fee (once the retainer runs out). The retainer can be considered to be an up-front payment in which the attorney subtracts their hourly fees and costs. Additional payments may be necessary if the retainer does not cover the full cost of the legal action, which it may not. Hourly fees typically range between $125 and $200 per hour.
If you are married to the respondent or if you have children in common, you may also want to prepare for the possibility that you (or your abuser) may file for a family law action (divorce or custody action) either before, during, or after your protection order case. Before hiring an attorney for your protection order case, you may want to consider the likelihood that there will be another family law action filed and if so, whether you would be able to afford representation for both the protection order case and the family law action. If you can only afford to be represented in one action, many people prioritize the family law action because those proceedings are generally more complex, may have higher stakes (if child custody is involved) and unlike protection order cases, do not have protection order advocates to help provide assistance to petitioners in Superior Court cases.
Hiring the right attorney is critical
If you do decide to hire an attorney to represent you – it is very important that you hire someone who has experience working on cases involving domestic violence and protection orders. If your attorney does not have experience with or truly understand domestic violence then they may not be the best person to represent you. When interviewing a prospective attorney, pay attention to see if the attorney makes victim blaming statements, diminishes the level of danger you believe you are in, refers to the abuse as mutual, or if they don’t seem to focus on victim safety, as this could be a sign that they may not be a good candidate to represent you in your protection order matter. The following are some sample questions you may want to ask an attorney you are considering hiring for your case:
1) What is your experiencing representing someone who has survived domestic violence on a protection order case or a family law case?
2) What were some of the challenges that you encountered on those cases? How would you try to avoid those challenges in my case?
3) What steps did you take to ensure your client’s safety when you filed motions with the court, requested relief, drafted orders or negotiated with the abuser or the abuser’s attorney?
4) What strategy would you pursue for my individual case?
If you are not sure whether hiring an attorney for your protection order case would be right for you, you may want to contact the Protection Order Advocacy Program for assistance exploring the pros/cons of hiring an attorney.