Do We Need To Be Married For an Offense To Be Considered “Domestic Violence?”

No, you do not have to be spouses to fall under Washington State’s domestic violence laws. The offense can be “domestic violence” if you are a current or former intimate partner or a family or household member of the accuser or alleged perpetrator. A Seattle domestic violence defense attorney can help if someone accuses you of domestic violence. 

Who Can Be an “Intimate Partner” in a Domestic Violence Case

RCW 26.50.010 defines many of the terms pertinent to domestic violence actions in our state. This statute says that for purposes of domestic violence an intimate partner is:

  • A current spouse or domestic partner
  • A former spouse or domestic partner
  • Someone with whom you have a child in common. You do not have to be or have been married or lived together for this category.
  • Adults who live together now or did in the past
  • Adults who have a “dating relationship” or did so in the past 
  • People who are at least sixteen years old and currently or previously lived together or have/had a dating relationship.

The regulations say that a “dating relationship” is a romantic social relationship. Because a dating relationship can be more challenging to identify that marriage, living together, or having a child in common, the courts can consider several factors, like how often the two people interact, how long the alleged relationship has gone on, and the nature of the involvement.

Who Can Be a Member of One’s Family or Household in a Domestic Violence Case

Washington law identifies these categories as members of one’s family or household for purposes of domestic violence allegations:

  • Adults with whom you have a relation by blood or marriage
  • Adults who currently live together or have done so in the past
  • Someone with whom you have either a biological or legal parent-child relationship. This category can include parents and their children, stepparents and stepchildren, and grandparents and grandchildren.

Sometimes, people confuse the labels of intimate partner, family, or member of the household, in their domestic violence petitions.

How Washington Law Defines “Domestic Violence” 

A person can be guilty of domestic violence if one does any of these things to one’s intimate partner or family or household member:

  • Causes physical harm or bodily injury
  • Assaults 
  • Sexually assaults
  • Stalks
  • Inflicts fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault

If the judge decides that domestic violence occurred, the judge can enter a Domestic Violence Protection and Antiharassment Order. This is a civil order, not criminal. 

The order can include specifics as to what contact is allowed and what is prohibited. For example, the order could allow the defendant to communicate with the petitioner by text message limited to child custody and exchange issues. An order can exclude the defendant from the petitioner’s workplace, school, or residence, or the child’s school or childcare provider. 

Some civil protection orders include a designated distance prohibition for the defendant, such as 100 yards from the person or places. Including a particular distance allows law enforcement to measure and enforce, but it can also provide a defense if the defendant gets wrongfully accused of violating the order. 

Getting accused of domestic violence can have long-term negative consequences for your career and your life. A Seattle domestic violence defense attorney can help to protect your rights if you get accused of domestic violence. 

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of domestic violence cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.