Domestic Violence Protection Orders in LGBTQ Cases

Domestic violence issues and accusations can arise in families and couples from every segment of the community. Many people are surprised to learn that Washington law protects individuals from domestic violence in all types of relationships and family situations, including LGBTQ romantic partners, co-parents, ex-spouses, relatives, and roommates.  Someone who is seeking a domestic violence protection order (DVPO), is not bringing criminal charges, but rather is petitioning the Court to grant a civil order for their protection.

DVPO’s typically provide that the respondent stay a certain distance away from the petitioner, refrain from going to the petitioner’s home or workplace, not contact the petitioner by phone, email, text or other means.  There are several other provisions that can be added which can keep the respondent away from a minor child, if they have been involved or victimized, their school, and other regular locations where they may be. It is important to note that if there is already a divorce or child custody case pending, the DVPO action will very likely be consolidated with the family law case and therefore should be handled by the family law attorney addressing the divorce or child custody case. 

Attorney Jennifer Horwitz of Jennifer Horwitz Law understands that relationships can involve complicated histories. That is why she takes the time to learn about the unique situation each of her clients faces before agreeing to represent him or her. Jennifer has extensive experience representing parties that identify as LGBTQ and provides a supportive environment to address your concerns or any accusations you may be facing. Whether you are afraid of a spouse, partner, or family member and need assistance with legal remedies, or have been accused of violence, Jennifer Horwitz Law is a safe and confidential place to discuss your concerns and seek guidance.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Many times, an accusation of domestic violence can stem from just one argument or encounter and often can take both parties in the relationship by surprise. If you are unsure whether you have experienced domestic violence, the best place to start is the statutory definition. The Revised Code of Washington section 26.50.010 defines domestic violence as: 

physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, sexual assault, or stalking of one intimate partner by another intimate partner or by another family or household member.

This definition provides a lot of information to unpack.

What Type of Behavior Constitutes Domestic Violence?

Physical harm, bodily injury, and assault are the most common forms of domestic violence. Examples include punching or hitting a victim with fists or an object. Sexual assault means any nonconsensual sexual conduct including touching or fondling, display of genitals, or penetration. Finally, stalking requires repeated harassment of a person, placing the person in fear of injury with the intent to frighten, intimidate, or harass the person.

Who can be Accused?

Under Washington’s definition, two types of people may be accused of domestic violence: (a) intimate partners; and (b) family or household members. 

Intimate partners include current and former spouses or domestic partners (of any gender); co-parents; individuals over the age of 16 who live together or have lived together in the past and have/had a dating relationship; and any individuals both over the age of 16 who have/had a dating relationship. It is important to recognize that the statutory definition of intimate partners does not base the protections provided by the law on the gender, orientation or sexual identity of the individuals involved. The law allows people in any type of relationship, regardless of gender, orientation or sexual identity, to obtain a domestic violence protection order.

Similarly, family or household members are defined broadly to include victims and those accused of domestic violence of any gender or sexual identity. A family or household member could be someone over the age of 18 who is a blood relation; a non-blood relation who lives with the alleged victim (such as a roommate); or people with biological or legal parent-child relationships, such as stepparents and stepchildren. 

What is an Order for Protection?

A domestic violence order for protection is a court order that allows a judge to issue many types of relief to the requesting party, which may include: 

  • prohibiting acts of domestic violence; 
  • prohibiting someone accused of domestic violence from being in a specified location or within a certain distance of a specified location, including a shared residence, workplace, or school; 
  • limiting contact between the accused and an accuser; 
  • requiring the accused to surrender firearms and weapons 

How Is an Order for Protection Obtained?

A person that has experienced domestic violence may petition the courts in Washington for an order of protection. In a situation in which a person is in fear of immediate harm, a petition for a protection order may include a request for a temporary order of protection. A temporary order of protection is a court order that will remain in effect until the time that the court is able to hold a full hearing on the allegations. Generally, a temporary order will expire after 14 days, allowing for a hearing to be set and a notice of the hearing date and time to be provided to the accused. 

At the hearing, both the accused and the accuser will appear in court and provide facts regarding the allegations. Both parties may be represented by an attorney and may have to testify or answer questions for the court. The purpose of the hearing is to allow the court to determine the credibility of the accusations of domestic violence and the appropriate type of order to issue in the event protection is deemed necessary. If sufficient evidence is provided to warrant issuing an order of protection, the court may enter an order preventing contact and/or imposing limitations on the accused for one year. In unusual cases, the court may issue an order for longer than one year.  

Can a New Order Be Obtained Before the DVPO Expires?

The order will expire on the date provided in the order.  If the petitioner wishes to renew the order, the petitioner must bring a request for a new order back to the Court that issued the order.  If there have been no violations of the order at the time the petitioner renews their request, the Court is unlikely to grant a renewal of the order.

Unique Issues in Domestic Violence LGBTQ Cases

The occurrence of domestic violence in LGTBQ relationships is comparable to domestic violence rates in heterosexual relationships. However, parties in LGTBQ cases may experience unique issues that do not arise in other relationships. Jennifer Horwitz offers a safe place to address your legal and personal concerns. Jennifer combines strategic analysis of each case with care and compassion to seek the best outcome for her clients. 

Whether you are a victim or have been accused of domestic violence, Jennifer Horwitz has over 25 years of experience representing both parties (petitioners and respondents) to domestic violence protection orders. Contact Jennifer Horwitz Law as soon as you decide to seek a protection order or immediately if you have been served with notice of a court hearing so that she can get to work protecting your rights.