On March 11, the novel coronavirus was declared a worldwide pandemic. Since then, businesses have closed, and millions of Americans are sheltering in place in their homes, trying to lower the rate of overall infections.
When there were pre-existing problems in a relationship, things can become much worse when spouses and significant others are stuck inside in close quarters, dealing with financial insecurity and navigating a new reality. What can you do when your fear of violence and abuse becomes a reality in the age of COVID-19?
Sheltering in Place and Domestic Violence
When victims of domestic violence are forced to shelter in place with their abusers, the results can be dangerous and even deadly. Reports of domestic violence have been escalating worldwide, and people have limited ability to escape to shelters or use existing resources.
Domestic violence hotlines have reported a marked increase in calls over the past several months. While the immediate impact of the coronavirus is that people are losing their jobs and the ability to move around, other consequences are just as startling. In the area of family law, there have been more separation and divorce filings, child custody disputes, and violence between partners.
While the courts aren’t operating normally, no one should face violence or the threat of violence in their home. You still have options and legal rights.
Domestic Violence Protective Orders During COVID-19
In Washington State, the threat of violence or violent acts by a household member are grounds for a Domestic Violence Protection Order. During COVID-19, the process for obtaining an Order of Protection has changed temporarily. The clerk of the court is still accepting requests for these protective orders.
If you filed a petition before March 23, all hearings are canceled until at least May 4. But the court is still issuing temporary orders ex parte (without anyone else present) that you’ll need to obtain and serve on the opposing party.
If you filed a petition after March 23, a commission or judge will review your documents ex parte the same day if they are submitted by 11:00 a.m. Signed Orders are available at the clerk’s office after 3:30 p.m. on the same day the court reviews the petition. You’ll need to serve the Order on the opposing party, and hearings will be set for after April 27.
Due to COVID-19, you may be able to serve the order by mail and certified mail provided the court checks this box on your documents. You will also need to complete a Proof of Mailing form and file it with the clerk’s office. If mail service isn’t permitted, the Order must be hand-delivered to the opposing party according to the normal rules.
Speak With a Qualified Washington Family Law Attorney
Navigating through the legal landscape just got a lot more complicated amidst a global pandemic. If you are experiencing domestic violence from a household member during the COVID-19 crisis, call the authorities if you believe you are in immediate danger. Find a safe place where you can speak with a domestic violence counselor either online or by phone.
Once you are safe from harm, it’s vital that you protect your rights with a Domestic Violence Protective Order. The experienced family law attorneys at AB Law will be happy to review your situation and outline your options. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.