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Properly using orders of protection during Washington divorce

In Washington, orders of protection can be awarded during divorce in an effort to prevent abuse. Orders of protection are usually constructed in one of two ways - "stay away" or "refrain from" - and both types are intended to foster safer living relations and prevent domestic violence during the divorce process.

A "stay away" order prohibits the alleged abuser from being within a predetermined proximity of the victim and typically any children as well. When this type of order is issued, the abuser must immediately vacate the marital home, regardless of whether his or her name is on the deed to the house. "Stay away" orders are the more substantial type of orders of protection.

When a "refrain from" order is issued, the person it concerns is legally bound to refrain from certain behaviors. "Refraining orders" can dictate nearly any type of action, including communicating with the alleged victim, making threatening comments or communicating with the victim's family.

In order for an order of protection to be awarded, the judge must believe that there is a preponderance of evidence supporting the allegations. The accused individual usually has no notice of the hearing and may not have a chance to defend him or herself prior to the order.

Because some individuals think they will be able to obtain orders of protection easily, they may lie about what is actually happening in their domestic lives. If that happens, the alleged victim receives a false advantage during the court proceedings. However, when the judge discovers that an individual has lied about abuse allegations, the unfair advantage quickly shifts in the opposite direction.

When they are used properly, orders of protection are critical in protecting the rights of victims. However, they are also commonly abused. Whether you are the victim of abuse or the victim of untrue abuse allegations, it is important to work with someone who can protect your rights throughout the process.

Source: The Huffington Post, "The Worst Thing A Woman Can Do In Divorce Proceedings - The Abuse Of Orders of Protection," Liz Mandarano, 13 April 2011

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