Minors can be either protected or restrained by anti-harassment protection orders in Washington State.
Anti-harassment protection orders can prohibit another person, a minor or an adult, from contacting the protected child and can prohibit the restrained person from attending the protected minor's school. Even a minor's classmate, enrolled in the same school, can be excluded from the shared school and forced to attend another school.
Parents can file for anti-harassment protection orders on behalf of their minor child to protect them from contact by another person (adult or minor) who has engaged in harassing conduct. The conduct must be detrimental to the well-being of the child.
A parent can do this even if their child wants to have contact with the other party. Parents may seek protection orders when another individual (usually an adult) is engaging in a course of conduct that their child consents to but the parent deems harassing and unsafe. For example, when a minor child is dating an adult who takes them out of school or provides them with alcohol, the minor may insist on contact but the parents deem the behavior of the adult as detrimental to the well-being of their child.
Anti-Harassment Protection Orders for Minors in Washington
In today's world, minors are often at risk of being bullied or seriously harassed by other kids or even adults. This includes repeated invasions of their privacy, actions taken to embarrass the minor or a pattern of harassment intended to intimidate or humiliate the minor victim. This often happens in the school setting. Sometimes the schools do not have a safety plan or discipline process that truly helps. There might be no help from the school when harassment occurs outside of the school setting.
In some circumstances, the minor child may not feel harassed and may want the attention of the party to be restrained. But their parent may determine that the party to be restrained has engaged in harmful conduct with their child that causes them to fear for their child's well- being.
Anti-harassment protection orders are intended to prevent all contact between the victim/minor and the perpetrator. Parents who are concerned for the well-being of their minor child, under RCW 10.14.040, may:
- Petition for an order of protection to restrain an adult ("respondent") from contact with their child upon proof that the adult respondent has engaged in a course of conduct which meets the legal definition of "unlawful harassment" and that the course of conduct would cause a reasonable parent to fear for the well being of their child; or
- Petition for an order of protection to restrain another minor from contact with their child when the person to be restrained has engaged in "unlawful harassment" and has been adjudicated of an offense against the child protected by the order, or has been or is under investigation for an offense.
Protecting a Child from an Adult
When a child is at risk from another adult, parents can file for an order to prevent the adult from contacting their child. This could involve adults who:
- Take a sexual interest in a child under the age of 18;
- Provide alcohol to the child;
- Request or send sexually explicit images or videos (“sexting”);
- Provide marijuana or other drugs to the child;
- Take the child out of school; or
- Encourage other illegal behavior.
In filing for a protection order against another adult to prevent contact with their child, parents or guardians have to show the conduct of the person to be restrained was more than an isolated incident and was a course of conduct that would cause a reasonable parent to be concerned for the well-being of their child.
Protecting a Child from Another Child
An anti-harassment protection order against another minor first requires that the other minor (respondent) be under criminal investigation or have already been investigated or adjudicated of an offense against the child to be protected by the order. This could involve assault against the minor, theft, threats to harm or destruction of the minor's property. In addition to a criminal investigation or charge, the minor respondent must also have engaged in an unlawful course of conduct that rises to the level of unlawful harassment.
Most anti-harassment protection orders against another minor involve serious bullying in school, online, or at extracurricular activities. In considering whether to order an anti-harassment protection order, the court will consider whether the Petitioner has proven "unlawful harassment."
- "Unlawful harassment" means
- a knowing and willful
- course of conduct
- directed at a specific person
- which seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or
- is detrimental to such person, and which serves no legitimate or lawful purpose.
The course of conduct shall be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and shall actually cause substantial emotional distress to the petitioner or would cause a reasonable parent to fear for the well-being of their child.
Prohibited Contact under a Protection Order
An anti-harassment protection order restrains the respondent from any contact with the petitioner. The order may also include staying away from the protected party, their school, house, workplace, and other areas or events where the protected party may be.
Prohibited contact can include physical contact, being within a certain distance, and electronic communication, including:
- Phone calls,
- Text messages,
- Social media posts,
- Email, or
- Sending photos or videos.
It can also include contact through third parties, such as friends and other students. Surveillance and monitoring are also prohibited.
In a protection order case against another minor, the court may order that the restrained minor not attend the elementary, middle, or high school attended by the minor protected by the order. In other words, the court can effectively expel the minor respondent from their own school.
Filing on Behalf of a Minor for an Anti-harassment Protection Order in Seattle and King County
After a parent or guardian files a petition for an anti-harassment protection order, upon a prima facie showing of harassment, the court will usually order a temporary protection order and set a protection order court hearing within 14 days. The hearing will allow the petitioner and respondent a chance to appear in court to present their cases and for the court to determine whether there is a legal basis to issue a protection order.
If the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that unlawful harassment exists, a civil anti-harassment protection order will be issued prohibiting contact, communication, and harassment. In most cases, the protection order will be effective for one year. However, the court can issue an order for a longer period if the court finds the respondent is likely to resume the harassment after the order expires.
In most cases, the court will issue a temporary protection order before a hearing. This is an “ex parte temporary” protection order. The issue is when the respondent has not yet had a chance to respond to the alleged harassment. The court will generally only issue an ex parte temporary anti-harassment protection order where:
- There is reasonable evidence of unlawful harassment, and
- That great or irreparable harm will result to the petitioner if the temporary anti-harassment protection order is not granted.
Violating an anti-harassment protection order can result in arrest, criminal charges, or contempt of court.
Defending Your Child Against a Protection Order
Some parents may use Washington's anti-harassment laws to punish other parents or their child for something unrelated or exaggerate the threat of harassment or harm. Subjecting an innocent child to an anti-harassment protection order can be devastating to a young person.
A protection order hearing can make the child feel like a criminal when the child did nothing to warrant such serious treatment. It can also result in the child being taken out of their school, away from friends, and ban them from the activities they enjoy, like team sports, recreational activities, or even hanging out at the mall.
If the court orders the restrained child to transfer to another school, the parents of the restrained child are also responsible for transportation and other costs associated with the change of school.
If another parent has accused your child of abusing or harassing their child, your child has the right to be defended against these serious allegations. Contact an attorney who understands the seriousness of these charges against a minor child and will fight for you, your child, and your child's reputation.
Seattle Defense Attorney Representing Minors in Protection Order Hearings
At Burke Brown Attorneys, PLLC, we have experience on both sides of protection order hearings for minors. We have helped parents in King County make sure their child is safe from abuse, harassment, and dangerous adults or minors. We have also fought for children who have been falsely accused of abuse and harassment to make sure their lives are not turned upside down. If you need help, call us today at (206) 933-2414 or contact us online.