When Anna Juarez filed for a domestic violence protection order (DVPO) against her abusive husband, she specifically requested that the order be permanent. She believed that her husband would resume abusing her and her children after the order expired. Yet the court granted an order protecting her for only 65 days, substantially shorter than the standard minimum term of one year. Why? The court said that Anna and her husband could "start a divorce" and that the family court could "renew and extend the protection if appropriate." Protection for survivors is always appropriate. That's why the Washington State Legislature passed the Domestic Violence Prevention Act that sets the DVPO minimum standard at one year - or exactly what Anna requested. If Anna's story sounds familiar, that's because it is. Courts all around the state are giving survivors short protection orders - sometimes as short as 30 days - and instructing them to "work it out" through a divorce or custody case. These practices endanger survivors and their children, forcing the survivor to move forward with legal action that she may not want, be able to afford, or feel safe pursuing. Legal Voice partnered with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence to urge the Court of Appeals to correct the ruling in Anna's case, arguing that a domestic violence survivor cannot be denied a full protection order against her abuser based on the court's view that she should pursue a divorce instead. We are pleased that the Court of Appeals agreed with us, saying that "short-term relief does not fulfill the legislative intent of Washington's Domestic Violence Prevention Act to afford victims of domestic violence with a valuable instrument to increase [their] safety." We are proud to have worked with the Northwest Justice Project to secure this victory for Anna Juarez and her children, and we are committed to working with NJP and other advocates to appeal similar cases across the state. Special thanks to Judith Endejan of Garvey Schubert Barer for serving as cooperating counsel for our brief.
It's time for our courts to ensure that the full potential of Washington's domestic violence protections is reached.