How Is Domestic Violence in Washington State Defined?

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If There's a Finding of Domestic Violence in Washington State, How Does It Impact Parenting Plans?

Recently, RCW 26.09.191 was updated to address how a finding by the court of domestic violence in Washington state would impact parenting plans. While we already have laws on the books that provide specific protections for victims, survivors, and their families, the recent expansion of RCW 26.09.191 provides additional protections by placing mandatory restrictions on Washington state parenting plans.

However, it's important to understand that the restrictions that may be placed on the parenting plan, regardless of whether it is temporary or permanent, depend on how domestic violence is defined explicitly within the context of RCW 26.09.191.

Under the law, mutual decision making or the designation of the dispute resolution process other than the use of the court for the permanent parenting plan is not required if the court finds that:

  • A parent engaged in willful abandonment continuing for an extended period of time or engaged in a substantial refusal to engage in parenting functions
  • A parent engaged in physical, sexual, or a pattern of emotional abuse of a child
  • There is a history of domestic violence as defined in RCW 7.105.010, an assault, or sexual assault that caused grievous bodily harm or the fear of such harm, or that resulted in a pregnancy.
Defining Domestic Violence in Washington State

In July 2022, Washington state's way of legal defining domestic violence changed. This is important for everyone, not just parents. Domestic violence impacts people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, and sexualities.

Domestic violence can happen regardless of whether a person is married or dating. It can happen in various types of relationships. For example, it can happen where an elderly person is abused by someone in their family, such as an adult child or a grandchild or even a live-in caretaker. It can happen when an adult in a home is abused by another person in the home, even if they aren't related or even dating. The key here to keep in mind is those situations is that they reside in the same household.

Intimate partner violence can happen regardless of whether the individuals involved live in the same home. They could have split up, temporarily or permanently, but they had or have an intimate relationship. The abuse occurred or still occurs. It is also a form of domestic violence.

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For example, if there's an elderly parent and their adult child has a power of attorney. They live with their child. In this scenario, the child is legally in charge of all of their affairs and is also in charge of their parent's housing, food, medication, clothing, etc., just as they would care for a child.

This elder person would be a vulnerable adult. If the person responsible for the elderly person stopped properly caring for the vulnerable adult, such as no longer providing for or ensuring that they have proper housing, food, or medication, they may be charged with abandonment via abuse.

Chemical Restraints in the New Washington State Law on Domestic Violence

Chemical restraints are drugs given to a person that change their behavior in a manner that temporarily restrict their ability to move or even provide consent. It is not a standard treatment of a medical or psychiatric condition for vulnerable adults or other persons. It is considered abuse.

Defining Consent Under the New Washington State Law on Domestic Violence

Defining consent is always a hot topic. According to the new Washington state law on domestic violence, in the context of sexual acts, there are words or conduct that are freely given in agreement to that sexual contact. Consent is ongoing and may be revoked at any time.

The law also states that any conduct that is “short of voluntary agreement does not constitute consent as a matter of law. Consent cannot be freely given when a person does not have capacity due to disability, intoxication, or age. Consent cannot be freely given when the other party has authority or control over the care or custody of a person incarcerated or detained.”

Defining Domestic Violence in Washington State

The changes to RCW 7.105.010 in July 2022 included changes to how Washington state began defining domestic violence. These changes begin at section (8)(a). Domestic violence now means:

  • Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or inflicting of the fear of such; nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration; unlawful harassment; or stalking of one intimate partner by another intimate partner; or
  • Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or inflicting the fear of such; nonconsensual sexual conduct or penetration; unlawful harassment; or stalking of one family or household member by another family or household member.

Essential personal effects are included in this law and includes, but is not limited to:

  • A person's clothing
  • Baby cribs
  • Bedding
  • Medications
  • A person's personal hygiene items
  • A person's cell phone or other electronic devices
  • A person's documents, including their immigration, healthcare, financial, travel, and identity documents.

As you may have noticed, domestic violence laws also include family members and household members. The law defines family members as:

  • Persons related by blood, marriage, domestic partnership, or adoption
  • Persons who currently or formerly resided together
  • Persons who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship, including step-parents and step-children and grandparents and grandchildren, or a parent's intimate partner and children. It also includes a person who acts or acted as a legal guardian.

Domestic violence in Washington state also includes financial exploitation. Financial exploitation is defined as the illegal, improper use of, control over, or withholding of the property, income, resources, or trust funds of the vulnerable adult by any person or entity for any person's or entity's profit or advantage other than for the vulnerable adult's profit or advantage.

What about Firearms in the New Washington State Law on Domestic Violence

Under RCW 7.105.010(14), firearm isn't just a gun as many people believe. It is a weapon or device that a projectile or projectiles may be fired. It also includes parts that can be assembled to make a firearm.

What's the Definition of Intimate Partner?

Washington state law's definition of intimate partner is:

  • Spouse or domestic partner;
  • A former spouse or former domestic partner;
  • Individuals who have a child in common regardless of whether they were married or lived together;
  • Individuals who have or had a dating relationship where both individuals are at least 13 years of age or older.
Washington State's Law on Domestic Violence Includes Isolation

One tool that abusers frequently use is isolating their victims however they can. They do this so that they can keep as much control as possible. It is also a way that abusers work to conceal what they are doing. Now, under Washington state's law on domestic violence, isolation is now listed as domestic violence.

Isolation is defined as restricting a person's ability to communicate, visit, interact, or associate with the people they want to be in contact with. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Doing things that prevent someone from sending, making or receiving personal mail, electronic communications, or phone calls or
  • Doing that that prevent or obstruct a person from meeting with others. For example, telling a visitor or caller that the person isn't there or doesn't want to talk to them even when that statement is false.
Domestic Violence Is Serious – Help Is Available

Whether you're involved in a relationship that involves an intimate partner, a family member, or even a roommate, help in [COUNTY – KING, SNOHOMISH, PIERCE] is available. However, the type of help you may qualify to receive as well as the legal actions you may need to take to protect yourself and your children, if you're a parent, depend on your situation. The new changes in the definition of domestic violence could impact parenting time.

The Law Offices of Alesha Struthers provides zealous representation for clients in need of protection for themselves and their families from domestic violence, family household violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and harassment under Washington state laws. Our offices provide free consultations.

If you have questions regarding civil domestic violence protection order forms, Schedule your free consultation by clicking here.