Vulnerable Adult Protection Order Litigation. An Experienced Lawyer | Attorney’s Perspective
If you have been served with a Vulnerable Adult Protection Order and are considering fighting it, preview the below material as well as our section on fighting a protection orders. If you are looking to pursue a Vulnerable Adult Protection Order with or without the assistance of counsel, read below.
Vulnerable Adult Protection Orders address situations where vulnerable adults are subject to abuse, neglect, financial exploitation or abandonment by a family member, care provider, or other person who can abuse their relationship with the vulnerable adult. This type of Protection Order was “invented by law” to catch a group of people that Domestic Violence Protection Orders were not covering as the law perceived a need for a fast and effective method to immediately assess and intervene in a situation. As such, Vulnerable Adult Protection Orders can be filed by almost any State agency (Police Agencies and Department of Social and Health Services) or by an “Interested person” meaning, “a person who demonstrates to the court’s satisfaction that the person is interested in the welfare of the vulnerable adult, that the person has a good faith belief that the court’s intervention is necessary, and that the vulnerable adult is unable, due to incapacity, undue influence, or duress at the time the petition is filed, to protect his or her own interests.” RCW 11.88.010.
Who are Vulnerable Adults?
“Vulnerable adult” includes a person:
- Sixty years of age or older who has the functional, mental, or physical inability to care for himself or herself; or
- Found incapacitated
- Who has a developmental disability; or
- Admitted to any facility;
- Receiving services from home health, hospice, or home care agencies licensed or required to be licensed ();
- Receiving services from an individual provider;
- Who self-directs his or her own care and receives services from a personal aide.
What Can These Orders Do?
These Protection Orders allow Washington state courts to enter orders that last up to 5 years (and be renewed if necessary) and are a crime to violate. These Orders can:
- Exclude the offending party from the vulnerable adult’s residence for a specified period or until further order of the court;
- Prohibit the offending party from knowingly coming within, or knowingly remaining within, a specified distance from a specified location;
- Require an accounting by the offending party of the disposition of the vulnerable adult’s income or other resources;
- Prohibit contact with the vulnerable adult by the offending party for a specified period or until further order of the court;
- Order the offending party from committing acts of abandonment, abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation against the vulnerable adult;
- Restrain the transfer of the offending party’s and/or vulnerable adult’s property for a specified period not exceeding ninety days
- Require the offending party to pay a filing fee and court costs, including service fees, and to reimburse the petitioner for costs incurred in bringing the action, including a reasonable attorney’s fee. Any relief granted by an order for protection, other than a judgment for costs, shall be for a fixed period not to exceed five years.
Where do you file a Vulnerable Adult Protection Order?
Vulnerable Adult Protection Orders can be filed by any vulnerable adult or by an “interested party” on behalf of a vulnerable adult. The best practice is to file in the local Superior Court where the vulnerable adult resides unless they were moved to avoid abuse, in which case, they can be filed in the new county they were moved to. RCW 74.34.110
How is a Vulnerable Adult Protection Order filed?
There is a set of forms that need to be filled out and filed with the court clerks just inside the court building at no cost. Although each Court may have its own forms, the forms used for protection orders are universal in the State of Washington.
These forms, along with declarations and facts that support your story are submitted and filed with the clerk at the appropriate court. Our lawyers usually spend 2 hours talking, listening, asking questions, strategizing and taking notes before deciding how best to arrange a case for court. We generally spend a similar period of time organizing declarations, police reports, bank records, emails, Facebook, photos and any other evidence into the Petition to submit to court. As lawyers, we find we spend an average of 20-60 hours whether we are defending or advocating a Vulnerable Adult Protection Order because of the time necessary to arrange the case and court time. All cases are fact dependent but this should give you an idea of how much time to expect to spend if you are really interested in winning.
Filing these forms with the front clerk at the local Superior court will automatically give you a court hearing (often the day you file them) where a judge or commissioner will decide whether to:
(1) Immediately enter a Temporary Protection Order if appropriate and simultaneously set a hearing 14 days later to hear argument from the other side as to whether the court should enter something more permanent.
(2) Not enter a Temporary Order for immediate protection, but still set a Hearing in 14 days to hear argument from both sides before deciding whether a long term Protection Order should be entered.
(3) Deny your request for an Order.
Then what happens?
If your request for a Protection Order is denied, you can always come back to court at a later time with new facts and ask the court for an Order.
If your request for a Vulnerable Adult Protection Order is granted, and a Temporary Order is also granted till a full hearing is set in 14 days, a copy of this Order must be served upon the offending party as well as the vulnerable adult (if they did not file the Order to begin with) and it becomes effective on service. Though we have seen people try to use friends or family to serve paperwork, this is actually a terrible idea. Using a police officer to serve Vulnerable Adult Protection Orders is safer, avoids unnecessary conflict, and assures there is no argument about when and where the other party was served. It also reinforces how serious the process is. The lawyers |attorneys in our office only uses police officers as a policy.
At the hearing 14 days later, all parties attend and the court will decide whether to enter a longer order after hearing both points of view. The responding party has a duty to provide a copy, in advance, of any paperwork they wish to submit to the court else another continuance may be required and if service of the protection order paperwork on the offending party or vulnerable adult is made late in the two week period (it happens), expect a judge or commissioner to be willing to grant a continuance for an additional period of time to allow the other side to prepare. If a Temporary Protection Order was initially granted, the judge will renew it until the full hearing takes place. In all of our years in court, we have never had a judge let a Temporary Protection Order lapse until a full hearing has been held.
In order to win this hearing, you must prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence and follow the court rules in presenting your case. In general, we always proceed as much as possible in writing and work with our clients to prepare them for any potential questions, issues and pitfalls. Given the number of hearings we have attended, our advice is comprehensive and complete.
What happens if I win the hearing?
If you win the hearing, the judge will issue an order of protection as the judge sees fit. Violation of this order is a basis for the police to arrest if probable cause is found that it has been violated. In general, we find police departments take these orders very seriously.
Over the course of our lengthy legal careers, our lawyers | attorneys have handled a wide variety of complicated and emotionally tangled cases in the criminal, civil and administrative legal arenas. Our office is a unique blend of courtroom experience, knowledge, skills and temperament. Our lawyers know cases are rarely as simple as police reports or accusations claim. Our clients hire us because they want trained listeners who are staunch, uncompromising and effective. They want counsel who takes the time to listen and fight vigorously for a result. Whether acting in our role as counsel, advocate, negotiator or litigator, we have years of experience manipulating, working and fighting to resolve cases with our clients’ best interests in mind.