You know that Legal Voice works in Olympia to pass strong laws to help protect domestic violence survivors. But creating those laws is only the first step. We also monitor Washington courts to ensure those laws are actually being followed.

In Maresa’s case, the court didn’t follow the law. So we did something about it…and won!

After splitting with her abusive partner, Maresa – who could not afford a lawyer – asked a Pierce County court for a parenting plan for their two children. During his oral ruling, the judge granted primary custody to Maresa and acknowledged her former partner’s history of domestic violence. But the judge refused to include the father’s history of domestic violence in the court documents, claiming that it would “dog” and “haunt” him – that it would “follow him around like some ghost.”

That’s right. Maresa’s partner abused her, yet he was the one the court focused on protecting.

Legal Voice represented Maresa in her appeal of the parenting plan, arguing that the trial court’s error removed a critical protection created by Washington law, and left Maresa and her children at risk of further abuse.

The Court of Appeals agreed with us, reversing the trial court’s decision and demanding a new parenting plan that includes restrictions on the father’s decision-making and custody time.

Especially as survivors across Washington State are wrongfully granted short protection orders and told to “work it out” through a divorce or custody case, we must stay vigilant to ensure family courts are upholding laws created to protect survivors.

And that’s exactly what we intend to do.

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