Veronica Price and her late husband owned a 5/6ths interest in beachfront property in Long Beach. Five other Price members owned the other 1/6th. Conflict, as it inevitably does in family beachfront homes, arose. Veronica made the Long Beach home her permanent residence in December 2010. Her former in-laws contacted her in April 2011, asking permission to use the property for 17 days in August. When two of the family members arrived, Veronica was absent and she remained absent for more than a week. Upon her return, however, she apparently engaged in a verbal altercation with William and Susan Price (each of whom own a 1/30th interest in the property). The superior court granted William and Susan an ex parte temporary anti-harassment protection order, requiring Veronica to vacate the property, and, after a hearing two days later, entered a final civil anti-harassment protection order which excluded Veronica from the home until August 21st, some two days later.
By the time the case reached the Court of Appeals, the anti-harassment protection orders had long since expired. Nonetheless, the court considered Veronica’s challenge, and reversed the orders. The Court of Appeals held that the superior court lacked authority to enter restraint provisions in both orders, and vacated them both.
RCW 10.14.080 is part of the anti-harassment statute and provides that a superior court shall not grant an anti-harassment protection order that prohibits the respondent from the use or enjoyment of real property to which the respondent has a cognizable claim unless the order is issued under RCW 26.09 (the domestic violence statute) or under a separate action to determine title or possession of real property (such as a partition action). Because the order restrained Veronica from entering or being within 100 yards of the property, it was invalid. Moreover, the additional provisions which prevented Veronica from having any contact with the petitioners and restrained her from keeping them under surveillance were based solely on her contact with them at her property and, thus, those provisions had the practical effect of excluding Veronica from her home as well.
Christina A. Meserve and Charles E. Szurszewski practice family law in Olympia, Washington with the law firm of Connolly Tacon & Meserve.