If I win at a hearing for an Antiharassment Order, can I get my attorney’s fees paid by the other side?

By:  Kylie Finnell, Partner

Antiharassment Order petitions are increasingly common.  People are not required to have a lawyer represent them in these hearings, but it is a good idea to have a lawyer if you can afford one.  This raises the common question of whether the Court can make the losing side pay the winner’s attorney’s fees.  And like most legal questions, the answer is maybe.

First, in any type of case, for the Court to order one side to pay the other side’s attorney’s fees, there must be a legal basis such as the terms of the contract in dispute or the law that applies to that type of case.  The law that applies to Antiharassment Orders is in RCW 10.14.  This state law created Antiharassment Orders and the process the parties and courts follow.  The Petitioner is the person who is seeking the Antiharassment Order, they want to be protected from someone.  The Respondent is the person the Antiharassment Order is sought against, they are alleged to have unlawfully harassed the Petitioner.

RCW 10.14.090 states that the Court may require a Respondent to pay the Petitioner’s costs incurred in seeking the Antiharassment Order, including attorney fees.  This being said, if you are the Petitioner, you can request that the Court order the Respondent to pay you back the money you spent hiring a lawyer to represent you in your petition to the Court for an Antiharassment Order.  This does not mean the Court has to grant a Petitioner’s request for attorney’s fees but that the judge has a legal basis to grant the request if he or she so chooses.

But, RCW 10.14 does not say anything about Respondent’s attorney’s fees.  The public policy behind this apparent unfairness is that the legislature did not want the fear of getting hit with a judgment for attorney’s fees to scare potential Petitioners from seeking needed protection.  So, Respondents do not have a basis under RCW 10.14 to request that the Court require the Petitioner to pay their attorney fees.

However, if the Petitioner made misrepresentations to the Court, or it is shown they sought the Antiharassment Order to harass the Respondent, or just to cause the Respondent to have to hire a lawyer, the Court can award a Respondent their attorney’s fees under court rule.  A Respondent in these circumstances can bring a motion pursuant to CRLJ 11 or CR 11.  These court rules give the Court authority to sanction the party who violated the court rules.  The sanction can include an order to pay the attorney’s fees of the other side and these rules apply even if the Petitioner is not represented by a lawyer. The Kitsap Law Group has been successful on these motions on behalf of Respondents and gotten our client’s attorney’s fees imposed as a judgement on the Petitioner.

Whether you are seeking an Antiharassment Order or were served with a Temporary Antiharassment Order and need help, the attorneys at the Kitsap Law Group are experienced and ready to discuss your case.

Serving Kitsap, Jefferson, Mason Counties and surrounding areas. 360-692-6415