‘Financial and emotional exploitation’ doesn’t qualify as ‘domestic violence’

From Underwood v. Underwood (Wash. Ct. App. June 3, 2014), interpreting Rev. Code Wash. 26.09.191 and Rev. Code Wash. 26.50.010:

The trial court concluded that Robert’s residential time with the children should be limited under RCW 26.09.191(2)(a) because he “engaged in acts of domestic violence by financial and emotional exploitation.” Robert argues that the trial court erred when it defined financial and emotional exploitation as domestic violence because it does not appear in the definition of domestic violence in RCW 26.50.010(1). We agree, but affirm the trial court’s finding because there was other sufficient evidence of domestic violence….

RCW 26.50.010(1) defines “domestic violence” as “[p]hysical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, between family or household members.” RCW 26.50.010(1) is not ambiguous and therefore its meaning is to be derived from the plain language of the statute alone. The plain language of this statute does not include “financial and emotional exploitation.” Moreover, there is no authority supporting such a reading. Accordingly, the trial court erred when it determined that Robert had engaged in domestic violence because he had engaged in financial and emotional exploitation.

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.
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