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Getting a Restraining Order in Wisconsin

Experiencing domestic violence is traumatic and can lead someone to reasonably worry about their long-term safety. Victims of domestic violence can seek protection through restraining orders. The state of Wisconsin offers multiple forms of protection based on the severity of the assault the victim endured. Restraining orders can help victims of domestic abuse have a sense of security and give them the space they need to take legal action against their abusers.

Defining Domestic Abuse

Every state has a different legal definition for domestic abuse, and the term covers a variety of behavior in the state of Wisconsin. For behavior to be considered domestic abuse in a legal sense, it must be committed against:

  • Someone’s spouse, current or former
  • An adult they live with or used to live with
  • An adult the person shares a child with

The actual behavior that can lead to domestic abuse charges includes inflicting injury, causing pain or fear, or sexual assault. Stalking and destroying property are also considered acts of domestic abuse when committed against a qualifying party. Wisconsin statutes also state that a person only has to threaten one of these acts to be guilty of domestic abuse.

The state of Wisconsin also recognizes repeat domestic abusers in the legal system. Someone is labeled a repeat domestic abuser if they:

  • Commit domestic abuse within 72 hours of an arrest for the same crime
  • Have been convicted of at least 2 domestic violence crimes within 10 years

People labeled repeat domestic abusers are subject to more severe penalties.

Types of Domestic Abuse Restraining Orders

Wisconsin issues both temporary and final restraining orders in situations of domestic abuse. If someone brings their case to a court commissioner or judge, they may issue a temporary restraining order if they have reason to believe that person has been or will be the victim of domestic abuse.

Temporary restraining orders are granted for a 14-day period, during which an injunction hearing will be scheduled. The alleged abuser will then be served the temporary restraining order and made aware of the date of the hearing. The hearing will handle the matter of whether to issue a more temporary restraining order. An injunction hearing must take place within the 14-day period the temporary order is active unless the court extends the temporary order for an additional 14 days.

Final Domestic Abuse Restraining Order

A final domestic abuse restraining order may be issued by a judge at the injunction hearing, however, the word “final” is misleading. These restraining orders can only last for up to 4 years unless the victim can prove there is a high level of risk that their abuser will commit any of the following crimes against them:

  • First-degree intentional homicide
  • Sexual Assault
  • Second-degree intentional homicide
  • Sexual assault of a child

The restraining order can last up to 10 years in such a situation. Another hearing will need to be set to have a new order issued once the “final” order expires.

What Protections Do Restraining Orders Offer?

A restraining order is one of the most effective forms of protection against an abuser because they will face criminal charges if they violate the order. Temporary restraining orders offer the following protections to victims of domestic abuse:

  • Ordering the abuser to refrain from committing domestic abuse against the victim
  • Order the person the restraining order is put in place against to stay away from the victim’s home, workplace, school, or other location they occupy.
  • Force the abuser to find another living situation if they share a residence with the victim at the time the restraining order is issued
  • Force the abuser to stop contacting the victim directly or through other people unless it’s through a law enforcement officer or their legal counsel
  • Order the abuser to stay away from the victim’s pets
  • Order the abuser to stay away from the victim’s children
  • Force the abuser to allow a family member to retrieve the victim’s belongings and pets from their home

Final domestic abuse restraining orders generally include all of the same protections a victim receives from a temporary domestic abuse restraining order. The court can also order the abuser to turn over the rights to a victim’s phone number and associated accounts to the victim.

Note that abusers are also required to turn over any firearms they own to the authorities if a domestic abuse restraining order is granted against them. They will also be banned from purchasing additional firearms for the duration of the order. Law enforcement officers are the only exception to this rule.

Where to File a Petition for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order

A person experiencing domestic abuse can file for a restraining order in the county in which they live, as well as:

  • A county they have taken up temporary residence in
  • The county where their alleged abuser resides
  • The county in which the abuse took place

There are exceptions to this rule for certain individuals who can file a petition within 100 miles of the county in which they live. The following people can file such petitions:

  • An advocate for a victim of domestic abuse
  • Anyone who works for the county court system
  • A lawyer
  • A law enforcement officer (current or former)
  • Anyone married to or dating someone in the previous 4 bullets

Are Restraining Orders Expensive?

Domestic abuse restraining orders are free to file for due to their serious and urgent nature. However, hiring an experienced attorney to help with the process can help ensure that the process is carried out quickly and accurately.

Restraining Order Violations

Unfortunately, there are cases in which a restraining order is not enough to stop an abuser from trying to reach someone. However, violation of a restraining order is against the law, and victims can seek help through the civil and criminal courts.

Seeking Help Through Criminal Court

A victim who becomes aware of their abuser violating an active restraining order should contact the police immediately. Certain violations can lead to the immediate arrest of an abuser. Write down the names and badge number of the officers involved to make it easier to follow up after contacting them. Ask them for copies of the police report as well, as these documents can make it easier when asking the court for an extension of the order.

If the violation leads to the arrest of the abuser, they will be prosecuted for committing a crime. They may face jail time or fines based on the severity of the violation.

Seeking Help Through Civil Court

A victim can file for civil contempt when their abuser violates an existing domestic violence restraining order. This means that an abuser will be held responsible for violating the restraining order by being held in contempt of the order. This can result in jail time or fines for the abuser.

What If the Restraining Order Isn’t Granted?

Unfortunately, there are times when a restraining order isn’t granted. This happens most frequently due to a lack of evidence. Victims should consider reaching out to local domestic violence centers to receive advice and tangible support to stay safe.

If a domestic violence restraining order isn’t granted because the victim’s relationship with the abuser does not qualify, it may qualify for a different type of order such as:

  • Harassment Restraining Order
  • Child Abuse Restraining Order
  • Individual at Risk Restraining Order

We Can Support You

At the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella, we understand that domestic abuse is an extremely sensitive issue. Therefore, we fight tirelessly on behalf of our clients to help them receive the protection they need and do so with an empathetic nature. More than 20 years of experience has led to a deep understanding of the legal process, and our talented attorney can craft a personalized legal strategy for your specific circumstances. Contact us today at (414) 882-8382 or through our online contact form for a consultation.