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Harassment vs. Domestic Abuse Restraining Orders

A restraining order prohibits an individual from taking certain actions against or toward another person. In Wisconsin, we have four different types of restraining orders with each having its own requirements about who can file and what kind of behavior is alleged.

A respondent defending against a Wisconsin restraining order must have strong legal representation to help protect their reputation and future.

Two of the more common restraining orders in Wisconsin are domestic abuse and harassment restraining orders.

Who Can File a Domestic Abuse Restraining Order?

Someone files a domestic abuse restraining order if they fear for their physical safety. For a domestic abuse restraining order, the alleged abuse occurs between people who are related or who have or did have a close relationship.

Wisconsin law defines domestic abuse as being between any of the following:

  • Adult family or household members
  • An adult caregiver against an adult who is under the caregiver's care
  • Between former spouses
  • Between adults who have or had a dating relationship
  • Between adults who have a child together

The law goes on to specify what behavior constitutes domestic abuse:

  • Intentional infliction of physical pain or injury
  • Intentional impairment of a physical condition
  • Sexual assault
  • Stalking
  • Intentional damage to physical property belonging to the petitioner
  • A threat to engage in the conduct of any of these behaviors.

A parent may also file a child abuse restraining order for their child. These orders are meant to protect a child from physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse. A child abuse restraining order can also be sought if methamphetamine is allegedly manufactured when a child is present.

Restrictions in a Wisconsin Domestic Abuse Injunction

A temporary restraining order can be granted without any trial or hearing. The judge typically approves the temporary order based on why the petitioner believes they are in danger. The respondent is notified, and a formal hearing is scheduled, generally within the next week.

In a temporary restraining order (TRO), the respondent can be prohibited from doing the following:

  • Order the respondent to stay away from the home or any other location the petitioner is occupying
  • If the two parties are unmarried, the TRO may order the respondent to stay away from the property the petitioner can move out
  • Prohibit the respondent from having any direct contact, or indirect conduct via a third party, with the petitioner (includes social media, email, texts, in person, etc.)
  • Order the respondent to not remove, hide, harm, mistreat, or dispose of a household pet

The TRO is in place until a formal hearing is held. At the hearing, both parties present their side to the judge. The judge then decides whether to let the TRO expire or order a domestic abuse injunction. If they issue the injunction, the same prohibitions from the TRO apply. Child custody, child support, and spousal support may also be ordered.

The respondent must hand over any firearms in their possession. They are forbidden from buying firearms. Limited exceptions can be applied to peace officers required to possess a gun as part of their job.

A domestic abuse injunction can last for up to 4 years.

What Is a Harassment Restraining Order?

A harassment restraining order is typically filed by when the supposed aggressor is not a member of the family (but they can be) and therefore doesn’t meet the definition of domestic abuse.

Wisconsin statute defines the following behaviors as potential grounds for a harassment restraining order:

  • Striking
  • Shoving
  • Kicking or otherwise subjecting another person to physical contact
  • Sexual assault
  • Stalking

Someone repeatedly contacted or threatened by someone generally files this type of restraining order. A harassment restraining order can be filed if the family member engages in harassing behavior only.

Obtaining a Harassment Restraining Order

Getting a temporary harassment restraining order is the same as a domestic abuse restraining order. A judge can order the TRO until a full hearing can be held. After listening to both sides present their cases at the hearing, the judge decides whether to order the injunction. A harassment injunction can also be granted for up to 4 years. These respondents have similar prohibitions as domestic abuse cases, including having to surrender all firearms.

Strong Defense Against Restraining Orders

If you are ever a respondent, there are two important steps to take.

First, do not violate any aspect of the TRO. Even trying to talk to the petitioner could be viewed as evidence that you cannot control your reactions to situations.

Second, call the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella. Attorney Cherella has more than two decades of experience defending clients as well as three years as a prosecutor. He provides personal, tailored defense strategies for each of his clients.

When you need help fighting a restraining order, contact our office right away. We’re available 24/7. Call (414) 882-8382.