An order of protection, more commonly known as a restraining order, requires the named person to stop harming you. In Wisconsin, you can file for an order of protection based on domestic abuse, child abuse, harassment, or if you are otherwise at risk.
Orders of protection are requested through the civil court. For this reason, a restraining order can ask the court to protect you without you having to call the police or charge the other person with a crime.
An order of protection is separate from any charges which have been filed for violations of criminal law. Those are dealt with through the criminal court. Criminal courts can issue “no-contact” orders as part of probation, parole, or other judgment. These are not the same as orders of protection.
However, violation of a restraining order is a criminal act. The violator can be fined, sent to jail, or both. The penalty depends on the type of restraining order which has been violated.
As long as the case stays entirely within the civil court system, you can withdraw from the case at any time. Once criminal charges have been laid, it is up to the prosecutor to decide how far to press the case. You cannot stop a criminal case by choosing not to “press charges,” because in a criminal case, you did not press charges in the first place. The county or state did.
In Wisconsin, getting a restraining order can be as easy as walking into the right room at the courthouse. After you fill out the paperwork, a temporary restraining order (TRO) can be issued on the spot. You will need a hearing to have a permanent restraining order (injunction) granted, but the process still begins with a TRO.
You can also print out the necessary forms online. You will still have to go to the courthouse in person to have the form notarized and registered.
If you are filling the form out by yourself, be as specific as you can about past events. Bring as much supporting evidence with you as you can. This can include copies of police or domestic violence reports, letters or emails, or cell phone bills which show the originating telephone number.
After it is issued, the TRO is in effect until the injunction hearing, which must be scheduled within 14 days of the TRO’s being issued. You must appear at this hearing. If you don’t, your filing for a protection order will be dismissed.
At the hearing, you will be required to prove that the injunction is needed. First, you will testify, and then the respondent will be allowed to respond. Both of you may bring witnesses, and both of you may bring a lawyer with you to the hearing.
= Injunction requirements =
For a child abuse injunction, you will have to show that the respondent committed emotional, physical, or sexual abuse against the child. You must be either a parent, step-parent, or legal guardian of the abused child. The child can also file for this kind of injunction. The court may assign a lawyer or other representative to watch out for the child’s best interests.
For a domestic violence injunction, you will have to show that the respondent engaged in physical abuse, sexual assault, impairment of physical condition, criminal damage to property, or threats to do any of these. The respondent must be connected to you by relationship or contract of care. This can include a dating relationship, residing under the same roof, co-parenting a child, or a community care giver helping a senior.
If there has been domestic violence without actual physical violence or threat of physical violence, you cannot file for a domestic violence injunction. However, you can file for a harassment injunction instead.
Where the relationship does not exist, an injunction for an at-risk person is issued instead. The requirements for an “at-risk” injunction are similar to those for domestic violence.
For a harassment injunction, you will have to show that the respondent engaged in a pattern of behavior which was harassing, intimidating, and had no legitimate purpose. The contact may be at a distance or physical. No relationship to the respondent is needed.
After the TRO or injunction is granted
The TRO is not complete until it is served. You can do this yourself or you can ask the court to have it done by a process server. The form also includes the option to keep your current address secret from the person from whom you are seeking protection.
Take copies of the TRO or injunction to your local police department. Make sure you include every police department near your residence, your workplace, your church, and any other place you frequent. Keep 2 copies for yourself.
In Wisconsin, there is no cost for an order of protection from domestic abuse, child abuse, or for a person who is otherwise at risk. There is a cost of $155 for filing for an order of protection against harassment, but this fee can be waived for low-income individuals. The fee may also be waived where harassment consists of threats of violence or stalking.