What Can a Restraining Order Do For Me?


Author: Attorney Andrea Von Hoff


In high-conflict situations between former friends, ex-significant others, co-workers, and even family members, a solution often proposed by law enforcement is a restraining order (also known as an “Injunction”).

The person requesting an Injunction is the “Petitioner.”  The person who may have the Injunction entered against him or her is the “Respondent.” Restraining orders in Wisconsin do not contain language that refers to staying a certain amount of feet away from another person.  Instead, a Harassment or Domestic Abuse Injunction prohibits the person who the Injunction is against (the Respondent) from doing certain things, including committing acts or threats of abuse, going to the Petitioner’s residence or workplace, or contacting the Petitioner in any way (by phone, in writing, electronic device, or in person).

There are two types of Injunctions: Harassment and Domestic Abuse.  In either case, when a Petitioner files the documents to request the Injunction, the Judge has the authority to grant a temporary restraining order, based on the statements made by the Petitioner.   The temporary restraining order goes into effect as soon as the Respondent is served. The temporary restraining order can be granted for a maximum of two weeks, during which time a hearing needs to be held.  If the Judge finds that an Injunction is appropriate, the Court can order one for up to 4 years.

At the Injunction hearing, the Petitioner has the burden of proof (though his or her own testimony, the testimony of other witnesses, and other evidence including documents) that an Injunction should be entered against the Respondent.  After considering the evidence presented at hearing, the Judge or Court Commissioner may grant a Harassment Injunction if he or she finds reasonable grounds to believe the Respondent has engaged in harassment with intent to harass or intimidate the Petitioner. According to the statute, harassment includes a number of things, but is most commonly, “engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts which harass or intimidate another person and which serve no legitimate purpose.” See Wis. Stat. 813.125(1)(am)4.b.  If the Petitioner requests in their Petition that the Respondent be required to surrender their firearms, the Judge will consider this request based on the evidence, and has the discretion to grant or deny that request.

Domestic Abuse Injunctions require the same burden of proof, but have different elements. Domestic abuse is defined as an intentional infliction of or threat to inflict physical pain, physical injury or illness; intentional impairment of physical condition; damage to personal property; stalking; or sexual contact or sexual intercourse without consent.  A relationship is considered “domestic” if it is one of the following: a spouse or former spouse; a parent, child, or a person related by blood or adoption; a person in a current or former live-in relationship; a person with whom the Petitioner has a child in common; a person who provides in-home or community care; a person in a dating relationship.

After considering the evidence presented at hearing, the Judge or Court Commissioner may grant a Domestic Abuse Injunction if he  or she finds reasonable grounds to believe that the Respondent has engaged in, or based upon prior conduct of the Petitioner and the Respondent may engage in, domestic abuse of the Petitioner.  If a Domestic Abuse Injunction is entered for any reason, it is mandatory for the Court to order that the Respondent surrender any firearms.

Although many parties participate as Petitioner and Respondent without the assistance of counsel, having an attorney assist you in the process is advisable.  Attorneys are familiar with the requirements in the law so that they present the relevant evidence on your behalf, as well as make the correct objections to the other sides’ case.