Filing an Order For Protection (Restraining Order) in Minnesota

Sometimes it may be necessary to file an order for protection or restraining order if you or your children become endangered. In Minnesota, there are two different types of orders for protection and harassment restraining orders. An experienced Minnesota attorney can help you determine which order to file to gain you the proper protection from an abuser or harasser. It can be difficult to know exactly which court order is correct for your situation, especially if you are involved in a family domestic incident or the victim of domestic abuse.

What is an Order for Protection? 

An order of protection is a court order demanding the abuser stop any abuse. It is used in situations where there are allegations of an abusive relationship or domestic abuse, as defined by Minnesota law. Orders for protection prevent the alleged abuser, or respondent, from committing further domestic violence, living with the alleged victim, having custody or visiting minor children, and coming within a reasonable area surrounding the victim’s residence or workplace. Minnesota law defines domestic abuse as any of the following acts committed by a family or household member against another family or household member:

  • Infliction of physical harm, bodily injury, or assault, such as hitting, kicking, slapping, pushing, stabbing, choking, burning.
  • Infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault, including threats of physical harm or assault.
  • Terroristic threats, such as threats to commit a crime of violence, bomb threats, or showing a firearm.
  • Acts of criminal sexual conduct, such as forced intercourse or forced sexual contact, or intercourse or any other form of sexual contact with a minor.
  • Interference with an emergency call, including preventing, interrupting, or ending an emergency call.

A family or household member can be any of the following:

  • Spouse or former spouse
  • Persons involved in a significant romantic or sexual relationship
  • Persons related by blood
  • Persons living together or who have lived together in the past
  • Parents and children
  • Persons who have or had a child in common (born or in utero), regardless of whether they were living together or ever married

Types of Protection Orders

Orders of protection can be temporary or permanent orders, and there are different protocols for each type of order. Temporary orders for protection can be issued without the abuser present at the hearing, while long-term orders need both parties to attend a required hearing. Temporary or “ex parte” orders for protection are typically awarded to provide immediate safety to those in danger because of a domestic abuser. Full orders of protection offer even more protection but do require an official hearing at court. 

Ex Parte Orders of Protection

Because courts recognize that domestic abuse can endanger lives, they will frequently award “ex parte” orders for protection, which means the respondent (alleged abuser) is not at the hearing when the order is issued. Temporary orders are used to provide immediate safety to family members in danger from a domestic abuser. In an ex parte order of protection, you will be granted the following protections:

  • Ordering the abuser not to abuse you or your minor children.
  • Ordering the abuser to be removed from the home that you share.
  • Ordering the abuser to stay away from a reasonable area surrounding your home and place of work. 
  • Ordering the abuser not to contact you in person or by telephone, mail, email, electronic devices, or through a third party.
  • Ordering any insurance coverage available to you currently remains, meaning the abuser cannot take you off their insurance plan if it’s through their work.
  • Giving one of you possession or control of a pet kept by you, the abuser, or a child of you and ordering the abuser not to abuse the animal physically. 

Full Orders of Protection

In some instances, a hearing is required to issue a full order of protection. This hearing might come about because the victim is seeking additional protection than what was granted originally through the ex parte order. In other instances, after an abuser is served with an ex parte order, they might request a hearing. If the petitioner (alleged victim) is requesting sole custody of minor children or child support, both parties must be present at the court hearing. 

A full order of protection can last for up to two years, but you can also have the petition extended once the order expires if you need further protection. The judge can grant a full order for up to 50 years if the abuser has violated an existing or prior order for protection on two or more occasions or if you have been granted two or more orders for protection against the abuser. This ensures full protection without worrying about an expiration date. If there have been no violations after five years, an abuser can ask the judge to modify the order by proving there have been significant changes in the circumstances.

During the court hearing, both parties will have a chance to present evidence, testimony, and witnesses to prove why or why not the order should be issued. Understanding the different stages of domestic violence makes it easy to see why victims should want full protection from abusers. A full order of protection can grant them that and help the abuser get help through therapy or treatment. You can get the following protections as part of a full order of protection:

  • All of the protections of an ex parte order.
  • Temporary custody of your children or establishing temporary parenting time giving primary consideration to the safety of you and your children.
  • Establish temporary child and spousal support.
  • Provide counseling and other social services for you and the respondent if you are married or have children together.
  • Order the abuser to participate in counseling or treatment.
  • Award you temporary use and possession of shared property, such as a car.
  • Order neither party to damage, sell, or get rid of property or use it as the basis for a loan.
  • Order the abuser to pay restitution, such as your medical bills or lost income as a result of the abuse.
  • Order the abuser not to possess firearms for the time the order is in effect. 
  • Instructs the abuser not to harass, stalk, or threaten you or engage in any other conduct that would put you in reasonable fear of injury.
  • Order any other relief necessary to protect you and your children, including ordering law enforcement to accompany you home to get your belongings when necessary.  

What is a Restraining Order?

Harassment restraining orders are used against a harasser, regardless of your relationship with him or her. It will order them to stop harassing you and have no contact with you. Restraining orders differ from orders of protection because domestic abuse does not necessarily have to be involved. Harassers can be someone you don’t know or are not related to but still wish for them to stay away from you because of harassment that has taken place. Temporary restraining orders can be issued without the harasser present in court. Final restraining orders can last up to two years but could be issued for 50 years if the harasser has additional violations or charges already against them.

Filing an Order For Protection or Restraining Order

Whether you are filing an order for protection or restraining order, don’t be afraid to get the help you and your children need. Domestic abuse advocates who are knowledgeable about the process, such as Violence Free Minnesota, can support you through all of the steps. An experienced attorney can also assist you through the process and make sure you have filed all the necessary paperwork. Judges typically err on the side of caution when issuing orders for protection and restraining orders, to ensure you and your family stay safe.