Wisconsin’s Harassment Restraining Order Explained

When an ex or other person has intentionally hurt you, caused you physical injury and pain, or has damaged your property, there is hardly a question that court involvement is appropriate, and often necessary. But what if that person is not an ex or a significant other? Or has not actually touched you? Are there any legal protections are available from the court in those instances? The short answer is yes.

In Wisconsin, this type of restraining order to file is called a harassment restraining order. Harassment restraining orders are one of the types of restraining orders available to individuals in Wisconsin. In addition, there are restraining orders for domestic abuse and child abuse.

Individuals are often hesitant to file harassment restraining orders, because the threshold is seemingly unclear. Take a situation where a person continually calls you simply to bother you; when is the threshold met? The legal basis for a harassment injunction in Wisconsin is a pattern of harassing conduct with no legitimate purpose.  What does this mean exactly?  For example, if a person is calling repeatedly or is attempting to harass or intimidate you and doing so serves no legitimate reason, a harassment restraining order may be granted by the court. The individual who files the harassment restraining order must specify (in a petition to the court) each kind of harassing behavior that the offending person has done.

Aside from the above listed conduct, other conduct that constitutes harassment is: (1) striking, showing, kicking, or otherwise subjective another person to physical contact or attempting or threatening to do the same, (2) engaging in an act that would constitute abuse, (3) sexual assault, or (4) stalking. Only one of the five types of conduct must be met to file a harassment restraining order.

The process to obtain a harassment restraining order is typically two-fold: first, the individual will file a petition seeking a temporary restraining order. If the individual filing the restraining order has no money (or is “indigent”), he or she may ask the court to be excused for paying any filing fees. If the individual filing is not indigent, he or she still may ask the court in the initial petition to the court to order the offending person to pay the court and legal fees. Usually you will talk to a court commissioner about your petition.  The court commissioner can either grant you a temporary restraining order, which takes effect immediately, or can simply schedule your petition for a hearing.  Either way, you move on to step two, where the court issues a date for an injunction hearing.   The defending party must then be served notice with this date, usually by the sheriff’s department.

At the hearing, you must testify about your allegations.  You may call other witnesses as well.  Your accuser has the right to respond by testifying or calling witnesses as well.  If the court finds that there are grounds for a permanent restraining order, the standard relief awarded by the court is that the offending person be prohibited from engaging in the specific conduct that constituted harassment, including being prohibited from contacting, or even coming near, the petitioner.

Please note, Wisconsin harassment laws are intended to protect individuals who are being harassed by people outside of their home. If you are experiencing abuse within your home from a spouse or otherwise, the more appropriate order is domestic abuse restraining order. Domestic restraining orders, unlike harassment restraining orders, may carry the punishment of removing the offending person from the home.

For more information about how to obtain restraining orders, please see our website.



13 thoughts on “Wisconsin’s Harassment Restraining Order Explained

  1. My daughter of 16 years old filed a harassment restraining order on me alleging that I forced her to consume alcohol and drugs and made her uncomfortable with cuddling. This is all her own way to live permanently with her mom instead of with me 50/50. I have been the disciplinary figure and not allowed her to consume substances or indulge in sexual acts or have a boyfriend….that is why she wants to live with mom…….how can anyone give a temporary order denying me my child even though she is just rebelling….I have four other honor roll children that behave…..she is just manipulating her parents to get what she wants

    • I apologize for the delay in responding. We were having technical issues. This may have been resolved already but, as always, you need to hire an experienced family law professional who practices in your county to assist you in this matter. Good luck.

  2. An adult of about middle aged 40s has constantly gone on social media and slandered my name and shares my personal information. He has gone on to message my best friend and call me awful things and harasses my current boyfriend and his family about “who I really am”. Saying I abuse men. He calls me a drunk and publicly humiliates me openly to anyone who listens online. I have over 3 months of harassing slander he has written about me on Facebook posts and from my friends and family that he messages privately and they have sent them to me as screenshots. It is starting to mentally take a toll because I NEVER respond. It’s hurting everyone one around me as well because we all want him to stop. Is this grounds for a restraining order? Can it stop him from continually harassing me and my friends and family online?

    Thank you for your time.

    • The grounds for a harassment injunction is “a pattern of harassing conduct with no legitimate purpose”. It sounds as if you meet the criteria. To be sure, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney or the resources your local county has available at the courthouse for restraining order victims.

  3. Financial issues caused not only by my ex that were ignored in my dissolution of marriage done in AZ and the property settlement that was supposed to be done never happened I consistently requested the judge explain why she ordered me to sell a property I had already sold and was told was a legal sale. Turns out just last december that my ex and I according to Maricopa County assessor didn’t even own it when we sold it in 2015. Yet it closed through a licensed real estate broker and a licensed real estate title company and my ex husband is a mortgage originator. My credit is still being used for the mortgages. I was separated by IRS for the crimes against me that I was aware of in 2013 backdated to January 2009. I find this whole thing absolutely ridiculous that I have tried for years to ask people what I should do but no one had a clue. They said see an attorney, do you all think I didn’t try. I even had one and guess who never asked for directives regarding the rents of my rental properties or of course the crap of lying cease and desist, threats to keep me out of my own home that my ex told me we were so broke for years while in reality we are no where near broke and he makes in excess of hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and has a crazy situation of a man he introduced me to as his business partner back around 2000 apparently in court appeared as a female of about my height giving about a foot of difference. Sure doesn’t make that a sex change operation that I ever heard of. To make things worse I recently can finally prove the perjury to a court in no uncertain terms but no one at the sherriffs office or the DA’s office or really anywhere wants the evidence. I must say that considering perjury is lying for those that are unaware, I find this disgusting that people that work with law enforcement and the legal system have been so difficult to work with. Hence why I filled out one of your forms for contact. As long as we allow perjury in courts, there will be no justice is how I look at it and I was born and raised in this state, I moved away years ago, but what the heck happened? Lately I find the crooks more honest than the people I was dealing with. How sad is that?

    • Wow! What a mess! There is no way I can assist you through this forum. It sounds as if you have multiple areas to deal with (real estate, taxes, divorce). I am also not sure what any of this has to do with Wisconsin – most of it sounds as if it is in Arizona. We simply do divorce in a few counties in southeastern Wisconsin so I am afraid we can help you. It sounds as if you primarily need a divorce and real estate attorney in Arizona. Good luck.

  4. My ex-girlfriend harassed me via email for quite some time after our breakup. At the time of our breakup I owed her a few hundred dollars, which I had been making payments on until I discovered she was withholding some of my personal property. Upon discovery of this missing property, I contacted her to retrieve my things and (in writing) was told that “I’ll think about returning some of your things once you pay me the money you owe.” I immediately ceased payments and made a few more attempts to retrieve this property. When these attempts failed, I gave up trying and asked for her to cease communication unless she was doing so to return my property, and, if she did so I would immediately resume payments. This was met with multiple threats to file a small claims action against me. All of these communications were met with the same response: “I will immediately resume payments when I receive my personal property. If you aren’t making contact to arrange for the return of my property, please cease communication immediately.” Quite some time has gone by but, this person contacted me again last week, along with my current girlfriend. While the message I received was strictly regarding the perceived monetary debt to her, the message sent to my girlfriend was more detailed and was clearly directed toward me with no legitimate purpose of contacting my current girlfriend. I’m a little hesitant to seek a temporary restraining order simply because I don’t fully understand what constitutes a legitimate purpose for making contact and if the message sent to my girlfriend is of any real consequence in the matter. Please help!

    • There are actually three parts to a harassment injunction – a “pattern” of “harassing” conduct with “no legitimate purpose.” What is a pattern? Usually multiple contacts. For example, 20 texts or phone calls in a day or a text or phone call multiple days in a row. One or two or even three contacts are probably not enough to establish a pattern. Clearly, she has no legitimate purpose for contacting your current girlfriend. I’m not sure whether the contact was “harassing” but it doesn’t sound as if there is a pattern yet. And, even if these were all satisfied, your girlfriend is the one who has to file the harassment injunction against her, not you.

      As to her contacts with you, she can always claim that she had a legitimate purpose in the property/money issues. However, if she makes threats not related to that or if her contact is harassing enough (multiple contacts in one day, name calling, etc.), then you still might have grounds.

      The best way to handle this might be to simply ignore her and not engage. She is clearly looking for a response. However, if it does arise to the level discussed above, it might be time to explore an injunction as an option. Good luck.

  5. We have a neighbor who constantly yells at everyone and harasses them. They have stolen my compost heap, cut down my raspberry vine, and removed my trellis. We can hear her yelling at and berating her husband from several doors down. The neighbors have called the police, neighborhood services, etc. and her behavior just escalates. Is it possible for several neighbors to file a harassment restraining order on her?

  6. What happens in Wisconsin when the petitioner of a restraining order continues to make contact with the accused at the accused place of residence? My brother in laws girlfriend accused him of abuse. He is living at a different address and has not gone near her work or place of residence. She has been coming to his apartment, making meals and staying over night. His trial for the abuse is coming up in a month. Should he tell his attorney about the accuser staying overnight and spending time at his place of residence. Would that help his case or would he be in more trouble for having contact at his place of residence?

    • Absolutely tell his attorney! Just because she is the one who initiates contact, does not excuse his contact. He still will be considered to be in violation of the order and he is the one who will “be in trouble”. Further, it will give his lawyer more ammunition to fight any charges or allegations she has made against him.

  7. I work for a dentist in La Crosse, WI. I have worked for him for over 20 years. He and his wife live below the practice. She has made me life a living hell, I don’t even like my job anymore, but need to keep it. She calls me names, tells to get the @uck out, she has tried to strike me with her working stick, she accuses me of stuff all the time. I don’t know how to handle this. I want to file a restraining order, but I don’t want to get fired. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I have a note book that write everything down in.

    • I would suggest that you consult with an attorney in LaCrosse who specializes in employment law. If you want to file a restraining order, you will lose your job. There is no way that they could keep you employed there if your dentist’s wife, who lives on the premises, cannot be near you. I am assuming your dentist will chose his wife over you as it appears that he already has by allowing her behavior to continue. However, this really sounds like more of an employment issue than a restraining order issue. Good luck to you.

We welcome your comments or questions. We will do our best to try to respond. However, please be advised that we cannot give legal advice in this forum and all communications are for general informational purposes only. Communication should not be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. This is an open forum and any information you provide may be posted and will not be held confidentially. By posting a comment or question, you are expressly giving consent for the publication of same. If you have any specific legal issues or concerns, we always recommend that you consult with an attorney in the county and state in which you reside.

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