What is the Difference Between a Harassment Restraining Order and a Domestic Violence Restraining Order?

Wisconsin allows for two different types of restraining orders  or injunctions: harassment and domestic abuse. An injunction is a court order that orders a party to refrain from committing certain acts or doing certain things. The word restraining order and injunction are interchangeable except that a restraining order is generally granted for a temporary basis until there is a full hearing by the court to determine if an injunction is needed.  What is the difference between these two types of restraining orders?

The first type of injunction is for Harassment. The statute has several definitions for “harassment.”  First, the statute includes in the definition “striking, shoving, kicking or otherwise subjecting another person to physical contact; engaging in an act that would constitute abuse, sexual assault, or stalking; or attempting or threatening to do the same. This is typically used when the aggressor is not a member of your family.  The definition also includes “engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts which harass or intimidate another person and which serve no legitimate purpose.” This can be filed against either a member of your family or someone who is not part of your family.  A harassment injunction can be effective for up to 4 years and can prohibit the harasser from coming to your home and contacting you in any form. Contact can mean via electronic means (social media, text messages, facetime/zoom, etc.), in person, by telephone or e-mail. Please remember that this list is not an exhaustive list for defining contact.  

This type of injunction is typically filed by someone who is being repeatedly contacted or threatened by someone and they have asked that person to stop contacting them. It is important to note that the key difference between a harassment injunction and a domestic violence injunction is who is engaging in the threatening behavior. If the behavior is coming from someone outside of your home and you are not in a relationship or have a familial relationship with them, speak to your attorney about filing a harassment restraining order. If the behavior is coming from someone who lives with you, in a relationship with you, or is a family member, speak to your attorney about filing a domestic abuse restraining order, if appropriate, although a harassment injunction can also be filed against someone in your family or one with whom you have a relationship if they are engaging in harassing behavior only.

For purposes of a domestic abuse injunction, the statute has defined “domestic abuse” as meaning when an adult family member, adult household member, adult caregiver, former or current spouse, former or current dating relationship, an adult with whom the person has a child in common, a sibling or step-parent is intentionally or threatening to inflict physical pain, injury or illness, impair their physical condition, sexually assault, stalk, or damage property. A parent may also file a child abuse restraining order for their child. Please discuss with your attorney your legal options related to filing  a domestic abuse restraining order or a child abuse restraining order.

A domestic abuse restraining order is filed by someone who fears for their physical safety. A domestic abuse injunction can last for up to 4 years and can prohibit the abuser from coming back or moving back into the household and contacting you. Contact can mean via electronic means (social media, text messages, facetime/zoom, etc.), in person, by telephone or e-mail. Again, please remember that this list is not an exhaustive list for defining contact. 

For both types of restraining orders/injunctions, if the harasser or abuser has access to fire arms and you feel that there is a legitimate threat to your safety, please reach out to an attorney immediately to discuss your legal options for protection. If there are fire arms or weapons involved in your case, the court can order for the weapons to be removed from that person.

If you believe that you are being harassed or you are a victim of domestic abuse, please contact our firm at (414) 258-1644 for a free consultation regarding your restraining order.

Attorney Margaret Spring

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.