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Restraining Orders In Wisconsin
Information obtained from the Wisconsin Department of Justice
A restraining order is a court order that prohibits one person from having contact with another. Restraining orders are generally used when one person wants protection from another.
You do NOT need an attorney. Wisconsin law allows you to seek a restraining order without a lawyer’s help. But many people feel more comfortable hiring an attorney.
Service representatives such as victim/witness or family violence specialists and battered women’s advocates can provide support in obtaining a restraining order. They may attend court hearings with you, but cannot speak for you in court.
Forms and information about restraining orders are available at your county courthouse, usually in the clerk of courts office.
It costs about $100 to obtain a restraining order. By state law, a fee of $78 is charged for filing a civil case with the court. An additional charge is paid to law enforcement to serve the restraining order. These charges vary from county to county, but average about $20. (There are additional attorney fees.)
Payment can be forgiven. If you are not able to pay the filing fee, you are still entitled to protection under the law. Counties often waive fees or make other arrangements for those unable to pay the fees. You will be required to fill out a form called an affidavit of indigency to obtain this benefit. In most counties, this is found at the clerk of courts office.
Three types of restraining orders can be obtained:
Domestic abuse: If another adult has intentionally caused you physical pain, physical injury or illness; intentionally impaired your physical condition; violated any Wisconsin sexual assault law; or threatened to harm you physically or sexually, you may ask for a domestic abuse restraining order.
Harassment: If another adult attempts to, threatens to or actually does strike, shove, kick or otherwise subject you to physical contact or repeatedly acts in a harassing or intimidating manner toward you for no legitimate purpose, you may ask for a harassment restraining order.
Child abuse: If a child is physically injured by other than accidental means, is a victim of sexual assault or exploitation, or is permitted or forced to violate prostitution laws, or is emotionally damaged, the child, a parent, stepparent or legal guardian may ask for a child abuse restraining order.
A Two-Step Process
Those who seek restraining orders are called petitioners because they petition the court to order another person to stay away from them. The person being asked to stay away is called the respondent, because he or she has the right to “respond” to the court as to what is said in the petition.
Step 1: Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)
People ask for TROs because they need immediate protection. To obtain one:
1. Decide which type of restraining order fits your situation.
2. Fill out forms asking for protection, giving specific examples of the abuse.
3. Take the completed forms to a county judge or court commissioner. The office where you obtained the forms can tell you where they should be returned.
4. A court official conducts a temporary restraining order hearing, where you may be asked about the alleged abuse or why you need a restraining order.
5. The judge or court commissioner may issue a restraining order for up to seven days. If a TRO is ordered, a date for the next hearing is set.
6. A law enforcement agency will serve the TRO on the respondent. This means the person is officially notified to stay away from you temporarily and is informed of the types of abuse you say happened and the next court hearing.
8. Obtain written proof from law enforcement that the TRO was served, because the court will ask for that proof at the injunction hearing.
Step 2: The Injunction Hearing
1. You must appear in court to obtain a restraining order or “injunction.” The time and place for this hearing was set during the TRO hearing.
2. The court official will allow you and the respondent to testify. It is important to bring information such as police or medical reports that back up your story. You may be allowed to discuss only incidents you outlined in the TRO petition, so be sure you fill out the forms completely.
3. If the court official finds you are in continued danger, he or she will issue a restraining order for up to four years.
4. At the end of the hearing, the court official will tell you whether the restraining order is still in effect and for how long.
5. You may ask the court to set a time for the respondent to collect his or her belongings if you lived together. You may ask that a police officer be present at that time.
6. You will be given a copy of the court’s order. If the respondent is not at the hearing, the order will be served on him or her by law enforcement.