From a legal standpoint, the first step is clear–get a restraining order against the abuser. Of course, if you have never dealt with the legal system before this can seem like a daunting task. This is where our skilled West Bend restraining order lawyers can help. At Karp & Iancu, S.C., we represent clients who want to take legal action against their abusers and protect their families during an emotionally traumatic period in their lives.
A Restraining Order Can Protect Against Domestic Abuse, Child Abuse, and Harassment
Wisconsin law makes specific provisions for domestic abuse restraining orders. These orders can protect you if a family member, household member, or current or former intimate partner have committed any of the following acts against you:
- intentionally causing you physical pain, injury, or illness;
- intentionally harming your physical condition in some way;
- committing sexual assault against you;
- destroying your property, including your pets;
- stalking you; or
- threatening any of these actions.
There are also restraining orders available for child abuse and harassment. Child abuse covers much of the same conduct as domestic abuse, but it can also include any form of sexual exploitation of the child, such as forcing them to view sexual activity or even trafficking a child for sexual purposes. A harassment restraining order broadly covers anyone who stalks, abuses, or makes physical contact against another person–even if they are not in a relationship or living together–or simply engages in repeated acts of harassment or intimidation with no legitimate purpose.
How Do I Get a Restraining Order? And How Long Will It Last?
The first step in seeking a restraining order is to file a petition with the appropriate Wisconsin court. The petition basically explains who you want a restraining order against–that person is known as the “respondent”–and your reasons why. It is important to be as specific as possible in your petition when describing any past acts or threats of abuse.
Under Wisconsin law, a judge has the authority to grant a temporary restraining order (TRO) ex parte. This means that if the judge reviews your petition and determines you are in serious and immediate danger, the court can grant a TRO right away without waiting to hear from the respondent. Note this is only a temporary order. A TRO only lasts for 14 days or until the court can hold a full hearing with both sides present, whichever occurs first.
Before granting an injunction, the court will hold a hearing. Both you and the respondent are allowed to be present, offer testimony and other evidence, and cross-examine the other side’s evidence. So long as the respondent receives notice of the hearing, they do not have to be present for the judge to issue an injunction.
In Wisconsin, a domestic abuse injunction will last for a period as long as requested by the petitioner, but in most cases no more than 4 years. In exceptional cases where a “preponderance of the evidence” shows there is a “substantial risk” of the respondent murdering or sexually assaulting the petitioner, the judge has the discretion to extend the term of the injunction for a period of up to 10 years. Also note that if you have an injunction that has, or is about to expire, you can request a new restraining order if you are still at risk.
How Does a Restraining Order Actually Protect Me?
A TRO or injunction is just a piece of paper. So what happens if your abuser violates the terms of the order? Well, for one thing they are breaking the law. So if you have a valid restraining order and your abuser violates its terms, you can call the police. They can then arrest the respondent and charge them with a misdemeanor. This can lead to criminal prosecution and possible jail time. You can also ask the court that issued your restraining order in the first place to find the respondent in civil contempt, which carries possible additional penalties.
One thing to note: In Wisconsin, once a judge grants a domestic abuse injunction, the respondent is required to surrender any firearms in their possession. This only applies after a court grants a permanent injunction, however, and not simply a temporary restraining order. If the respondent is present for the hearing on your petition, they normally have 48 hours to surrender any weapons. But the respondent is entitled to request a separate firearms surrender hearing, which will temporarily extend this deadline.