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Know the Laws: Minnesota

UPDATED August 15, 2016

Orders for Protection

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An order for protection is a civil order that provides protection from harm by a family or household member.

Basic information

back to topWhat is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Minnesota?

This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting an order for protection.  In Minnesota, "domestic abuse" is defined as:

  • Physical harm, bodily injury, assault (such as hitting, kicking, slapping, pushing, stabbing, choking, burning) between family or household members;
  • Making a family or household member afraid of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, which includes threats of physical harm or assault;
  • Terrorist threats, such as threats to commit a crime of violence, bomb threats or brandishing (showing) a firearm;
  • Criminal sexual conduct committed against a family or household member by another family or household member (such as forced intercourse or forced sexual contact; or intercourse or any other form of sexual contact with a minor); or
  • Interference with an emergency call, which includes preventing someone from calling 911 or other emergency phone numbers or interrupting/ending an emergency call.*

* Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(2)

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back to topWhat types of orders for protection are available? How long do they last?

There are two types of orders for protection: ex parte orders and full orders.  However, unlike most other states, Minnesota does not necessarily require that a hearing be held with both parties present before issuing a long-term order.  Minnesota law allows a judge to issue a long-term order on your first court date and then it is up to the respondent/abuser to fill out paperwork to request a hearing to object to the order.

When you go to court to file for an order for protection, a judge will give you an ex parte temporary order of protection if s/he finds that there is an immediate and present danger of domestic abuse and you need immediate protection.*  "Ex parte" means that the abuser is not notified beforehand or present in court - the judge will make this decision based only on the information you provide.  An ex parte order will be effective for a fixed period set by the court and can generally last for up to two years or until modified or vacated by the judge after a hearing.*1 Once you've been granted an ex parte order, you do not need to return to court for a full hearing unless:

  1. You request a hearing to ask the judge for additional protection than what can be granted with an ex parte order;
  2. The judge decides not to grant you all of the protection that you asked for in the ex parte order; or
  3. The abuser requests a hearing once s/he is served with your ex parte order. 

Note: If a hearing is ordered based on reasons #1 or #2, above, the hearing will be held within 7 days.  If the hearing is ordered based on reason #3, above, it will be held within 10 days of when the court receives his/her request (although either side may request a continuance in any of the circumstances).  The court will notify you of the hearing by mail*2 and you would need to go to the hearing in order to present evidence as to why the order should continue.  If the judge does not grant you an ex parte order, the hearing for a full order for protection will be scheduled within 14 days.*3 

If there is a court hearing for a full order for protection, both parties (you and the abuser) should have a chance to present evidence, testimony, witnesses, etc. to prove why the order should/should not be issued. The order can last for up to two years, but you may petition to have it extended if you need further protection once the order expires.*4

If the abuser has violated a prior or existing order for protection on two or more occasions, or if you have been granted two or more orders for protection against the abuser, the judge can grant a full order for up to 50 years.*5  If after five years there have been no violations of the order, the abuser may ask the judge to modify (change) the order by proving there has been a significant change in circumstances.*6

* Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(7)(a)
*1 Minn. Stat. §§ 518B.01(7)(c); 518B.01(6)(b)
*2 Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(5)(b)-(e)
*3 Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(5)(a)
*4 Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(7)
*5 Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(6)(a)
*6 Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(11)(b)

 

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back to topHow can an order for protection help me?

You can be granted the following protections in an ex parte order of protection:

  • Ordering the abuser not to abuse you or your minor children;
  • Ordering the abuser to be removed from the home that you share and that s/he stay away from a reasonable area surrounding the shared home or your own home;Order the abuser to stay away from your place of work;
  • Ordering the abuser not to contact you, either in person, by telephone, mail, email or other electronic devices, or through another person (a "third party");
  • Ordering that any insurance coverage currently available to you remain unchanged (in other words, if you get health insurance through the abuser's work, s/he won't be able to remove you from the insurance plan);
  • Giving either of you possession or control of a pet or companion animal owned, possessed, or kept by you, the abuser or a child of you or the abuser and ordering the abuser to not physically abuse the animal.*
If you get an order for protection that is issued after the respondent/abuser is given notice and the chance to appear in court at a hearing, you can get the following protections as part of a full order of protection:
  • Ordering all of the ex parte protections listed above;
  • Awarding you temporary custody of your children and/or establishing temporary parenting time giving primary consideration to the safety of you and your children; Note: The judge can restrict parenting time as to the time, place, duration, or supervision, or deny parenting time completely if necessary to protect the safety of you and your children;
  • Establish temporary child support and/or spousal support;
  • Provide counseling or other social services for you and the respondent (if you are married or if you have minor children together);
  • Order the abuser to participate in treatment or counseling services;
  • Award you temporary use and possession of property that you share with the abuser, such as a car;
  • Order neither party to sell, damage or get rid of property, or to use it as the basis for a loan;
  • Order the abuser to pay restitution to you (i.e., to compensate you for your medical bills and/or lost income as a result of the abuse);
  • Order the abuser to not possess firearms for the time that the order is in effect; Note: The judge is supposed to include this prohibition against possessing firearms in all situations where the order:
    • instructs the abuser from harassing, stalking, or threatening you, or from engaging in other conduct that would place you in reasonable fear of bodily injury; and
    • includes a finding (the judge's determination) that the abuser represents a credible threat to your physical safety or prohibits the abuser party from using, attempting to use, or threatening to use physical force against you; and
  • Order any other relief that is necessary to protect you and your children, including ordering the sheriff or other law enforcement to act in a certain way (for example, to accompany you to the home to get your belongings).**

Whether or not a judge orders any, or all of the above, depends on the facts of your case.  To read about what will happen to the firearms if the abuser is prohibited from possessing them, go to What will happen to the abuser's firearms if the judge includes a firearm restriction in my order for protection?

* Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(7)(a)
** Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(6)(a),(g)

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back to topIn which county can I file for an order for protection?

You can file for an order of protection in any county where either you or the abuser lives, where the abuse happened, or where there is/was a family court proceeding involving you and the abuser or a child you have with the abuser (for example, a custody/visitation case).*

* Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(3)

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Who can get an order for protection

back to topAm I eligible to file for an order for protection?

You can file for an order for protection for yourself and/or your minor child against any of the following people who have committed domestic violence against you or the minor child:

  • your spouse or former spouse
  • your parent
  • your child
  • someone related to you by blood
  • someone with whom you live/lived
  • someone with whom you have a child in common 
  • someone with whom you are expecting a child (if the female in the couple is currently pregnant)
  • someone with whom you have/had a significant romantic or sexual relationship.* 

Note: If you are a "reputable adult" who is at least 25 years old, you can file on behalf of a minor child who is a family or household member of yours but not your biological child.**

A minor child who is age 16 or older can file on his/her own behalf against a spouse or former spouse, or a person with whom the minor has a child in common - but the judge must believe that the minor has "sufficient maturity and judgment" to file on his/her own and that it is in the best interests of the minor to allow the minor to file.  All other minors must have a parent, guardian, or a "reputable" adult in his/her household (who is age 25 or older) file on their behalf.**

If you do not qualify for an order for protection, you may be able to file for a Harassment Restraining Order.

* Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(2)(b)
** Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(4)(a)

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back to topCan a minor file for an order for protection?

A minor child who is age 16 or older can file on his/her own behalf against a spouse or former spouse, or a person with whom the minor has a child in common - but the judge must believe that the minor has "sufficient maturity and judgment" to file on his/her own and that it is in the best interests of the minor to allow the minor to file.   All other minors must have a parent, guardian, or a "reputable" adult in his/her household (who is age 25 or older) file on their behalf.*

* Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(4)(a)

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back to topCan I get an order for protection against a same-sex partner?

In Minnesota, you may apply for an order for protection against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Am I eligible to file for an order for protection?  You must also be the victim of an act of domestic abuse, which is explained here What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Minnesota?

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back to topIf I am not eligible for an order for protection, is there another type of restraining order I can get?

If you are not eligible for an order for protection, you may be able to get a harassment restraining order (HRO).  Anyone who is a victim of harassment can file for a harassment restraining order. It does not matter what relationship you have with the harasser. To read more, go to our Harassment Restraining Orders page.

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back to topHow much does it cost to get an order for protection? Do I need a lawyer?

There are no filing fees to get an order for protection.*

You do not need a lawyer to file for an order for protection.  However, you may wish to have a lawyer, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. If you can, contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected.

If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find contact information for legal assistance organizations, which offer free or low-cost help to those who qualify, on our MN Finding a Lawyer page.

Domestic violence organizations in your area may also be able to help you through the legal process and may have legal referrals. Having another person give you support through this process can be a tremendous help.  To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please visit our MN State and Local Programs page.

 * Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(3a)

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Steps for obtaining an order for protection

back to topStep 1: Fill out the necessary forms and file them in court.

You can get and file a petition for an order for protection at the appropriate courthouse - see In which country can I file for an order for protection? Check our MN Courthouse Locations to find the courthouse in your area.  At the courthouse, the clerk will provide you with the forms that you need to file. If you need assistance filling out the form, you may ask the clerk for help or you can try to get help through one of the domestic violence organizations listed on our MN State and Local Programs page.

You will also find links to online forms at our MN Download Court Forms page.

If you are applying for a temporary ex parte order, you will have to include a detailed description of the facts and circumstances concerning the family violence and the need for the immediate protective order.  Also, you must sign the application under oath.

Read the petition carefully and ask questions if you don’t understand something. Describe in detail how the abuser (respondent) injured or threatened you. Explain when and where the abuse or threats occurred. Write about the incidents of violence, using descriptive language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, choking, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Be specific. Include details and dates, if possible.

Note: Do not sign the form until you have shown it to a clerk. The form must be signed in front of a notary public at the courthouse.

 

 

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back to topStep 2: A judge will review your petition and may grant an ex parte order.

After you finish filling out your petition, bring it to the court clerk. If you are in immediate danger, the judge can order an ex parte order. A judge will decide this based on the facts included in your petition.

The abuser does not have to be notified in advance to receive an ex parte order, which can last for up to two years.  If an ex parte order is granted, the ex parte order and petition must be served upon the respondent and, if a hearing was requested by you, s/he will also be served with a notice of the date set for the hearing.  If you do not request a hearing, the order served on the abuser must include a notice advising the respondent/abuser of the right to request a hearing to object to the order along with a form that can be used by the respondent to request this hearing.  She must request the hearing within five days of service of the order upon him/her.*

* Minn Stat § 518B.01(7)(c)

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back to topStep 3: Service of process

If you receive an ex parte order, it will not take effect until the papers have been served upon the abuser. The courthouse clerk will give all of the necessary paperwork to the sheriff or another law enforcement officer to be served personally upon the abuser.  However, if personal service cannot be made, the judge may order service of the petition and any ex parte order by alternate means (such as to the respondent's last known addresses) or by "publication."*  

The application for alternate service must include the last known location of the respondent as well as other information about the respondent/abuser's family members' locations, etc.  The judge is supposed to consider the length of time the respondent's location has been unknown, the likelihood that the respondent's location will become known, the type of things you are asking for in your order for protection, and the nature of the efforts made to locate the respondent.  The judge can order service by first class mail, forwarding address requested, to any addresses where there is a reasonable possibility that mail or information will be forwarded or communicated to the respondent/abuser.*

The court may also order publication in Minnesota or in another state, but only if such publication may reasonably succeed in notifying the respondent of the proceeding. If either of these options are ordered, service shall be considered complete 14 days after mailing or 14 days after court-ordered publication.*

* Minn Stat § 518B.01(8)(a),(c)

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back to topStep 4: The hearing

It is very important that you attend the court hearing. If you absolutely cannot attend, contact the court clerk immediately and ask how you can get a continuance for a later court date.  See the Preparing your Case section for ways you can show the judge that you were abused.  See the MN Finding a Lawyer page for legal referrals.

If the abuser does not attend the hearing, the judge may either issue a "default judgment" and grant you a permanent order for protection, or the judge may decide to reschedule the hearing. If the hearing is rescheduled, be sure to ask the judge to extend your ex parte order so that you are protected until the next hearing date.

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After the hearing

back to topWhat will happen to the abuser's firearms if the judge includes a firearm restriction in my order for protection?

If the judge orders that the abuser's firearms be removed for the reasons explained in How can an order for protection help me?, there are two ways that the firearms can be taken away.  First, if the judge believes that there is evidence that the abuser poses an immediate risk of causing you or another person substantial bodily harm, the judge must order the local law enforcement agency take immediate possession of all firearms in the abuser's possession.*  If the judge does not believe there is an immediate risk, the abuser will have three business days to transfer the firearms to a federally licensed firearms dealer, a law enforcement agency, or a third party who may lawfully receive them (as long as the third party does not live with the abuser).**  The third party may be held criminally and civilly responsible if the abuser is able to access the firearm while it is in the custody of the third party.  Then, the abuser must file proof of the transfer with the court within two business days of the transfer.***

* Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(6)(i)
** Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(6)(g)
*** Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(6)(h)

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back to topWhat should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some ideas for things that you may want to do when leaving court – you will have to decide which ones work for you:

  • Make several copies of the order for protection as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order at your work place, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a photo of the abuser.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
  • One week after court, call your local law enforcement offices to make sure they have received copies of the order for protection.  If they have not, you may want to ask if you can deliver a copy to them.
  • Take steps to safety plan, including possibly changing your locks and your phone number.
Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving the order. People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school.  Many batterers obey orders for protection, but some do not.  It is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  For more information please visit the Staying Safe page.  Advocates at local resource centers can assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support.

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back to topI was not granted an order for protection. What are my options?

If you are not granted an order for protection, there are still some things you can do to try to stay safe. It might be a good idea to contact one of the domestic violence resource centers in your area to get help, support, and advice on how to stay safe. They can help you develop a safety plan and help connect you with the resources you need.  For safety planning help, ideas, and information, go to our Staying Safe page. To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please go to our MN State and Local Programs page.

If you were not granted an order for protection because your relationship with the abuser does not qualify as a "family or household member,” you may be able to seek protection through a harassment restraining order (HRO).

You may also reapply for an order for protection if a new incident of domestic abuse occurs after you are denied the order.

If you believe the judge made an error of law, you can talk to someone at a domestic violence organization or a lawyer about the possibility of filing an appeal. Generally, appeals are complicated and you will most likely need the help of a lawyer.

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back to topWhat can I do if the abuser violates the order?

If the abuser violates the order, you can call the police, even if you think it is a minor violation.  It can be a crime and contempt of court if the abuser violates the order in any way.  A judge can punish someone for being in contempt of court.  An abuser can be arrested, fined, jailed and ordered to participate in counseling or other appropriate programs.*  You may file civil contempt charges against the abuser for violating the OFP, even if the police don’t make an arrest or file criminal charges. Civil charges may be filed in the same court that issued your order.

It is generally a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge number in case you want to follow up on your case.  It is also important to have a copy of the order with you at all times.

Make sure a police report is filled out, even if no arrest is made. If you have legal documentation of all violations of the order, it may help you have the order extended or modified.

* MN Code § 518B.01(14)

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back to topHow can my order be changed, extended or dismissed?

The court may extend the terms of an existing order (or, if an order is no longer in effect, grant a new order) upon a showing that:

  • the respondent/abuser has violated a prior or existing order for protection;
  • you are in fear of physical harm from the respondent/abuser;
  • the respondent/abuser has stalked you; or
  • the respondent is incarcerated and about to be released, or has recently been released from incarceration.*

You do not need to show that you are in danger of immediate physical harm to get your order extended (or to get a subsequent order).*  Generally, the judge can grant this extension of the order ex parte, without prior notice to the abuser and without a hearing where the abuser is present.  A hearing will be held, however, if the judge decides not to grant you the ex parte extension or if the abuser requests a hearing (after the ex parte extension is granted).**

Your order for protection can last for up to 50 years, if the court finds:

  • the respondent/abuser has violated a prior or existing order for protection on two or more occasions; or
  • you have had two or more orders for protection in effect against the same respondent/abuser.***

To modify or vacate an order, you may apply to the court to request this.  Note: If you are granted an order up to 50 years, the abuser can request to have the order vacated or modified after the order has been in effect for at least five years and assuming the respondent has not violated the order during that time.  Then you would be notified of this request and the judge would set a hearing date.  The respondent/abuser has the burden of proving that there has been a substantial change in circumstances and that the reasons that you needed the order for protection no longer apply and are unlikely to occur again. If the court believes the abuser, the judge can dismiss or modify the order.  If the judge does not believe the abuser, the abuser must wait another five years before s/he can apply again to modify or dismiss the order.****  

* MN Code § 518B.01(6a)(b)
** MN Code § 518B.01(6a)(a)
*** MN Code § 518B.01(6a)(c)
**** MN Code § 518B.01(11)

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back to topCan I get my order for protection from Minnesota enforced in another state?

Your order for protection is good everywhere in the state of Minnesota. Additionally, the federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. Territories and tribal lands.  Please see our Moving to Another State with a Protection Order page for more information. If you are moving to a new state, you may also want to call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111 x 2) for information on enforcing your order in another state.

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back to topCan my employer discipline or fire me for taking time off work to file for an order for protection?

No.  Under Minnesota state law, an employer cannot fire, discipline, threaten, penalize, or otherwise discriminate against an employee because s/he took a reasonable amount of time off work to seek protection an order for protection for domestic abuse.*

If you do need to take time off work to protect yourself or your children from domestic abuse, it is your responsibility to give your employer 48 hours' advance notice, unless you or your child are in immediate danger or unless giving notice is impractical.  Your employer can ask for proof of why you are absent but s/he has to keep all information confidential.*

If your employer does violate this law, s/he can be guilty of a crime.  You also have the option of bringing a civil suit for damages against your employer.**

* MN Code § 518B.01(23)(a)
** MN Code § 518B.01(23)(b),(c)

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