What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Minnesota?
For the purposes of getting an order for protection, “domestic abuse” is defined as any of the following acts if committed by a family or household member:
- causing physical harm, bodily injury, assault or making you afraid of immediate (imminent) physical harm, bodily injury or assault;
- terrorist threats, such as threats to commit a crime of violence, bomb threats, or showing (brandishing) a firearm;
- criminal sexual conduct in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th degrees; and
- interference with an emergency call, which includes preventing someone from calling 911 or other emergency phone numbers or interrupting/ending an emergency call.1
1 Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(2)(a)
What 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 (full) 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 order for protection if s/he finds that there is an immediate and present danger of domestic abuse and you need immediate protection.1 “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.2 Once you’ve been granted an ex parte order, you do not need to return to court for a full hearing unless:
- You request a hearing to ask the judge for additional protection than what can be granted with an ex parte order;
- The judge decides not to grant you all of the protection that you asked for in the ex parte order; or
- The abuser requests a hearing once s/he is served with your ex parte order.
If a hearing is ordered based on reasons #1 or #2, above, the hearing will be held within seven days. If the hearing is ordered based on reason #3, above, it will be held within ten 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 mail3 and you would need to go to the hearing in order to present evidence as to why the order should continue. Note: If the judge does not grant you an ex parte order on your first court date, the hearing for a full order for protection will be scheduled within 14 days.4
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.5
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.6 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.7
1 Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(7)(a)
2 Minn. Stat. §§ 518B.01(7)(c); 518B.01(6)(b)
3 Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(5)(b)-(e)
4 Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(5)(a)
5 Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(7)
6 Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(6)(a)
7 Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(11)(b)
What protections can I get in an order for protection?
You can be granted the following protections in an ex parte order for protection:
- that the abuser not abuse you or your minor children;
- that the abuser 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;
- that the abuser stay away from your place of work;
- that the abuser not contact you, either in person, by telephone, mail, email or other electronic devices, or through another person (a “third party”);
- that any insurance coverage currently available to you remain unchanged – for example, 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.1
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:
- all of the ex parte protections listed above; and
- the following additional protections:
- 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;
- temporary child support and/or spousal support;
- counseling or other social services for you and the respondent if you are married or if you have minor children together;
- an order for the abuser to participate in treatment or counseling services;
- temporary use and possession of property that you share with the abuser, such as a car;
- an order that neither party sell, damage, or get rid of property, or use it as the basis for a loan;
- restitution paid to you from the abuser to compensate you for your medical bills and/or lost income as a result of the abuse, for example;
- an order that the abuser 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 to stop harassing, stalking, or threatening you, or from engaging in other conduct that would place you in reasonable fear of bodily injury; and
- includes a determination (“finding”) that the abuser represents a credible threat to your physical safety or prohibits the abuser from using, attempting to use, or threatening to use physical force against you; and
- an order for 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.2
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?
1 Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(7)(a)
2 Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(6)(a), (6)(g)
In which county can I file for an order for protection?
You can file for an order for protection in any county in which:
- either you or the abuser lives;
- the abuse happened; or
- there is/was a family court proceeding involving you and the abuser or a child you have with the abuser, such as a custody/visitation case.1
1 Minn. Stat. § 518B.01(3)
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.