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Legal Information: Wisconsin

Wisconsin Restraining Orders

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Restraining Orders

Domestic Abuse Injunctions

Basic information

What is the legal definition of domestic abuse in Wisconsin?

Domestic abuse in Wisconsin includes the following:

  • intentionally causing physical pain, physical injury or illness;
  • intentionally harming your physical condition;
  • sexual assault;
  • stalking;
  • destruction of property belonging to you; and
  • threatening to do any of the above acts.1

Note: Harassing or stalking behavior is also covered under a different type of restraining order called a harassment restraining order.

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(1)(am)

What protections can I get in a domestic abuse injunction?

A temporary restraining order may:

  • order the abuser to stop committing acts of domestic abuse against you;
  • order the abuser to stay away from your residence, or any other location you are temporarily occupying, or both. Note: If you and the abuser are unmarried and the abuser owns the home where you are both living (and you do not have any legal interest in that property), the judge may order the abuser to stay away from the property until you have a chance to move;
  • order the abuser to avoid contacting you directly or through a third party, with the exception of the abuser’s attorney and any law enforcement officer;
  • order the abuser not to remove, hide, damage, harm, mistreat, or dispose of, a household pet;
  • order the abuser to allow you or your family member or household member acting on your behalf to retrieve (get) a household pet; and
  • grant other relief that you request, if the judge finds the relief is necessary for your protection.1

A final domestic abuse injunction may:

  • include all of the protections available through a temporary restraining order, listed above; and
  • order a wireless telephone provider to transfer the right to use your telephone number to you and transfer your account (including the responsibility to pay the bills) to you.2

If a judge grants you a domestic abuse injunction, s/he must order the abuser to hand over any firearms in his/her possession to the authorities and forbid him/her from buying firearms (unless the abuser is a peace officer and is required to possess a gun as a condition of his/her job).2

Note: For more information about federal and state gun laws and exceptions, see our WI State Gun Laws page and our Federal Gun Laws page.

Whether a judge or court commissioner orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(3)(a),(3)(am)
2 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(4)(a),(am),(4g),(4m)(a)(2),(ag)

In which county do I file the petition?

You can file a petition for a domestic abuse injunction in any of the following counties:

  • where you live;
  • where you are temporarily living;
  • where the abuser (respondent) lives; or
  • where an incident of abuse took place (where the “cause of action arose”).1

Note: There are certain situations in which you can file in any county within a 100-mile radius of the county seat of the county in which you live (or where you are temporarily living). This applies only if you (the petitioner) are any of the following:

  1. a victim advocate;
  2. an employee of the county court system;
  3. a legal professional practicing law;
  4. a current or former law enforcement officer;
  5. the spouse of a person listed above in numbers 1 - 4;
  6. a person who is/was in a dating relationship with or has a child in common with a person listed above in numbers 1 - 4;
  7. an immediate family member of a person listed above in numbers 1 - 4; or
  8. a household member of a person listed above in numbers 1 - 4.1

1 Wis. Stat. § 801.50(5r)

Who can get an injunction

Am I eligible to file for a domestic abuse injunction?

If you are an adult, you may be able to file against any of the following people who have committed domestic abuse against you (the abuser must also be an adult):

  • a current or former spouse;
  • a parent;
  • an adult child;
  • a person related to you by blood or adoption;
  • a person with whom you currently live or formerly lived;
  • anyone with whom you have had a child, even if you were never married to him/her;
  • someone you are dating or have dated; or
  • a caregiver.1

You can also file for a domestic abuse injunction on behalf of a incapacitated adult who is the victim of domestic abuse if you are that adult’s legal guardian.2

If you are being abused or harassed by someone who does not fit into one of the above-listed relationships, there are other types of orders that you may be eligible for. You can find more information on our child abuse restraining orders page, our harassment restraining orders page, and our individual at risk restraining orders page.

Note: Domestic abuse injunctions do not offer protection from step-parents, step-siblings or step-children unless you live with them or used to live with them.

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(1)(am), (1)(b), (1)(c)
2 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(5)(d)

Can I get an injunction against a same-sex partner?

In Wisconsin, you may apply for an injunction against a current or former same-sex partner as long as the relationship meets the requirements listed in Am I eligible to file for a domestic abuse injunction? 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 Wisconsin?

You can find information about LGBTQIA victims of abuse and what types of barriers they may face on our LGBTQIA Victims page.

What types of domestic abuse orders are there? How long do they last?

In Wisconsin, there is a two-step process to get a domestic abuse injunction. The process starts by requesting a temporary domestic abuse restraining order.

Temporary domestic abuse restraining order
A temporary restraining order is a court order designed to protect you and your family from immediate danger. It can be granted without the abuser being in court and without his/her knowledge. The temporary restraining order cannot be enforced until the abuser has been served with the order. In general, a temporary order will last until the court hearing for a final order, which will usually be within 14 days.1 Temporary restraining orders may be extended for two weeks if the abuser cannot be located before your first temporary order expires.2 After the judge has given you a temporary restraining order, a court date will be set for the final injunction hearing. If you did not receive a temporary restraining order, a hearing for a final injunction can be scheduled if you request a court date.3

Final domestic abuse injunctions
An injunction is a court order designed to protect you and your family from domestic abuse in a more permanent way than a temporary restraining order. An injunction can be issued only after the abuser has received notice and has an opportunity to attend a court hearing in front of a judge or court commissioner. At the hearing, you and the abuser will both have a chance to present evidence, testimony, witnesses, etc. The final injunction can last for the amount of time that you request, up to 4 years.4 However, there is a possibility that the injunction can last for up to 10 years if you can prove there is a substantial risk that the respondent may commit any of these crimes against you: first-degree intentional homicide, second-degree intentional homicide, sexual assault or sexual assault of a child (sections (1) or (2)).5

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(2)(c)
2 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(3)(c)
3 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(2m)
4 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(4)(c)(1)
5 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(4)(d)(1)

How much does it cost? Do I need a lawyer?

There are no fees for filing for a domestic abuse injunction.1

You do not need a lawyer to file for a domestic abuse injunction. However, you may wish to have a lawyer, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. Even if you can’t get a lawyer to represent you, you might want to get advice from 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 information on legal assistance on our WI Finding a Lawyer page. Domestic violence organizations in your area also should be able to help you through the legal process and may have lawyer referrals. Please see our WI State and Local Resources page for organizations in your area.

If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.

1 Wis. Stat. § 814.61(1)(d)

The steps for getting a domestic abuse injunction

Step 1: Get the necessary paperwork.

First, you will need to fill out the necessary forms for a domestic abuse injunction.

You can get the forms from the clerk at the courthouse, but you may want to find them before you go and fill them out at home or with an advocate from a domestic violence organization You will find links to forms online on the WI Download Court Forms page.

Most shelters and other domestic violence prevention organizations can provide support for you while you fill out these papers and may even accompany you to court for support if you do not have a lawyer. Go to WI Advocates and Shelters to find an organization in your area.

Step 2: Carefully fill out the petition.

On the petition, you will be the “petitioner” and the abuser will be the “respondent.”

In the space provided for explaining why you want the injunction, write about the most recent incident of violence along with other incidents that have happened in the past, using specific language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Clerks can show you which blanks to fill in, but they cannot help you decide what to write.

The domestic abuse injunction process starts by requesting a temporary restraining order. The abuser does not have to be in court with you or be told beforehand that you are asking the judge or court commissioner for a temporary restraining order.

Note: Do not sign the court forms until you are in front of a notary or a clerk. The clerk can usually notarize the forms for you.

Step 3: File the forms at the courthouse.

You will need to file the court forms in the circuit court. To file the forms, go to the clerk of court. The forms must be filed during business hours. Tell the clerk that you want to file for a domestic abuse injunction. You can ask for a temporary restraining order, a domestic abuse injunction, or both on the same form. To find contact information for the courthouse in your area, click on our WI Courthouse Locations page.

Step 4: A judge will review your petition.

When you have filed the forms with the clerk of court, s/he will bring your paperwork to the judge or court commissioner. The judge may want to ask you questions about your petition. If the judge believes you are in serious and immediate danger, s/he may give you a temporary (ex parte) restraining order which is good for 14 days, or until your full court hearing.

If the judge does not give you a temporary restraining order, you still can go forward with your request for a domestic abuse injunction (as long as your case is not dismissed). To request a hearing on the final injunction when you were not given a temporary restraining order, you will file a motion requesting one.1 The hearing for the final injunction will be in front of a judge or court commissioner. At this hearing, you and the abuser will both have a chance to explain your sides of the story by presenting evidence, testimony, witnesses, etc. At the end of this hearing, the judge will decide whether or not to give you a final injunction.

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(2m)

Step 5: Service of process

The clerk of the circuit court will forward to the sheriff any temporary restraining order, injunction, or other document or notice that must be served on the respondent and the sheriff is supposed to serve the respondent. (Or you can choose to use a private process server at your own expense.)1 However, it is still up to you to make sure that the abuser is served. Wisconsin’s VINELink can help you keep track of the status of service. You may have to provide contact information, like home or work address, for the abuser so that the police or sheriff can find him/her. Do not try to serve the abuser yourself.

If the respondent does not receive notice of the hearing, the hearing may be rescheduled if you request it. However, if you are unable to have the abuser served because s/he is avoiding service (for example, by hiding from the sheriff), you can file an affidavit in court explaining all of the attempts that were made at service. At that point, the judge or circuit court commissioner can allow you to serve the respondent by publication in a newspaper and by mailing or faxing a copy to the respondent if you know or can find out his/her address or fax number.2 (Note: The option of serving by publication applies to domestic abuse and harassment injunctions only; not child abuse orders and individuals at risk orders.)3 You can talk to the clerk of court or to someone at a domestic violence organization to try to get help with service by publication. See WI Advocates and Shelters.

Note: Be sure to obtain written proof from law enforcement that the restraining order was served because the court will ask for that proof at your full court hearing. It is your responsibility to contact the sheriff to make sure that the papers were served.2 This proof of service is especially important if the abuser does not show up in court.

You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(6)(ag)1
2 Wis. Stat. §§ 813.12(2)(a); 813.125(2)(a)
3 Wis Stat. §§ 813.25(3)(d); 813.122(2); 813.123(2)(a)

Step 6: The hearing

On the day of the injunction hearing, you must go to the hearing to ask to have your temporary order (good for up to 14 days) turned into a final domestic abuse restraining order (also called an injunction), which can last for up to 4 years (or up to 10 years if you can prove there is a substantial risk that the respondent may commit any of these crimes against you: first-degree intentional homicide, second-degree intentional homicide, sexual assault or sexual assault of a child (sections (1) or (2))1.

If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary order will expire and you will have to start the process all over again. The abuser does not have to show up to the hearing for you to get the final injunction. The judge may still grant you a final injunction or the judge may reschedule the hearing (if either you or the abuser requests a continuance).

You may wish to get a lawyer to help with your case, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. You can also represent yourself. If the abuser shows up with a lawyer, you can ask the judge for a “continuance” (a later court date) so that you have time to find a lawyer. (Go to our WI Finding a Lawyer page to find help in your area.)

If you absolutely cannot go to the hearing at the scheduled time, you may call the court to ask if you can request that your case be “continued” but the judge may deny your request.

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(4)(c)(1), (4)(d)(1)

After the hearing

Can the abuser have a gun?

Once you get a protection order, there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession. There are a few places where you can find this information:

  • first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in Wisconsin have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
  • second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
  • third you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal laws that apply to all states.

You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website.

What should I do when I leave the courthouse?

Here are some things you may want to consider doing. However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation.

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk to correct the order before you leave.
  • If you are concerned that the abuser will harass you when you leave the courthouse, ask the court officer if s/he would escort you to the door of the building. If you are afraid the abuser may follow you once you leave the courthouse, explain this to the court officer. The court officer might hold the abuser there for a few minutes while you leave so that you can get a head start , which would make it difficult for the abuser to trail you. This could be especially important if you are living in a shelter or confidential location and you do not want the abuser to know where you are staying.
  • Make several copies of the injunction 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.
  • If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number. In some counties, there might be a domestic violence agency that would change your locks for free if you have an order of protection. 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 restraining orders, but some do not. It is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe. Click on the following link for suggestions on Safety Tips. Advocates at local resource centers can also assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support as well.

I was not granted a domestic abuse injunction. What are my options?

If you are not granted a domestic abuse injunction, there are still some things you can do 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 Safety Tips page. You will find a list of Wisconsin resources under our WI Places that Help page.

If you were not granted a domestic abuse injunction because your relationship with the abuser or the type of abuse you experienced does not qualify under the law, you may be able to seek protection through one of these orders:

You may also be able to reapply for a domestic abuse restraining order if there has been a new incident of domestic abuse after you are denied the restraining order.

If you believe the judge made an error of law by denying you the order, you can talk to a lawyer about the possibility of an appeal. Generally, appeals are complicated and you will most likely need the help of a lawyer. You may find a lawyer on our WI Finding a Lawyer page, and you can read about appeals on our File an Appeal page.

What if the abuser violates the order?

Intentionally violating an injunction is against the law. There are two ways to get help if the abuser violates the injunction – through the criminal court and the civil court.

Through the Police or Sheriff
If the abuser violates the injunction, you can call 911 immediately. In some cases, the abuser can be arrested right away.1 Tell the officers you have a restraining order and the abuser is violating it.

It is a good idea to write down the name of the responding officers and their badge number in case you want to follow up on your case. Make sure a police report is filled out. If you have legal documentation of all violations of the order, it could help you if you ever want to have the order extended or modified.

If the abuser is arrested, then the district attorney can prosecute the abuser because it is a crime to violate an injunction. If s/he is found guilty of a violation of a restraining order, the abuser may be fined and/or put in jail.

Through the Civil Court System
You may file for “civil contempt” for a violation of the order. The abuser can be held in civil contempt if s/he does anything that your injunction tells him/her not to do. To file for civil contempt, go to the clerk’s office and tell him/her that your abuser has violated the injunction and you want to file for civil contempt. A finding of civil contempt can result in a fine or jail time for the abuser.2

Note: If the abuser violates the order and the police do not make an arrest or charge the abuser with a violation of a court order, you can contact the Wisconsin Office of Crime Victim Services if you feel the police did not take appropriate action. You might also want to get the help of a domestic violence advocate who may be able to help advocate with the police or the district attorney on your behalf.

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(7)(am)
2 Wis. Stat. § 785.04(1)

Can a final domestic abuse injunction be changed or extended?

To make changes to your order or to extend it, you can go back to the court where you got the order and file a petition with the clerk.

A judge can extend the order based on your statement that the extension is necessary to protect you. The order can only be extended for a period of time to equal four years from date that the judge first entered the original injunction (order).1 So, for example, if your initial order lasted three years, the extension can last for one year, totaling four years. The judge can extend the order in this way without giving prior notice to the respondent.2

However, there is a possibility that the injunction can be extended for a period of time (from the initial order) that equals ten years if you can prove there is a substantial risk that the respondent may commit any of these crimes against you: first-degree intentional homicide, second-degree intentional homicide, sexual assault or sexual assault of a child (sections (1) or (2)).3

You can request that a judge modify (change) your injunction, but the judge cannot change it based only on the abuser’s request.4

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(4)(c)(2)
2 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(4)(c)(4)
3 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(4)(d)(1)
4 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(4)(b)

What happens if I move?

If you move anywhere in the U.S., your domestic abuse injunction will still be valid. You might want to call the clerk of the court that issued your injunction to change your address. However, if you are moving to an address that the abuser does not know about, be sure to tell the clerk that your new address is confidential. If you move to a new county within Wisconsin, you may also want to contact the court clerk in that county to make sure that they have a copy of your restraining order on file, and that the police are aware of it as well. Check the list of Wisconsin Courthouse Locations for contact information for the clerk of courts.

If you move outside of Wisconsin, federal law provides what is called “full faith and credit,” which means that once you have a criminal or civil restraining or protection order, it follows you and is enforceable wherever you go, including U.S. territories and tribal lands. However, each state has its own laws and procedures.

Any person with a valid injunction (an order that has not expired) who relocates to another state may want to inquire at a court or with law enforcement agency for instructions on the registration and enforcement of orders in that state. You may also call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111) for information on enforcing your order in another state.

See Moving to Another State with a WI Restraining Order for more information.

Child Abuse Restraining Orders

Basic information

What is a child abuse restraining order?

If a minor child has been the victim of abuse, s/he may be eligible to file for a child abuse restraining order. This restraining order is a paper which is signed by a judge and tells the abuser to stay away from the child or face serious legal consequences.

What is the legal definition of child abuse in Wisconsin?

To get a child abuse restraining order, a minor child (under the age of 18) must be the victim of child abuse, which is defined in Wisconsin as:

  • intentional physical injury inflicted on a child (injuring a child on purpose);
  • sexual intercourse or sexual contact with a child;
  • sexual exploitation of a child;
  • intentionally causing a child to listen to or view sexual activity;
  • exposing one’s genitals or pubic area to a child;
  • permitting, allowing, or encouraging a child into prostitution (as defined by law);
  • emotional damage for which parents or guardians neglected or refused to get treatment;
  • trafficking of a child;
  • manufacturing (making) methamphetamine:
    • in the physical presence of a child, or
    • in a child’s home, or
    • under any other circumstances where the child may see, smell or hear the drug being made; or
  • a pregnant woman who regularly uses alcohol or drugs and causes either serious physical harm to the unborn child or the risk of serious physical harm to the child when born.1

1 Wis. Stat. § 48.02(1)(a)-(gm)

What types of child abuse restraining orders are there? How long do they last?

There are temporary and final child abuse restraining orders (also called injunctions).  A temporary order may be granted by a judge or court commissioner if s/he finds reasonable grounds to believe that the abuser has abused the child victim or may abuse the child victim.1 The temporary order lasts for 14 days or until the full court hearing (and it can be extended once for 14 days if the respondent could not be served or if the parties consent).2

A final child abuse restraining order, or injunction, can be granted only after a full court hearing where the victim and abuser both get a chance to tell their sides of the story.  If granted, a final child abuse injunction may last for up to 2 years or until the child victim turns 18, whichever happens first.  However, there is a possibility that the injunction can last for up to 5 years if you can prove there is a substantial risk that the respondent may commit any of these crimes against the child: first-degree intentional homicidesecond-degree intentional homicidesexual assault or sexual assault of a child (sections (1) or (2)).3  A child abuse restraining order may also order the payment of child support.4

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.122(4)(a)(2)
2 Wis. Stat. § 813.122(4)(c)
3 Wis. Stat. § 813.122(5)(d),(dm)
4 Wis. Stat. § 813.122(5)(e)

What protections can I get in a child abuse restraining order?

A temporary or final child abuse restraining order or injunction can order the abuser to:

  • avoid the child victim’s residence or any place temporarily occupied by the child victim or both;
  • avoid contacting or causing any person other than a party’s attorney to contact the child victim (unless you, the petitioner, consents to that contact in writing and the judge agrees that the contact is in the best interests of the child victim); and
  • not remove, hide, damage, harm, or mistreat, or dispose of, a household pet (and the judge can allow the petitioner or his/her family/household member to get the pet).1
  • Note: If you request it, as part of a final injunction, the judge can order a wireless telephone provider to transfer to you the right to use (and responsibility to pay for) any telephone number that you use or that a minor child in your care uses.2

In a final child abuse injunction, the abuser will be required to surrender any firearms that s/he owns.3 However, if the abuser is a police officer, or has to use a firearm as part of his/her work, the court may not require him/her to surrender the firearms.4 For more information on gun laws in Wisconsin, see our WI State Gun Laws page.

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.122(4)(a), (5)(a)
2 Wis. Stat. § 813.122(5c)
3 Wis. Stat. § 813.122(5m)(a)(2)
4 Wis. Stat. § 813.122(5m)(ag)

In which county do I file the petition?

You can file a petition for a child abuse restraining order in any of the following counties:

  • where you live;
  • where you are temporarily living;
  • where the abuser (respondent) lives; or
  • where an incident of abuse took place (where the “cause of action arose”).1

Note: There are certain situations in which you can file in any county within a 100-mile radius of the county seat of the county in which you live (or where you are temporarily living). This applies only if you (the petitioner) are any of the following:

  1. a victim advocate;
  2. an employee of the county court system;
  3. a legal professional practicing law;
  4. a current or former law enforcement officer;
  5. the spouse of a person listed above in numbers 1 - 4;
  6. a person who is/was in a dating relationship with or has a child in common with a person listed above in numbers 1 - 4;
  7. an immediate family member of a person listed above in numbers 1 - 4; or
  8. a household member of a person listed above in numbers 1 - 4.1

1 Wis. Stat. § 801.50(5s)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Getting the order

Who is eligible to file for a child abuse restraining order?

The child victim or a parent, step-parent or legal guardian of the child victim may petition the court for a child abuse restraining order.1

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.122(2)

What are the steps for getting a child abuse restraining order?

Can a child abuse restraining order be extended?

Yes.  A judge can extend the order  based on your statement that the extension is necessary to protect the child victim. The order can only be extended for for up to 2 years or until the child attains 18 years of age, whichever occurs first.1   The judge can extend the order in this way without giving prior notice to the respondent.2 

However, there is a possibility that the injunction can be extended for up to 5 years if you can prove there is a substantial risk that the respondent may commit any of these crimes against the child victim: first-degree intentional homicidesecond-degree intentional homicidesexual assault or sexual assault of a child (sections (1) or (2)).3  

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.122(5)(d)(3)
2 Wis. Stat. § 813.122(5)(d)(4) 
3 Wis. Stat. § 813.122(5)(dm)(1)

 

Harassment Restraining Orders

A harassment restraining order can be issued for victims of harassment as well as other types of abuse. You may qualify for a harassment restraining order if you are the victim of threatened or actual unwanted physical contact, physical abuse, sexual assault, stalking, or harassment. The order can be issued regardless of your relationship to the person.

Basic information

What is the legal definition of harassment in Wisconsin?

For the purposes of getting a harassment restraining order, the legal definition of “harassment” includes:

  • striking, shoving, kicking or otherwise subjecting another person to physical contact;
  • child abuse (as defined by law);
  • sexual assault;
  • stalking;
  • attempting or threatening to commit any of the above acts; and
  • repeated acts that harass or intimidate another person and which serve no legitimate (valid) purpose.1

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.125(1)

What types of harassment restraining orders are there? How long do they last?

There are temporary and final harassment restraining orders (also called injunctions).  A temporary order may be granted by a judge or circuit court commissioner if s/he finds reasonable grounds to believe that the abuser has intentionally harassed or intimidated the victim.1  The temporary order lasts for 14 days or until the full court hearing.2

A final harassment restraining order or injunction, can be granted only after a full court hearing where the victim and abuser both get a chance to tell their sides of the story.  If granted, a final harassment restraining order may last for up to 4 years.3  However, there is a possibility that the injunction can last for up to 10 years if you can prove there is a substantial risk that the respondent may commit any of these crimes against you: first-degree intentional homicidesecond-degree intentional homicidesexual assault or sexual assault of a child (sections (1) or (2)).4

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.125(3)(a)(1)
2 Wis. Stat. § 813.125(3)(c)
3 Wis. Stat. § 813.125(4)(c)
4 Wis. Stat. § 813.125(4)(d)

What protections can I get in a harassment restraining order?

A harassment restraining order (both the temporary order and the injunction) can order the abuser to:

  • not have contact with you directly or indirectly (except through his/her attorney or a law enforcement officer);
  • not harass you;
  • stay away from your home and/or any place where you are temporarily living;
  • not remove, hide, damage, harm, mistreat, or get rid of a household pet;
  • allow you or someone on your behalf to get a household pet from the home;1 and
  • surrender any firearms that s/he owns or has in his/her possession to the sheriff - however, this can only be ordered in an injunction (not in a temporary order) and you must present “clear and convincing evidence” at the hearing that the abuser may use a firearm to cause physical harm to you or another person or to endanger public safety.2 (However, if the abuser is a peace officer, this does not apply to any firearm that s/he is required to possess, as a condition of employment, while s/he is on or off duty.)3

Note: If you share a wireless telephone number with the abuser, you can request that the judge order the service provider to transfer to you the right to continue to use any telephone number(s) that you and/or your minor child uses (and you will have to take over payments for that account).4

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.125(3)(a),(4)(a)
2 Wis. Stat. § 813.125(4m)(a),(c)(2)
3 Wis. Stat. § 813.125(4m)(cg)
4 Wis. Stat. § 813.125(4g)

In which county do I file the petition?

You can file a petition for a harassment restraining order in any of the following counties:

  • where you live;
  • where you are temporarily living;
  • where the abuser (respondent) lives; or
  • where an incident of abuse took place (where the “cause of action arose”).1

Note: There are certain situations in which you can file in any county within a 100-mile radius of the county seat of the county in which you live (or where you are temporarily living). This applies only if you (the petitioner) are any of the following:

  1. a victim advocate;
  2. an employee of the county court system;
  3. a legal professional practicing law;
  4. a current or former law enforcement officer;
  5. the spouse of a person listed above in numbers 1 - 4;
  6. a person who is/was in a dating relationship with or has a child in common with a person listed above in numbers 1 - 4;
  7. an immediate family member of a person listed above in numbers 1 - 4; or
  8. a household member of a person listed above in numbers 1 - 4.1

​1 Wis. Stat. § 801.50(5s)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Getting the order

Who is eligible to file for a harassment restraining order? Can a minor file?

Anyone who is being physically or sexually abused, stalked, threatened, and/or harassed or intimidated repeatedly with no legitimate (valid) purpose by another person is eligible to file for a harassment order.1

If the victim of harassment is a minor (under age 18), the minor can file on his/her own or the minor’s parent, step-parent, or legal guardian can file on the minor’s behalf.2 The judge may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the minor, but appointment of a guardian ad litem is not necessary for a child victim to petition for a harassment restraining order.3

1 See Wis. Stat. § 813.125(1)
2 Wis. Stat. §§ 813.125(2)(b), 813.122(1)(b)
3 Wis. Stat. § 813.125(2g),(2)(b)

What are the steps for getting a harassment restraining order?

Can a final harassment restraining order be extended?

Individual at Risk Restraining Orders

An order designed to prevent abuse of a person with a physical or mental condition that substantially (significantly) impairs his/her ability to care for his/her needs.

Basic information

What is an individual at risk restraining order?

If you are an individual at risk, this restraining order can protect you from a person who:

  • Interfered with (or based on prior behavior may interfere with) the delivery of protective services, protective placement, delivery of services, or an investigation of the individual at risk
    • And that interference, if continued, would make it difficult to determine whether abuse has occurred, will occur, or is occurring; or
  • Has abused, financial exploited, neglected, harassed, or stalked you; or
  • Mistreated your animal 1

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.123(4)(a)

Who is considered an "individual at risk" or an "elder adult at risk"?

An “individual at risk” is any adult who:

  • has a physical or mental condition that substantially (significantly) impairs his/her ability to care for his/her needs and
  • is experiencing, has experienced or is at risk of experiencing abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or financial exploitation.1

An individual at risk is also referred to as an “adult at risk.”

An “elder adult at risk” is any person 60 years of age or older who is experiencing, has experienced or is at risk of experiencing abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or financial exploitation.2

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.123(1)
2 Wis. Stat. § 46.90(1)(br)

What is the legal definition of “abuse” of individuals at risk in Wisconsin?

For the purposes of getting an individual at risk restraining order, “abuse” includes:

  • physical abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • treatment without consent (for example: giving the individual at risk medication without informed consent or doing experimental research without informed consent)
  • intentional confinement or restraint
  • financial exploitation
  • neglect
  • self-neglect 1

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.123(1)

What protections can I get in an individual at risk restraining order?

An temporary individual at risk restraining order or a final injunction can order the abuser to:

  • avoid interference with an investigation of the individual at risk, the delivery of protective services to or protective placement of the individual at risk;
  • stop engaging in or threatening to engage in the abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, harassment, or stalking of an individual at risk or the mistreatment of an animal;
  • not remove, hide, damage, harm, mistreat, or dispose of a household pet and allow the individual at risk or a guardian, guardian ad litem, or family/household member to retrieve (get) the household pet;
  • stay away from the residence of the individual at risk or any other location temporarily occupied by the individual at risk, or both;
  • avoid contacting or causing any person other than a party’s attorney or a law enforcement officer to contact the individual at risk; and
  • any other appropriate remedy not inconsistent with the remedies requested in the petition.1
  • Note: If you request it, as part of a final injunction, the judge can order a wireless telephone provider to transfer to you the right to use (and responsibility to pay for) any telephone number that you use or that a minor child in your care uses.2

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.123(4)(ar),(5)(ar)
2 Wis. Stat. § 813.123(5c)

Getting the order

Who is eligible to file for an individual at risk restraining order?

An individual at risk, a social service worker, law enforcement personnel, parents, adult siblings, adult children, legal guardians of adults at risk, and county protective service agencies can file for this restraining order.

What are the steps for getting an individual at risk restraining order?

Can a final individual at risk restraining order be extended?

Yes.  A judge can extend the order based on your statement that the extension is necessary to protect the individual at risk. The order can only be extended for up to 2 years 1  The judge can extend the order in this way without giving prior notice to the respondent.2 

However, there is a possibility that the injunction can be extended for a period of time (from the initial order) that equals 10 years if you can prove there is a substantial risk that the respondent may commit any of these crimes against the individual at risk: first-degree intentional homicidesecond-degree intentional homicidesexual assault or sexual assault of a child (sections (1) or (2)).3

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.123(5)(c)(3)
2 Wis. Stat. § 813.123 (5)(c)(4)
3 Wis. Stat. § 813.123(5)(d)(1)

Moving to Another State with a Restraining Order

If you are moving out of state or are going to be out of the state for any reason, your restraining order can still be enforceable.

General rules

Can I get my restraining order from Wisconsin enforced in another state?

If you have a valid Wisconsin restraining order that meets federal standards, it can be enforced in another state. The Violence Against Women Act, which is a federal law, states that all valid domestic abuse restraining orders granted in the United States receive “full faith and credit” in all state and tribal courts within the US, including US territories. See How do I know if my domestic abuse restraining order is good under federal law? to find out if your restraining order qualifies.

Each state must enforce out-of-state restraining orders in the same way it enforces its own orders. Meaning, if the abuser violates your out-of-state restraining order, s/he will be punished according to the laws of whatever state you are in when the order is violated. This is what is meant by “full faith and credit.” In order to make this even clearer, all Wisconsin domestic abuse, harassment, child abuse and individual at risk restraining orders say that they are valid and enforceable in every state.1

1 Wis. Stat. §§ 813.12(9), 813.122(12), 813.123(12), 813.125(8)

How do I know if my restraining order is good under federal law?

A restraining order is good anywhere in the United States as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. (In other words, the court had the authority to hear the case.)
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.2

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a) & (b)

I have a temporary (ex parte) restraining order. Can it be enforced in another state?

An ex parte temporary order can be enforced in other states as long as it meets the requirements listed in How do I know if my restraining order is good under federal law?1

Note: The state where you are going generally cannot extend your ex parte temporary order or issue you a permanent order when the temporary one expires. If you need to extend your temporary order, you will have to contact the state that issued the order and arrange to be at the hearing in person or by telephone (if that is an option offered by the court). However, you may be able to reapply for one in the new state that you are moving to if you meet the requirements for getting a protective order in that state – but, if you apply for one in a new state, the abuser would know what state you are living in, which may put you in danger.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(b)(2)

Do I need to tell the court in Wisconsin if I move?

You are not required to tell the court in Wisconsin you move, but it might be a good idea to give the court a current address so that you can be notified if the abuser appeals your restraining order. If you provide your new address to the court, they will keep it confidential.1

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(5m)

Getting your Wisconsin restraining order enforced in another state

How do I get my restraining order enforced in another state?

Federal law does not require you to take any special steps to get your restraining order enforced in another state.

Many states do have laws or regulations (rules) about registering or filing of out-of-state orders, which can make enforcement easier, but a valid restraining order is enforceable regardless of whether it has been registered or filed in the new state.1 Rules differ from state to state, so it may be helpful to find out what the rules are in your new state. You can contact a local domestic violence organization for more information by visiting our Advocates and Shelters page and entering your new state in the drop-down menu.

Note: It is important to keep a copy of your restraining order with you at all times. It is also a good idea to know the rules of states you will be living in or visiting to ensure that your out-of-state order can be enforced in a timely manner.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2265(d)(2)

Do I need anything special to get my restraining order enforced in another state?

In some states, you will need a certified copy of your restraining order. A certified copy says that it is a “true and correct” copy. It is signed and initialed by the clerk of court that gave you the order, and usually has some kind of court stamp on it. In Wisconsin, a certified order has a stamp on it with a docket and case number.

The copy you originally received should have been a certified copy. However, if your copy is not a certified copy, go to the court that gave you the order and ask the clerk’s office for a certified copy. It generally costs $3 plus $1 per page to get a certified copy of a Wisconsin restraining order.

Note: It is a good idea to keep a copy of the order with you at all times. You will also want to bring several copies of the order with you when you move. 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. Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.

Can I get someone to help me? Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need a lawyer to get your restraining order enforced in another state.

However, you may want to get help from a local domestic violence advocate or attorney in the state that you move to. A domestic violence advocate can let you know what the advantages and disadvantages are for registering your restraining order, and help you through the process if you decide to do so.

To find a domestic violence advocate or an attorney in the state you are moving to, select your state from the drop-down menu on the Places that Help page.

Enforcing custody provisions in another state

I was granted temporary custody with my domestic abuse restraining order. Can I take my kids out of the state?

It will depend on the exact wording of the custody provision in your domestic abuse restraining order. You may have to first seek the permission of the court before leaving. If the abuser was granted visitation rights with your children, then you may have to have the order changed, or show the court that there is a fair and realistic alternative to the current visitation schedule.

If you are unsure about whether or not you can take your kids out of the state, it is important to talk to a lawyer who understands domestic violence and custody laws, and can help you make the safest decision for you and your children. You can find contact information for local domestic violence organizations and legal assistance in the Wisconsin area on our WI Places that Help page.

I was granted temporary custody with my domestic abuse restraining order.  Will another state enforce this custody order?

Custody, visitation, and child support provisions that are included in a domestic abuse restraining order can be enforced across state lines. Law enforcement and courts in another state are required by federal law to enforce these provisions.1

1 18 USC 2266

Enforcing an Out-of-State Order in Wisconsin

If you are planning to move to Wisconsin or are going to be in Wisconsin for any reason, your protection or restraining order can be enforced.

General rules for out-of-state orders in Wisconsin

Can I get my protection order enforced in Wisconsin? What are the requirements?

Any protection order that was issued in the U.S. or its territories can be enforced in Wisconsin as long as:

  • It was issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, harassing behavior, sexual violence, or it was issued to prevent another person from coming near you or contacting you.1
  • The court that issued the order had jurisdiction over the people and case. In other words, the judge had the authority to hear the case.
  • The abuser received notice of the order and had an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story.
    • In the case of ex parte temporary and emergency orders, the abuser must receive notice and have an opportunity to go to court to tell his/her side of the story at a hearing that is scheduled before the temporary order expires.2

In addition, any Canadian domestic violence protection order can also be enforced in Wisconsin if it meets similar requirements to those mentioned above. You can read the exact requirements that must be met on our WI Statutes page.3

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

1 18 U.S.C. § 2266(5)
2 18 U.S.C. § 2265(a) & (b)
3 Wis. Stat. § 813.1283(2)-(4)

Can I have my out-of-state protection order changed, extended, or canceled in Wisconsin?

Only the state that issued your protection order can change, extend, or cancel the order. You cannot have this done by a court in Wisconsin.

To have your order changed, extended, or canceled, you will have to file a motion or petition in the court where the order was issued. You may be able to request that you attend the court hearing by telephone rather than in person, so that you do not need to return to the state where the abuser is living. To find out more information about how to modify a restraining order, see the Restraining Orders page for the state where your order was issued.

If your order does expire while you are living in Wisconsin, you may be able to get a new one issued in Wisconsin, but this may be difficult to do if no new incidents of abuse have occurred in Wisconsin. To find out more information on how to get a protective order in Wisconsin, visit our WI Domestic Abuse Injunctions page.

I was granted temporary custody with my protection order. Will I still have temporary custody of my children in Wisconsin?

As long as the child custody provision complies with certain federal laws, Wisconsin can enforce a temporary custody order that is a part of a protection order.1

To have someone read over your order and tell you if it meets these standards, contact a lawyer in your area. To find a lawyer in your area click here WI Finding a Lawyer.

1 The federal laws are the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) or the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980.

Registering your out-of-state order in Wisconsin

If I don’t have a hard copy of my out-of-state order, how can law enforcement enforce it?

To enforce an out-of-state order, law enforcement typically may rely on the National Crime Information Center Protection Order File (NCIC-POF). The NCIC-POF is a nationwide, electronic database that contains information about orders of protection that were issued in each state and territory in the U.S. The Protection Order File (POF) contains court orders that are issued to prevent acts of domestic violence, or to prevent someone from stalking, intimidating, or harassing another person. It contains orders issued by both civil and criminal state courts. The types of protection orders issued and the information contained in them vary from state to state.1

There is no way for the general public to access the NCIC-POF. That means you cannot confirm a protection order is in the registry or add a protection order to the registry without the help of a government agency that has access to it.

Typically, the state police or criminal justice agency in the state has the responsibility of reporting protection orders to NCIC. However, in some cases, the courts have taken on that role, and they manage the protection order reporting process.2 NCIC–POF is used by law enforcement agencies when they need to verify and enforce an out-of-state protection order. It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.

However, not all states routinely enter protection orders into the NCIC. Instead, some states may enter the orders only in their own state protection order registry, which would not be accessible to law enforcement in other states. According to a 2016 report by the National Center for State Courts, more than 700,000 protection orders that were registered in state protection order databases were not registered in the federal NCIC Protection Order File.2 This means that if a law enforcement officer is trying to enforce a protection order from another state that is missing from the NCIC, the victim would likely need to show the officer a hard copy of the order to get it immediately enforced. If you no longer have a copy of your original order, you may want to contact the court that issued the order to ask them how you can get another copy sent to you.

1 National Center for Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit
2 See State Progress in Record Reporting for Firearm-Related Background Checks: Protection Order Submissions, prepared by the National Center for State Courts, April 2016

How do I register my protection order in Wisconsin?

To register your order from another U.S. state or territory or from Canada in Wisconsin, you need to take a certified copy of the order to any circuit court clerk’s office. It is also a good idea to bring the contact information (address and telephone number) of the court that gave you the order in case there are any questions. The clerk will file your order and send a copy to the local law enforcement agency within one business day, and the law enforcement agency will enter the order into the transaction information for management of enforcement system within 24 hours.1

If you need help registering your protection order, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in Wisconsin for assistance. You can find contact information for organizations in your area here on our WI Advocates and Shelters page.

1 Wis. Stat. §§ 806.247(3); 813.1283(5)

Do I have to register my protection order in Wisconsin in order to get it enforced?

As long as you can show the officer a valid out-of-state protection order or a valid Canadian protection order (or the law enforcement officer determines that a valid foreign protection order exists by contacting the appropriate authorities), s/he can arrest the abuser if there is probable cause to believe that the abuser violated the terms of the order. A certified copy of the protection order is not required for it to be enforced.1

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.128(3g)(b)(1), (b)(3); 813.1283(3), (5)

Will the abuser be notified if I register my protection order?

Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which applies to all U.S. states and territories, the court is not permitted to notify the abuser when a protective order has been registered or filed in a new state unless you specifically request that the abuser be notified.1  However, you may wish to confirm that the clerk is aware of this law before registering the order if your address is confidential.

However, remember that there may be a possibility that the abuser could somehow find out what state you have moved to.  It is important to continue to safety plan, even if you are no longer in the state where the abuser is living.  We have some safety planning tips to get you started on our Safety Tips page.  You can also contact a local domestic violence organization to get help in developing a personalized safety plan. You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our WI Advocates and Shelters page.

1 18 USC § 2265(d)

Does it cost anything to register my protection order?

There is no fee for registering your protection order in Wisconsin.1

1 Wis. Stat. §§ 813.1283(5)(a); 813.128(3g)(a)(1)

What if I don't register my protection order? Will it be more difficult to have it enforced?

It should not be more difficult to get your U.S. or Canadian protection order enforced even if you do not register it in Wisconsin. As long as you can show the officer a valid out-of-state protection order (or the law enforcement officer determines that a valid foreign protection order exists by contacting the appropriate authorities), s/he can arrest the abuser if there is probable cause to believe that the abuser violated the terms of the order.1

If you are unsure about whether registering your order is the right decision for you, you may want to contact a local domestic violence organization in your area. An advocate there can help you decide what the safest plan of action is for you in Wisconsin. To see a list of local domestic violence organizations in Wisconsin, go to our WI Advocates and Shelters page.

1 Wis. Stat. §§ 813.128(3g)(b)(1); 813.1283(3)