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 homicide, second-degree intentional homicide, sexual 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:
- a victim advocate;
- an employee of the county court system;
- a legal professional practicing law;
- a current or former law enforcement officer;
- the spouse of a person listed above in numbers 1 - 4;
- 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;
- an immediate family member of a person listed above in numbers 1 - 4; or
- 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:
- 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.