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Legal Information: Wisconsin

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of December 14, 2023

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 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. A temporary order may be granted by a judge or court commissioner if s/he finds reasonable grounds to believe that the abuser committed or may commit domestic abuse against you.1 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. 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 four years.4 However, there is a possibility that the injunction can last for up to 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)).5 If the respondent has been convicted of committing sexual assault in the first, second, or third degree (sections (1) to (3)) against you, you may request that the injunction be made permanent.6

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(3)(a)(2)
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)
6 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(4)(d)(1m)

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 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 final 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), (4)(am), (4g), (4m)(a)(2), (4m)(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)