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Legal Information: Wisconsin

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of
December 14, 2023

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.
  • 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.

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 Planning. 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 were denied a temporary or final domestic abuse injunction, you may file a motion requesting a new (“de novo”) hearing within 30 days. The hearing will then be held within 30 days unless there is a good reason for delaying it further. If the judge issued any temporary order in your case, that order will remain in effect until your motion for a new hearing is resolved.1

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.

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 Planning 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 can combine multiple domestic abuse, child abuse, and harassment petitions into one case if the abuser is the same in all of them.2 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.

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.126(1)
2 Wis. Stat. § 813.127

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.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 If the respondent has been convicted of committing sexual assault in the first, second, or third degree against you, you may request that the injunction be made permanent.4

You can request that a judge change (modify) your injunction, but the judge cannot change it based only on the abuser’s request.5 One exception to this rule is if you have a permanent injunction based on the abuser’s conviction for sexually assaulting but that criminal conviction is later vacated. The judge is required to change or remove (vacate) your injunction if the abuser proves that the conviction was vacated, and the judge will consider all relevant factors when deciding what to do. If your order has been in effect for longer than the maximum amount of time it could have been granted without the sexual assault conviction, the judge will vacate it.6  

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)(d)(1m)
5 Wis. Stat. § 813.12(4)(b)
6 Wis. Stat. § 813.126(1m)


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.

If I get a protection order, will it show up in an internet search?

According to federal law, which applies to all states, territories, and tribal lands, the courts are not supposed to make available publicly on the internet any information that would be likely to reveal your identity or location. This applies to all of these documents:

  • the petition you file;
  • the protection order, restraining order, or injunction that was issued by the court; or
  • the registration of an order in a different state.1

1 18 USC § 2265(d)(3)