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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 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. A final harassment restraining order is also called an injunction. 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 four years.3 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)).4 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.5

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)
5 Wis. Stat. § 813.125(4)(d)(1m)

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)

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

Anyone who is being harassed is eligible to file for a harassment order.1

If the victim of harassment is a minor, 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

Note: If the victim of harassment is age 60 or older, s/he is allowed to participate in hearings by telephone or through an internet streaming service, such as Zoom.4

1 Wis. Stat. § 813.125(1)(am)(4)
2 Wis. Stat. §§ 813.125(2)(b); 813.122(1)(b)
3 Wis. Stat. § 813.125(2g),(2)(b)
4 Wis. Stat. § 813.125(5b)

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)