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Understanding Harassment Restraining Orders Under Wisconsin Law

Many individuals are aware that Wisconsin law allow victims of domestic abuse to seek a domestic abuse restraining order against the abuser. Similarly, when child abuse is evident, a restraining order can help to protect the child. However, what happens  your spouse or ex-partner has not necessarily committed domestic abuse pursuant to the definition under statute but is harassing you?  Or, when someone outside the home -- maybe someone with whom you have never had a relationship -- continues to harass or stalk you? Is there any relief?

Harassment is defined pursuant to statute as a “pattern of harassing conduct with no legitimate purposes.”  Victims of harassment may seek a court order that commands the harasser to stay away and stop contacting the victim. Even when harassment does not include physical contact or touching, the victim may be able to obtain a restraining order. Constant telephone calls, repeated unwanted visits to your home or frequent unwanted contacts in any form that have no legitimate purpose may provide the basis for a harassment restraining order.

Physical abuse, attempted physical abuse, the threat of physical or sexual abuse may also provide a strong basis to seek judicial intervention to stop the harassment. In all, there are five types of harassing or physical conduct that may support a petition. If the aggressor is repeatedly harassing, stalking, pushing, kicking, or shoving you to harass you, getting the assistance and guidance of a harassment restraining order lawyer cancan help protect you and make the harassment stop.

Getting The Process Started

To obtain a harassment restraining order, it is necessary to document incidents to show that the harassment is occurring. The first step in obtaining an order is to file a petition with the court. The written document must include a description regarding the basis for your request. When you file the petition (under oath), a court commissioner, or possibly a judge, will review the narrative. The commissioner or judge may have questions about the allegations. The commissioner or judge will make a determination whether to grant a temporary restraining order based solely on the allegations made in your petition.  Accordingly, it is important to be as detailed as possible in your petition. 

It is possible that the court official will determine that you do not have enough evidence to support an immediate temporary order, and instead, the court official may want to wait until you present evidence at a full hearing. If the commissioner declines to issue a temporary order, all is not lost. You will still have an opportunity to be heard in court.

Presenting Evidence At An Injunction Hearing

When the formal hearing date is set, you must personally serve the responding party with the petition. Service is usually performed through the sheriff’s department. Your lawyer can guide you through that process.

At the formal injunction hearing, you will need to testify and may also bring in other witnesses to  support the evidence detailed in your petition.  The respondent, will have an opportunity to defend the allegations, including testifying and presenting his or her own witnesses. Any testimony is also subject to cross-examination by the other party.

Obtaining A Harassment Restraining Order

The judge or court commissioner will evaluate the evidence presented at the hearing. If you have provided sufficient proof of harassment, the court may issue a harassment restraining order for up to four years.

It is important to note that harassment restraining orders are not often sought between domestic partners, significant others, parents who have a child together or between exes. Domestic abuse and child abuse restraining orders typically serve these problems more directly. However, if the situation does not rise to the level of domestic abuse as defined under law, a harassment injunction is another option available to a spouse or ex-partner to protect against this type of conduct.

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