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Basics on Domestic Abuse & Harassment
Minnesota has a law called the Domestic Abuse Act, which is found at MN Statutes Chapter 518B. That law defines domestic abuse as one of the following acts committed by a family or household member against another family or household member:
A family or household member is one of the following:
- spouse or former spouse;
- persons involved in a significant romantic or sexual relationship;
- parents and children;
- persons related by blood;
- persons living together or who have lived together in the past;
- persons who have or had a child in common (born or in utero), regardless of whether they were living together or ever married.
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Get Help from an Advocate
If you want to ask the court for an Order for Protection (OFP) from domestic abuse, we suggest that you try to get help from an domestic abuse advocate who knows the process and can support you through all of the steps. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women has a statewide online directory of advocacy agenices.
Fill Out OFP Forms Packet
You do not have to use an advocate. If you choose to ask for an OFP on your own, the MN Judicial Branch does publish OFP Forms Packets on its website. If you are the person asking for an OFP, you are called the "Petitioner" in the case, and the other party is called the "Respondent." There are instructions with the OFP Forms Packets that explain how to fill out the forms. An OFP can be requested "on behalf of" minor children as well.
Privacy of Information
Generally, court files are open to the public, with some exceptions for safety or other confidential issues. When you fill out your forms, if you do not want the Respondent to know your address, or if you do not want your address to be part of the public court file, you do not have to write your address in the Petition form. You may give it to the Court separately on a different form in the OFP Forms Packet. However, you are responsible for telling the Court that you do not want your address to be part of the public file if that is what you want.
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Regardless of the relationship between the parties, under MN Statute § 609.748, harassment is defined as:
- a single incident of physical or sexual assault;
- repeated incidents (more than one) of intrusive or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that have a substantial adverse effect or are intended to have a substantial adverse effect on the safety, security or privacy of another (e.g., repeated phone calls, following a person, repeatedly coming to the Petitioner’s home after having been asked not to do so);
- targeted residential picketing; OR
- a pattern of attending public events after being notified that their presence is harassing to another
Who can file?
The Petitioner does not have to have had a personal relationship with the Respondent. An adult can ask the court (petition) for an order for themselves or on behalf of their minor children if there have been incidents of harassment against their children.
The Respondent could be any adult(s) or juvenile(s) alleged to have engaged in harassment, OR an organization alleged to have sponsored or promoted harassment.
NOTE: A "harassment restraining order" is a matter handled in civil court and is brought by an individual seeking protection. A "no contact order" is a type of order usually issued by a judge in criminal court that orders the criminal defendant not to have contact with someone.
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How to get a Harassment Restraining Order
If you believe that someone is harassing you, you may ask the court for a Harassment Restraining Order. This order can help:
- prevent further harassment,
- order the Respondent not to contact you and your family at any time, and
- allow police to arrest the Respondent without a warrant for violations of the order
A victim does not have to report the harassment to the police to ask for a court order. Depending on the facts, there may be a filing fee to start a harassment case, which may be waived if you qualify based on low-income for a fee waiver (IFP). See Forms & Instructions to Ask for a Harassment Restraining Order
If you start a case, you are called the "Petitioner" and the person who committed the acts is called the "Respondent."
Where to file?
You can start a Harassment case in the District Court of the county where:
- you or the Respondent lives, OR
- the harassment occurred;
You must write details in your petition form about how:
- the Respondent has physically or sexually assaulted you (only one incident is required); OR
- the Respondent has done acts, words, or gestures on at least two different days, AND
the actions have caused, or were intended to cause, substantial adverse effect upon your safety, security or privacy
STEP 1: Complete your Petition for Harassment Restraining Order forms and take them to the courthouse to be filed either where you or the Respondent lives, or where the harassment has occurred.
STEP 2: A "signing judge" will review your Petition forms and will decide if a Harassment Restraining Order should be issued and whether a hearing will be required.
The Judge will sign an order that does one of three things:
- Dismissal - meaning that the incidents you described in your papers do not rise to the level of harassment. In order to re-file, there will need to be a new incident or incidents that you believe are harassment.
- Denial - meaning that a temporary order is not granted, but you may request a hearing to present your case to the judge.
- Harassment Restraining Order - meaning that a two-year is granted without a hearing.
STEP 3: You may request a hearing in writing within 45 days of an order being signed by the judge. The Respondent may request a hearing in writing within 45 days of being served with an order.
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How to respond to a Harassment Order
If someone got a temporary order for harassment against you and you want to respond or ask for a hearing, you can download request for a hearing form (#HAR301). Carefully read and follow all of the instructions. You might also want to talk to a lawyer about your legal rights and options.
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