If you’re a victim of harassment or domestic violence, you have the right to seek legal protection from the perpetrator.
In Minnesota, there are two types of orders that can protect a victim from their abuser: a harassment restraining order (HRO) and an order for protection (OFP). While these orders may seem similar on the surface, they have significant differences in procedure and execution.
Harassment Restraining Order
If you’re thinking about filing a harassment restraining order, it’s important to first understand what is considered harassment under Minnesota law. According to 2021 Minnesota Statutes behaviors that fall under the harassment umbrella include:
- Single incident of sexual or physical assault
- Stalking (repeated phone calls, cyberstalking, following, sitting outside the victim’s home, school or workplace)
- Verbal or non-verbal threats (prolonged staring, vulgar or threatening gestures, like drawing a line across the throat)
- Sharing personal information without consent
- Targeted residential picketing
An established personal relationship or a relationship history with the harasser isn’t required to file a restraining order. Some people may be harassed by complete strangers or people they barely know, like neighbors or coworkers. You can also petition the court for a harassment restraining order on behalf of minor children or on behalf of another adult if you’re their legal guardian.
An HRO can be issued without any notice to the harasser. However, if the person finds out about the order, they do have the right to dispute it in court.
How to File a Harassment Restraining Order in Minnesota
If you’re hesitating to file a harassment restraining order because you don’t have any concrete proof or documentation of the harassment, you can still move forward with your application. It’s prudent to contact the police if you feel threatened or have been harassed, but even if you haven’t done so, you can still request a restraining order.
You can start the process by filling out a Petition for Harassment Restraining Order form and submitting it to the District Court in your county.
If granted, the order may help to keep your harasser at bay. He or she will be legally required to sever all forms of contact with you and your family. Violations of the order may result in arrest without any warning or second chances.
Order for Protection
An order for protection differs from a harassment restraining order in that it’s tailored specifically to victims of domestic abuse. These orders can be either temporary or permanent depending on the situation. However, the latter requires both parties attend a court hearing.
Minnesota’s Domestic Abuse Act identifies domestic abuse as violence committed by a family or household member against another family or household member. These relationships include spouses, ex-spouses, children, blood relatives, unmarried couples living together and two people who have or are expecting a child (they don’t have to be married or living under the same roof).
Domestic abuse can manifest as physical assault, intimidation, terroristic threats, sexual violence or preventing the victim from calling for help in an emergency.
Like an HRO, an order for protection can be issued without any notice to the harasser, but they do have the right to dispute it in court.
How to File an Order for Protection in Minnesota
Being a victim of domestic violence is an extraordinarily difficult experience. You may be forced to flee your home and seek shelter with friends or family.
Domestic abuse victims often need help when seeking protection. You can contact a domestic abuse advocate who can help you file an order for protection, or you can speak with one of our referral counselors to schedule a consultation with a local family law attorney experienced in orders of protection.
You can also complete this form on your own. Be wary of providing your new address when filling out this form. Since court records are open to the public, the person you are trying to get away from may access your information. Providing your address is optional and you can let the court know that you wish to keep this information confidential.
If granted, the order for protection may stop the violence by keeping the perpetrator away from you. He or she may be forced to move out of the household, lose custody of your children or surrender any firearms. Violating the order of protection is a crime and may result in hefty fines and/or jail time.
How Can I Get Help with Domestic Violence, Stalking or Harassment in Minnesota?
If you’re in the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area and are a victim of violence, you may benefit from contacting the Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service. Our referral counselors will help you schedule a free consultation with a family law attorney familiar with cases like yours who can guide you in the right direction before taking legal action.
Call (612) 752-6699 to speak to a referral counselor today.