Minnesota offers two primary avenues of relief for persons suffering domestic abuse or harassment: The individual can file for an order for protection (OFP) or a harassment restraining order (HRO). A petitioner, or person filing for an order, should file an OFP if the abuser is a family member, household member, or someone with whom they have had a romantic or sexual relationship.
A petitioner should also file for an OFP if the abuser is an individual with whom the petitioner has lived or is currently living. In order for a petitioner to file an OFP, the abuser must have physically hurt the petitioner or have threatened to physically hurt them. If the abuser is outside the petitioner’s family, lives outside the petitioner’s residence and is not in a relationship with the petitioner, the petitioner can file for an HRO.
Where to File for Protection Order
A petitioner should file the form for an OFP in a county if they or the respondent – the individual replying to the petition – lives in that county, or they can file in a particular county where the assault occurred. They can also file in a county where there is a pending or completed family court case that involves the petitioner, the respondent or their minor children. A petitioner should file for an HRO in a county where they or the respondent live or in the county where the harassment occurred.
Applying for Someone Else
A petitioner can apply for orders for protection on behalf of another person under certain circumstances, including applying for an OFP on behalf of a minor child if the respondent has engaged in domestic abuse of the child. The petitioner must be a family or household member of the child, the child’s parent or guardian, or a reputable adult age 25 or older, if the judicial officer finds it is in the best interest of the minor.
A petitioner who is a legal guardian of an adult may apply on behalf of the adult ward. There must be a guardianship order from a court in place. A person aged 16 or 17 may apply for an OFP on their own if there has been domestic abuse, and the respondent is a person to whom the petitioner is married, was married to, or with whom the petitioner has a child. The judicial officer must find the petitioner has sufficient maturity and judgment, and the OFP is in the best interest of the minor.
Filing Fees for Orders
There is no cost to apply for an OFP and no cost to the petitioner for serving the respondent. There is also no cost for the respondent to request a hearing.
There is, however, a filing fee to start a harassment case. The fee may be waived under the law depending on what the victim alleges. If the court determines that the petition includes allegations of specific acts related to harassment crimes, sexual assault or sexual contact, it will waive the fees.
If a petitioner has a low income, they can ask that filing fees be waived by filing a particular form with the court. There is no cost to the petitioner to serve a respondent in a harassment case.
Basics of Applying for an OFP
The petitioner should complete the domestic abuse section in the OFP court form by describing what happened, the date the domestic abuse occurred, who was involved or present, the respondent’s conduct, the weapons involved, the injuries victims sustained, any 911 or emergency call that was made and whether law enforcement was involved. The form has room for the petitioner to describe other court cases, as well as information about current and former OFPs. Examples of related court cases include family court cases, domestic abuse criminal cases and harassment restraining order cases.
If there have been several incidents of domestic abuse, the petitioner should start with the most recent incident and describe other incidents on an attachment. If the respondent has a history of abuse, the petitioner should relate that history. The petitioner should check the appropriate box to let the court know whether they believe the domestic abuse will continue and whether they or others named in their petition are in immediate danger.
The petitioner should let the court know if the respondent works or goes to school at the same place as the petitioner or of other people to be protected under the order. The petitioner should also let the court know what kind of relief they want.
Requesting Relief in the Application
A petitioner can request that the court order the respondent to have no contact with the petitioner, to stay away from the petitioner’s home and workplace, and to not enter an additional non-work location without holding a hearing. The petitioner can also request that the court order the respondent to continue all currently available insurance coverage without change in coverage or beneficiaries, to order the possession and care of a pet or companion animal and not to abuse a pet or companion animal without a hearing.
To request other types of relief, such as temporary custody and parenting time for joint minor children or financial support, the court must hold a hearing. When a petitioner does not want a hearing, a judicial officer may still decide if a hearing is required. A respondent has the right to request a hearing.
Time to Get an OFP
Once a petitioner has filed their forms, a judicial officer will decide about their request and issue an order. If the judicial officer grants an ex parte order, it will be effective immediately. An ex parte hearing is held without notice to, or an appearance by, the respondent. The OFP will be in effect until the date of the hearing. If the petitioner does not attend the hearing, the OFP will expire.
Basics of Applying for an HRO
The petitioner should complete the harassment section in the HRO to provide details about how they were physically or sexually assaulted. Other grounds for an HRO include using a petitioner’s personal information without their consent to invite, encourage or solicit a third party to engage in a sexual act, sharing private sexual images of the petitioner without their permission, and the respondent making repeated acts, words or gestures causing, or intending to cause, substantial adverse effect upon the petitioner’s safety, security or privacy.
A judge may grant: an ex parte harassment restraining order, which results in the grant of a temporary two-year order without a hearing; a denial, which means a temporary order is not granted, but the court will schedule a hearing so the petitioner can present their case to the judge; or a dismissal, which means the incidents the petitioner described do not rise to the level of harassment. If the court does not grant an ex parte harassment restraining order, the petitioner or the respondent may request a hearing within 20 days from when the petition was served. If the court grants an ex parte harassment restraining order, the respondent may request a hearing within 20 days from when they were served paperwork.
Time to Get an HRO
After a petitioner has submitted their forms, a judicial officer will make a decision about their requests. If the judicial officer grants an ex parte order, it will be effective immediately. The judicial officer may also order a hearing. If not, the respondent can request a hearing within 20 days.
Details About Domestic Violence Court
In Minnesota, domestic violence cases are typically handled in Domestic Violence Court (DV Court). DV Court is a dedicated domestic violence criminal court that includes felony and misdemeanor cases relating to domestic violence. DV courts have a separate court docket that allows the same judges to preside over all pre-trial and post-sentence court hearings.
The DV Court judges work with the prosecution, assigned victim advocates, social services and defense counsel to ensure physical separation between the victim and abuser. The DV Court judges and other parties also work to provide the victim with housing and job training to begin an independent existence from the offender and to continuously monitor the defendant so they comply with the protective order and substance abuse treatment.
No-Contact Order Is Different
A no-contact order is an order in a criminal proceeding or a delinquency proceeding. This type of order is typically requested by the prosecutor. The court typically issues a no-contact order as a pretrial order to restrain a criminal defendant from contacting the victim or as a post-conviction probationary order. A no-contact order is separate from an OFP or an HRO. There can be a no-contact order in a criminal case against the abuser at the same time there is an OFP or HRO.
Penalties for Violating an OFP
A violation of an OFP or domestic abuse no-contact order (DANCO) is a misdemeanor. If a defendant violates an OFP or domestic abuse no-contact order within 10 years of a previous qualified violence-related offense conviction or adjudication of delinquency, they will be found guilty of a gross misdemeanor. The penalty for a gross misdemeanor that involves a violation of a domestic abuse order is a minimum 10 days' imprisonment and an order to participate in counseling or other appropriate programs as selected by the court.
A person is guilty of a felony and may be penalized with a five-year prison sentence and a fine up to $10,000 if they violate the domestic abuse no-contact order within 10 years of the first of two or more previous qualified domestic violence-related offense convictions or adjudications of delinquency or while possessing a dangerous weapon such as a firearm. If a court convicts the defendant of a felony but stays the imposition of a sentence, the court shall impose at least a 30-day period of incarceration. The court shall also order the defendant to participate in counseling or other programs selected by the court.
Penalties for Violating an HRO
Violation of an HRO is a misdemeanor. A person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor if they violate the HRO within 10 years of a previous qualified domestic violence-related offense conviction or adjudication of delinquency. A person is guilty of a felony and may be penalized with a five-year prison sentence and a fine up to $10,000 if they violate the restraining order within 10 years of the first of two or more previous qualified domestic violence-related offense convictions. A violation of a temporary restraining order or restraining order also constitutes contempt of court.
Confidentiality for Petitioners
A petitioner who is concerned about being safe in their residence should request services with Safe at Home, a statewide address confidentiality program. Safe at Home assigns a victim a post office box address and forwards mail to their real address. The Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State also becomes a participant's agent to receive service of process, or legal papers. A self-represented litigant (SRL) should know that a petition for OFP or petition for HRO will be confidential and sealed after the court processes the documents.
A law enforcement or police report filed on or after January 1, 2021 is considered a public document. If a filer chooses to file a law enforcement or police report in an OFP or HRO case, the document will be public, and a copy will be provided to the other party. Law enforcement and police reports are not required for OFP or HRO cases. A filer may want to redact information they do not want to be publicly accessible, and that the court does not need to know.
- Minnesota Judicial Branch: Domestic Abuse & Harassment
- Minnesota Judicial Branch: Instructions, Asking for a Harassment Restraining Order
- 2020 Minnesota Statutes: Section 629.75 Domestic Abuse No Contact Order
- 2020 Minnesota Statutes: Section 609.02 Definitions
- Minnesota Judicial Branch: Instructions, Asking for an Order for Protection
- 2020 Minnesota Statutes: Section 649.748 Harassment, Restraining Order
- Minnesota Judicial Branch: Court Rules Changes - Information for Self-Represented Litigants
- Minnesota Secretary of State: Safe at Home Program
- Clay County, Minnesota: Domestic Violence Court
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.