Public Charge Update: The 2019 public charge changes are permanently blocked.
Learn more here.
 

Orders For Protection and Harassment Restraining Orders

Authored By
Education for Justice

This booklet helps you understand what an Order for Protection (OFP) is, how to get one, and how an OFP is different from a Harassment Restraining Order (HRO).

This booklet sometimes refers to the abuser as a man and the victim as a woman.  A victim or the abuser can be either a man or a woman.

Chapter 2. How do I get an OFP?

Steps for getting an OFP

To get an OFP you need to get the forms, fill them out, and file them with the courthouse. The courthouse you go to can be in any of these places:

  • the county you live in OR
  • the county your abuser lives in OR
  • the county where the abuse occurred OR
  • the county where you have a family court case


You do not have to pay a filing fee.

You do not need a lawyer.

The rest of this chapter tells you the steps to take to get an OFP.

STEP 1: Get the Forms

The form you need to get your OFP is the "Petitioner's Affidavit and Petition for Order for Protection."

  • The Affidavit is a statement of facts. You give basic information about yourself and you describe the domestic abuse.  You do not have to put your address in the affidavit.  You can ask the court to keep your address confidential. 
  • The Petition tells the court what you want the court to do. You list the things you want the court to order in the OFP.  See the section “What protections can an OFP give me?”


There are domestic abuse advocates that can help with the process. Their services are free and confidential.  To find one in your area:

  • Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 or (800) 787-3224 (TTY)
  • Go to Violence Free Minnesota vfmn.org and click “Get Help” for a list of organizations in your county.
     

There are 3 ways to get your forms:

  1. Go to the courthouse and tell them you want to file an OFP.  A court clerk gives you the forms you need.
  • In Hennepin and Ramsey counties, there are special offices at the courthouse to help you apply for an OFP. This help is free.
    --For Hennepin county, call the Domestic Abuse Service Center (DASC) at (612) 348-5073
    --For Ramsey county, call the Domestic Abuse/Harassment Office at (651) 266-5130

OR

  1. Get the forms online so you can fill them out before going to the courthouse.
  • Go to www.mncourts.gov/forms
  • Click on “Domestic Abuse”
  • Click on “Filing an Order for Protection”
  • Read the instructions carefully.

OR

  1. Fill out and file the forms online using the court’s Guide and File interview. This program helps you create the forms to ask the court for an OFP.  It works by asking you questions.  It uses your answers to fill out the forms.  You can file your forms with the court electronically. Or you can print your forms and take them in person to the courthouse to file.  
     

To start the Guide and File interview:

STEP 2: Fill Out the Forms

There are two main parts to the forms.  After you give the court background information about you and anyone else who needs protection, you:

  1. Describe the abuse
  2. Tell the court what kind of protection you need and why
     

1. Describe the Abuse - Give Details

There are many different kinds of abuse.  The court has to decide if your situation meets the legal definition of domestic abuse. Give as much detail and specific examples of what happened as you can.  The more details the court has, the better they can understand what happened.  Be as specific as you can. Do not use words like “he abused me” or “he became physical.”  Instead tell the court: 

  • When did the abuse happen? Use specific dates.  If you can’t remember the exact date, tell the court what month and year it happened.
  • Where did the abuse happen? At home? In your car? At work?
  • Were you physically harmed? If so, tell the court how you were hurt. Did your abuser hit you with a closed fist? Did they slap you with an open hand? Did they push you on the chest and you fell backwards?
  • Did you have any injuries?  Tell the court about any bruises, cuts, or red marks.  Did you get a bloody nose or cut lip?  Is your arm sore from where they grabbed you? Did you go to the doctor?
  • What did your abuser say?  Use the exact words of a threat.  Even if your abuser swore or called you names, you should still put their exact words in your forms. 
  • What was their body language? Was their face red from yelling?  Were they standing over you with their hands in fists?
     

Here are two examples, one that doesn’t have enough detail and one that has lots of details:

Poor Example
We were arguing. Respondent screamed at me and I was afraid.

Good Example
Last Thursday night, October 11, 2020, we were talking about our child. Respondent screamed that I had better do exactly what he said or I’d be sorry. I kept backing away from him as he came closer.  I was backed into the wall of the kitchen. He was standing so close to me I could feel his spit on my face as he screamed.  I was afraid because about a month ago, when he said I better do something or I’d be sorry, he grabbed my arms and shook me really hard. Afterwards, my arms were red and sore where he shook me. I was really afraid he would hurt me again. I ducked under his arms and ran out of the house.
 

2. Tell the court what kind of protection you need and why

Look at the section called "What protections can an OFP give me?" for examples of the kinds of things you can ask the court to do. If you ask the court to do certain things, you have to have a hearing. Read the section “Do I need a court hearing to get an OFP?” for information for the list of protections that need a hearing.

Tell the court why you need the things you are asking for.  Be specific and give reasons for why you need something.  For example, if you are asking for custody of your child.  Tell the court why you want custody.  Is the child afraid of the abuser? Are you the one that mainly takes care of the child?

STEP 3: File the Forms

Take the completed forms to the courthouse to file.  In many courts, the court clerk takes the form from you and gives them to the judge. 

If you used the online interview (“Guide and File”) to complete your forms, you can file them electronically.

Only a judge can decide if you get the OFP.

What if the court clerk or advocate tells me I can't ask for an OFP?

If a court clerk says you can’t ask for an OFP:

  • Ask to see the judge and explain why you need one.


If an advocate or a lawyer says you can’t ask for an OFP:

  • You probably still can. They are likely only telling you they do not think a judge will give you an OFP.  You should ask why he or she thinks you should not ask for one.  Their reasons may help you fix a problem in your forms.  The judge can only give you an OFP if your abuse meets the legal definition of domestic abuse.  You may have forgotten to include some information that meets the definition. 

STEP 4: Arrange for “service”

The forms you fill out to ask for your OFP have to be given to the abuser in a certain way.  This is called “service of process,” or “service.”  This means that someone other than you personally hands the papers to the abuser. The sheriff or police officers usually serves the papers. But adults― other than you ―may be allowed to serve them too.

If you use the sheriff or police, there is no cost to you.  But you may need to take the papers to the sheriff yourself.  The sheriff is usually located at or near the courthouse.  Give the sheriff all the information you can about where to find the abuser.  In some counties, the court clerk takes care of getting the papers to the sheriff for you.  

What if I don’t know where the abuser is?
You can still ask for an OFP.  If the court clerk says you need to know where the abuser is, you can give:

  • a last known address
  • a friend or relative’s house where he might be staying
  • a work address 

If you don’t know where the abuser is and can't find out, ask to have the forms served in another way.  This is called “alternate service”.  The court clerk or an advocate has forms to help you ask for alternate service.

If the sheriff has tried to serve the abuser and he is hiding to avoid being served, you may be allowed to “serve” him by publishing a notice in the newspaper.

To serve by publishing, you have to file an affidavit with the court that says:

  1. law enforcement (sheriff or police) tried to serve but couldn’t because the abuser is hiding to avoid being served

  AND

  1. you mailed a copy of the petition to his last known address OR you don’t know any address for him.
     

What happens if the forms are not served before the court hearing?
You still have to go to the court hearing!  If you don’t show up the judge could dismiss your OFP.  If the sheriff or police can’t find the abuser, you can ask the judge at the hearing to have the abuser served by mail or with a notice in a newspaper.  You have to fill out a form to ask for service in another way.  Ask the court clerk for the forms for “alternate service”. 

If this happens, the judge sets a new hearing date.  You have to go to the next hearing to get your OFP.  If you have an Ex Parte OFP, the court should issue a new one to last until the next hearing.

Service needs to be done the right way, in the right period of time, or you will not get your OFP.  If you are having problems with service, think about talking to a lawyer or an advocate. They can help you do things you are having trouble doing on your own.  To find a lawyer go to www.LawHelpMN.org/providers-and-clinics

STEP 5: Find out if a hearing gets scheduled

If you get an Ex Parte OFP, the abuser can ask for a hearing even if you do not.  The abuser has 5 business days to ask for a hearing after he is served (gets the forms). If you do not get a notice in the mail, keep calling the court to see if the abuser asked for a hearing.  If you do not appear at the court hearing, the abuser can get the OFP dismissed. You will not have protection.

STEP 6: Go to the court hearing

  • If you asked for a hearing, it must be held within 7 days from when the judge signs the Ex Parte OFP. 
  • If the judge did not sign an Ex Parte OFP, the hearing must happen within 14 days from when the judge signs the Order for Hearing. 
  • If you did not ask for a hearing but the abuser did, the hearing must be scheduled between 8 and 10 days from when the abuser asks for it.
     

If you do not go to the hearing, the court will not give you an OFP.  Even if you got an Ex Parte OFP, it will not be any good if the judge schedules a hearing and you do not go. 

If you can’t go to the hearing, ask for a hearing on another day.  This is called a continuance.  The court only does this if you have a good reason.  For example, if you are in the hospital or trying to find a lawyer to represent you.  To get a continuance you need to contact the court, tell them you have an OFP hearing but want to ask for a continuance. They tell you what to do.  Each court has a different way to ask for a continuance.  The phone number for your court should be on your hearing notice (the paper telling you when your hearing is).

Chapter 3. The Court Hearing

How do I get ready for the hearing?

  1. Evidence:  If you have evidence that you want the judge to look at, start getting your papers together.  Evidence can be photos of your injuries, police reports, medical reports, or messages from your abuser.  If you have any texts or photos on your phone that you want the judge to see, you need to get them off your phone for the hearing.  Bring three copies of your evidence to your hearing.  One for the judge, one for the abuser, and one for you.  Make sure you bring them all with you.  You can't bring things later or say that you have it at home and could bring it later. 
     

It is best to have certified copies of documents like police reports or medical records.  You need to ask the police or your doctor for certified copies.  Evidence to bring to court can be:

  • Police reports and medical records
  • Things the abuser damaged like a broken phone or torn clothing
  • Threatening texts, social media posts or letters
  • Photos of injuries or damaged property too big to bring to court
  • Receipts showing costs you had to pay because of the abuse.  Like a new lock, repairing the wall, buying a new phone or medical bills.
     

If you need documents for the hearing and are having trouble getting them, you can use a subpoena to get them.  On the subpoena there is a place to list the documents you need.  Ask the court clerk for forms and how to do it.  You can also read about subpoenas below in the next section. 
 

  1. Witnesses:  Witnesses are people who saw the abuse or your injuries or heard you or your child being threatened.  See if you have any witnesses that can come to the hearing.  If police or the sheriff were called, they can be witnesses.  So can the doctor or nurse that treated your injuries.  If you want to show the judge a police report, ask the police officer who wrote the report to come to the hearing.  Police officers are usually very helpful and cooperative.

It may be harder to get doctors or nurses to come to the hearing.  But if your injuries or the things you said are important to your case, you should ask them to come.  Make sure your witnesses know the date, time and place of your hearing.
 

What if a witness doesn't want to come?

If a witness won't come to the hearing on their own, use a form called a subpoena to make them come. You can also list any papers you want the witness to bring to the hearing.  Get a subpoena form from the court clerk as soon as possible. You need time for the people to get the subpoenas before your hearing. There is no cost for the subpoena form.  But there is a cost for the witness’s time and expenses to come to the hearing. 

Fill out the subpoena and take it to the sheriff for service.  This means the sheriff gives it to the person. You have to staple a check or money order to it for the witness's time and expenses.  You have to pay the witness $20 plus 28¢ per mile for their drive to the courthouse and back to their home.  You may be able to get this money back.

Doctors, nurses and other professionals sometimes charge hourly fees to come to court. Record keepers normally do not charge hourly fees. You can ask the court to pay their fees if you can't afford them. 

If you can't afford the fees, ask the court for an “In Forma Pauperis” (IFP) form to fill out. This form asks the court to lower or waive the fee so you don't have to pay. You can use the court’s online Guide and File interview to fill out your forms and file them electronically.  To start the Guide and File interview:

Note:  Be careful using your medical records in the court hearing.  If there is anything bad about you like suicide attempts or drug use in any of the records, it can be used against you.
 

  1. Practice:  Read over the forms you filed to get ready for what you want to say.  It may help to talk about what you want to say with your advocate or someone else you are comfortable with before the hearing.  Remember to be specific and give lots of details. 

Use a checklist to help prepare your story.  Describe the most recent abuse first.

Use the advice from section “STEP 2: Fill Out the Forms” about how to tell your story with lots of details.

Can I take time off work to go to the hearing?

Your employer can’t punish you for taking time off from work to get an OFP or to go to your hearing.  Tell your boss at least 2 days before your hearing that you will be missing work.   Your boss must keep the information private unless you say they can share it. 

If your abuser might come to your workplace, give a copy of the OFP to your boss.  Let others at work like a receptionist or security guard know about the OFP.

Tips for going to court

How you act in the courtroom can make a big difference in your case.  Here are some tips:

1.   Arrive early. Check with the court clerk for the location of the hearing.

2.   Pay attention. The judge or clerk announces your case before it starts.  Be ready to start when you are called.

3.   Do not bring children to the hearing. Find someone to look after your children while you are at the hearing.  If you do bring them, the judge will not let them in the courtroom.

4.   Dress in neat and clean clothes. This shows respect for the court.

5.   Be calm and polite with everyone in the courthouse, even the abuser.

6.   Be serious at all times in the courthouse.

7.   Don't say anything in the bathrooms or hallways that you do not want the abuser, or the abuser's lawyer or relatives to hear.

8.   Treat the judge with respect. Say “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” to the judge.

9.   Speak clearly. Answer questions by saying “yes” or “no”.  The court needs to make a record of everything happening in the courtroom.  They can’t record your answer if you shake or nod your head.  Do not chew gum or put your hands in front of your mouth.

10. Give details.

Do Not

  • argue with the judge
  • interrupt the judge
  • argue with the abuser
  • interrupt the abuser

What does the judge do at the court hearing?

Every judge runs his or her courtroom differently.  If you work with an advocate, ask what they know about your judge.

Many judges begin the hearing by giving the abuser 3 choices.

  1. admit the abuse
  2. deny the abuse, but agree that the OFP can be issued
  3. deny the abuse and have a trial 
     

If the abuser picks #1, you get the OFP.  The court makes a written record of how the abuser hurt or threatened you in the OFP.  This option rarely happens. 

If the abuser picks #2, you get the OFP.  But there will be no “findings” of abuse.  This means that you have all the protections of the OFP. But there is no written record of how the abuser hurt or threatened you.

If the abuser picks #3, the judge holds a trial. Some judges have the trial right then. Some judges schedule the trial later that day or on a different day. You will not know if the trial happens right away so you must be ready with your evidence and witnesses the day of your hearing. 

What happens if the abuser shows up with a lawyer?

You can ask the court to delay the hearing a few days so you can find a lawyer.  This is called a continuance. The court might not give you a continuance.  You should be prepared for a trial the day of your hearing. 

Mutual Orders for Protection

Sometimes the abuser also files for an OFP, claiming that you have abused them.  The judge can hear both petitions at the same time.  If the judge decides you both committed domestic abuse against each other, the judge can issue both OFPs.  These are called mutual OFPs. 

Sometimes the abuser will agree to your OFP if you agree that they can get an OFP against you.  If the abuser does not file a petition, a judge must not give a mutual order. 

Be careful!

Do not agree to a mutual order if you did not commit domestic abuse. A mutual order can make it easier for the abuser to call the police and have you arrested for abuse.  Mutual orders can create immigration problems for temporarily documented people if the order says you abused the other party. 

What happens at the trial?

1. You present your case first. 

You tell your story after taking an oath to tell the truth.  Tell the judge why you need an OFP.  This is called your testimony.  Your testimony is based on the information you put in your forms.  Start with the most recent abuse and work backwards.  Even if you were physically harmed years ago, tell the court about it.  Tell the court about everything you put in your forms. 

Try to answer these questions during your testimony:

  • When did the abuse happen?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Who was there?
    • Was it just you and the abuser? Was anyone else present during the abuse?
  • What happened?
    • Were you physically harmed? How?
    • Were you injured?
    • Did you see a doctor?
    • Were you threatened?
      • What did the abuser say?
      • What was their tone (how did they say it)?
    • What was their body language?
  • Was your child there?
    • Were they hurt or threatened?
    • How did they react?
  • Are you afraid of the abuser?
    • Why?

Be as specific as you can.  Give as many details about the abuse as you can remember.  It helps to look at the judge and not the abuser while you are talking.  If you have evidence of the abuse, give it to the judge now. 

After telling the judge about the abuse, talk about what you are asking the judge to do and why.  See the section “What protections can an OFP give me?” for what you can ask for. Tell the judge:

  • why you should have custody
  • why you need child support
  • why the abuser should have no parenting time or limited parenting time
  • why you need use of property and why you need the car
  • why you need the abuser to pay restitution
  • why the abuser should stay away from your home, work and the child’s school or daycare.
     

2. The abuser or his lawyer can ask you questions. 

This is not a time for the abuser to argue with you or tell his side of the story.  Answer their questions truthfully.  Stay calm.  Stay focused.  Look at the judge.  Do not look at the abuser or his lawyer. If you do not understand the question, ask the judge to ask the question again or in another way.
 

3. If you brought a witness, they tell the judge what they saw or heard. 

This is called their testimony.  You have to ask the witness questions.  They cannot just talk to the judge on their own.

Examples of questions to ask your witness:

  • What is your name?
  • Where were you on (the date of the abuse)?
  • Who was there?
  • What did you see?
  • What did you hear?
  • How was I acting?
  • How was abuser acting?
  • How was my child acting?
     

If the witness brought documents to show the judge, ask them to give the documents to the judge.  

Sometimes there are problems with what witnesses say when they were not present during the abuse.  Sometimes there are problems with evidence such as police reports or doctor reports if the police officer or the doctor is not there.  Talk to a lawyer about these problems before the hearing if you can. To find a lawyer go to www.LawHelpMN.org/providers-and-clinics.
 

4. The abuser or his lawyer can ask your witness questions.
 

5. The abuser presents his case.

The abuser tells his story after taking an oath to tell the truth.  The abuser gives his documents to the judge.  You have a right to see any documents he wants the judge to see. 
 

6. You can ask the abuser questions

After he is done telling his story (“testimony”) you can ask him questions. BUT, you do not have to. 

It is not a time to argue or give your side about what he said.  Just ask questions. If you don’t have any questions, that’s ok. The judge decides if the abuser is truthful.
 

7. If your abuser brought a witness, they tell the judge what they saw or heard

After his testimony, the abuser can have his witnesses testify. 
 

8. You can ask your abuser’s witness questions

You can ask the witness questions, but you do not have to.

Chapter 4. After the Court Hearing

When do I get the Judge’s decision?

After both you and the abuser present your cases, the judge decides if you get an OFP.  You might have to wait but if the judge decides to give you an OFP, usually you get a copy of the order that day. 

Sometimes the judge might need time to think about the trial and if you should get the OFP.  If that happens you need to come back to court later in the day or the next day to find out if you got the OFP.

If the judge does not give you an OFP, they should tell you why.

When you get the order read it carefully.  If there are any mistakes, talk to the court clerk to find out how to fix the order. For example, if you see your address or birth date is wrong, tell the clerk right away.  They will fix it and get you a new order.

Where should I keep copies of my OFP?

Make copies of your OFP and keep a copy with you at all times. Keep a copy in your purse, in your car, at work, and anywhere else it may be needed.  Police are more likely to arrest the abuser for violating your OFP if you have a copy with you. 

Consider giving copies of your OFP to your landlord, supervisor at work, day care provider, and your child's school.

What if I disagree with the decision?

You can appeal the judge’s decision. An appeal is when you ask another court to review the judge’s decision.  This court is called the Court of Appeals. Act fast! There are special time limits that apply.  Filing an appeal can be difficult.  Talk to a lawyer to see if you should file an appeal. There has to be a legal reason for appealing a judge’s decision.  For example, the judge did not follow the law.

For information and forms to file an appeal:

What if the abuser violates my OFP?

Call the police. Police must arrest the abuser if they believe the abuser violated an OFP.  They do not have to see the violation themselves.  Tell the police you have an OFP.  Show them a copy of the OFP.  Ask them to make the arrest.

Violating an OFP once is a misdemeanor crime.  An abuser convicted of violating an OFP must be sentenced to at least 3 days in jail and ordered to go to counseling.  Maximum penalties are 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. But the penalties the judge orders are usually much lower. A prosecutor may call you to see what penalties you think the abuser should get.  

Violating an OFP 2 times is a gross misdemeanor.  An abuser convicted of a 2nd violation must serve at least 10 days in jail.  Maximum penalties are 1 year in jail and a $3,000 fine. Again, the penalties ordered are usually much lower.

If the abuser uses a weapon when violating the OFP it is a felony.  It is also a felony if the abuser violates an OFP 3 or more times in 10 years.  The maximum punishment for a felony is 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Sometimes when an abuser violates the OFP, he also commits a more serious crime in the process. If this happens, other criminal charges might also be filed.

You can also ask the judge in your OFP case to find the abuser in contempt of the court.  The court clerk has forms to do this.

Does the OFP end if I let the abuser into my home?

No.  But for your safety it is better not to.  If the abuser comes in the house because you say he can, it is still a violation of the OFP. 

What if I have a protection order from a tribal court?

A protection order from a tribal court must be enforced if the protections are the same as an OFP.  Take a certified copy of the tribal court protection order to the courthouse and ask them to file it.  There is no cost.  You can go to the courthouse in the county:

  • you live in
  • your abuser lives in
  • where the abuse occurred OR
  • where you have a family court case

Give a copy of the protection order to your local police or sheriff’s department. If the abuser violates the order, they will know to arrest him.

Can I take other legal actions against the abuser?

You can sue the abuser for money if you have injuries, including emotional distress.  There may be other legal possibilities as well.  Talk to a lawyer about your options. Act fast! There are time limits that apply.

Chapter 5. Changing or Extending an OFP

How do I change my OFP?

You need to ask the court to change your OFP.  This is called a modification.  Fill out the forms explaining what you want to change and why.  Then file the forms with the court.  You can get the forms here: www.mncourts.gov/GetForms.aspx?c=17&f=323.

The court schedules a hearing.  Go to the hearing and tell the judge why you need your OFP changed.  If you don’t go to the hearing, the judge will not change your OFP. 

My abuser promises he has changed and I should stop the OFP. Should I?

The decision is yours.  You need to think carefully.  Many times abusers say they are sorry, but soon the abuse starts again.  Has the abuser completed a domestic abuse program or counseling? Or is this promise only words? Has he promised never to hurt or threaten you before but did it anyway? How has the abuser shown he has really changed? 

If you dismiss the OFP you can only get a new one if there is more abuse.

You have other choices than dismissing the order. You could change the order to allow contact so you can go to counseling together.  This would let you see each other without the abuser violating the OFP.  But the other protections of the OFP would stay in place

My OFP expires soon. Can I get it renewed?

You can get your OFP renewed if:

  • the abuser violated the order OR
  • the abuser has harassed you OR
  • you are still afraid of the abuser OR
  • the abuser is about to get out of jail or prison
     

You do not have to show there have been new acts of domestic abuse. It does not matter if your OFP has already expired or if the abuser agreed to the OFP. 

The court can make the OFP last for up to 50 years if:

  • you have had 2 or more OFPs against the abuser OR
  • the abuser has violated the OFP 2 or more times
     

If you applied for a 50-year OFP for a minor, they need to apply again on their own when they turn 18.

Chapter 6. Moving When You Have an OFP

What if I move from the address listed on my OFP?

The OFP is good even if you move.  Think about giving the court and your local police department your new address.  Make sure to tell them your address is confidential.  If you don’t tell them it is confidential, the abuser might be able to get your new address.

What if I work or live in another state?

Ask for a certified copy of your OFP from the court that issued it.  Take the certified copy to the courthouse in the county you live or work in.  Ask to file or register it as a “foreign judgment.”  The law requires other states to recognize and enforce your OFP once you file it.

I need to move to be safe. Can I break my lease?

You can legally break your lease if you have been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  You must:

  1. Give the landlord
  • A copy of an OFP or HRO

AND

  • A signed and dated letter saying these things:
    -- you fear imminent abuse from the person named in the order
    -- you need to end your lease
    -- the date you will leave
    -- what you want the landlord to do with your stuff

You can see a sample “Notice to end lease due to fear of violence (Minn. Stat. § 504B.206)” in the PDF documents section of this booklet.

  1. Pay rent for the month you move out. You lose your security deposit. The landlord keeps it in return for letting you break the lease.


If you don’t have (or don’t want to get) an OFP or HRO, you can give your landlord a letter that says you have been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. You can see a sample “Statement by qualified third party (Minn. Stat. § 504B.206)” in the PDF documents section of this booklet.

This letter must be from

  • a court
  • law enforcement
  • a licensed health care professional
  • a domestic abuse advocate OR
  • a sexual assault counselor
     

If you have questions, contact a legal aid office or a domestic abuse advocate. To find a lawyer go to www.LawHelpMN.org/providers-and-clinics. You can also read the “Where to Find Help” section of this booklet.

For more information on breaking your lease, see our fact sheet “Victims of Domestic Violence, Stalking, or Criminal Sexual Conduct: Your Rights in Breaking Your Lease” at www.LawHelpMN.org/self-help-library/fact-sheet/victims-domestic-violence-stalking-or-criminal-sexual-conduct-your

Chapter 7. Harassment Restraining Orders

What is a Harassment Restraining Order?

A Harassment Restraining Order is a restraining order to prevent harassment.  It is not a criminal case.  It takes place in civil court.  

What is harassment?

“Harassment” means acts, words or gestures that the harasser uses that get in the way of your safety, security or privacy.  This can be:

  • threatening to hurt you or your property
  • repeatedly calling you
  • stalking or following you
  • repeatedly mailing or delivering objects to you
  • one time physical or sexual assault (harm)
  • sending your private sexual pictures to someone

Who can get a harassment restraining order?

Anyone can get a Harassment Restraining Order (HRO).  The relationship between you and the harasser does not matter.  The harasser may be a stranger, neighbor, or a co-worker. 

A parent or stepparent can get a harassment order for a child, if the child is being harassed.

If someone is harassing you, sometimes it helps if you first tell them to stop in writing like a text or email.  Keep a copy of how you told them to stop.  Write down any time you told the harasser to stop verbally. 

What is the difference between having an HRO and an OFP?

For an OFP, the abuser must be family, you must have lived with them, or you must have a child together or a significant romantic relationship.  For an HRO, the relationship between you and the harasser does not matter.  If you have the kind of relationship you need to get an OFP, you should apply for an OFP.

Some behaviors do not meet the legal definition of domestic abuse but do meet the definition of harassment.  For example, your ex-boyfriend calls you over and over saying he is going to take custody of your child.  If it annoys you that his calls don’t stop, it is harassment.  If his calls make you afraid of being harmed, it is domestic abuse.

How does an HRO protect me?

The court can order the harasser not to contact you and your family.  It allows the police to arrest the harasser without a warrant.  The HRO can last for 2 years, or longer if the harasser has violated restraining orders before. 

How do I apply for an HRO?

To get an HRO you need to get the forms, fill them out, and file them with the courthouse.  The courthouse can be in the county

  • you live in OR
  • your harasser lives in OR  
  • where the harassment occurred


You do not need a lawyer.

There is a filing fee for applying for an HRO.  But the court can waive the fee or lower the fee if: 

  • you are low income and can’t afford to pay the fees.  Ask the court for a fee waiver.  This is called “In Forma Pauperis” or IFP.  This form asks the court to lower the fee or waive it so you don't have to pay. You can use the court’s online Guide and File interview to fill out your forms and file them electronically.  To start the Guide and File interview:

                OR

  • what your harasser did to you is a crime.  You can ask the court clerk for a list of the crimes.  Some of them are:
  1. stalking, following, or monitoring you     
  2. an illegal act with the purpose of injuring you or destroying your property
  3. trespassing — being at your home without your permission
  4. repeatedly calling or texting you
  5. sexual assault
  6. sexual contact with a minor        
     

STEP 1: Get the Forms

The forms you need to get your HRO is the "Petitioner's Affidavit and Petition for Harassment Restraining Order" and “Law Enforcement Information Sheet”

  • The Affidavit is a statement of facts. You give basic information about yourself and you describe the harassment.  You do not have to put your address in the affidavit.  You can ask the court to keep your address confidential. 
  • The Petition tells the court what you want the court to do. You list the things you want the court to order in the HRO. 
  • The Information Sheet helps police or sheriff’s department find the harasser.  They need to find the harasser to serve him or her with your forms.
     

There are 3 ways to get your forms:

  1. Go to the courthouse or and tell them you want to file an OFP. A court clerk gives you the forms you need.
  • In Ramsey county, there is a special office at the courthouse to help you apply for an HRO.  Call the Domestic Abuse/Harassment Office at (651) 266-5130.

OR

  1. Get the forms online so you can fill them out before going to the courthouse.
  • Go to www.mncourts.gov/forms
  • Click on “Harassment”
  • Click on “Petitioner’s Harassment Packet”
  • Read the instructions carefully.

OR

  1. Fill out and file the forms online using the court’s Guide and File interview. This program helps you create the forms to ask the court for an HRO.  It works by asking you questions.  It uses your answers to fill out the forms.  You can file your forms with the court electronically. Or you can print your forms and take them in person to the courthouse to file. 
     

To start the Guide and File interview:

STEP 2: Filling Out the Forms

There are many different kinds of harassment.  The court has to decide if your situation meets the legal definition of harassment. Give as much detail and specific examples of the harassment as you can.  The more details the court has, the better they can understand what happened.  The court can only look at the information in your forms to decide if you should get an HRO.

In your forms, tell the court

  • When did the harassment happen? Use specific dates.  If you can’t remember the exact date, tell the court what month or day of the week.
  • What was the harassment?  Do not use words like “he followed me” or “she called a lot.”  Instead tell the court specific details.  For example:
    - I saw him sitting in his car outside my house every day for the last 5 days.  He also followed me to work yesterday and sat in his car all day until I was done working. 
    - Since October 15, 2020, she calls me over and over at least 15 times per day.  She called me 26 times yesterday.
  • What did the harasser say? Use the exact words of a threat.  Even if your harasser swore or called you names, you should still put their exact words in your forms
     

STEP 3: File the Forms

Take the completed forms to the courthouse to file.   

If you used the online interview (“Guide and File”) to complete your forms, you can file them electronically.

Only a judge can decide if you get the HRO.  It may take 1-3 days for the judge to make a decision.
 

STEP 4: Arrange for “service”

The forms you fill out to ask for your HRO have to be given to the harasser in a certain way.  This is called “service of process” or “service.”  This means that someone other than you personally hands the papers to the harasser. The Law Enforcement Information Sheet you filled out helps police or sheriff’s department serve the harasser. 

If you use the sheriff or police, there is no cost to you.  But you may need to take the papers to the sheriff yourself.  The sheriff is usually located at or near the courthouse.  Give the sheriff all the information you can about where to find the harasser.  In some counties, the court clerk takes care of getting the papers to the sheriff for you.

If the court does not give you an HRO and does not schedule a hearing, the harasser will not be served with your forms.

Do I need a court hearing to get an HRO?

Not necessarily.  In some cases, you can get an HRO without having a court hearing.  The court can give you an HRO “ex parte”.  “Ex parte” means without telling the person on the other side of the case.  This is an order you get because the information in your forms shows there is immediate danger of harassment.  You get the order before the harasser has a chance to tell his side of the story. 

If you get an ex parte HRO, the harasser can ask for a hearing.  The abuser has 20 days to ask for a hearing after he is served (gets the forms). If you do not get a notice in the mail, keep calling the court to see if the harasser asked for a hearing.  If you do not go to the court hearing, the harasser can get the HRO dismissed. You will not have protection.

If the judge denies your request for an HRO, you can ask for a hearing.  At the hearing you will need to prove the information in your forms is true and the harasser’s actions meet the legal definition of harassment.

What happens at the hearing?

You present your case first.  You tell the judge what happened and why you need an HRO.  This is called your testimony.  If you have evidence to prove the harassment, bring it to the hearing. 

Evidence can be phone records or text messages showing that the harasser is repeatedly calling or texting you.  It can also be photos, police reports, or medical reports if you were physically or sexually assaulted. If you have any texts or photos on your phone that you want the judge to see, you need to get them off your phone for the hearing. 

Bring three copies of your evidence to your hearing.  One for the judge, one for the harasser, and one for you.  Make sure you bring them all with you.  You can't bring things later or say that you have it at home and could bring it later.

After you present your case, the harasser presents his case.  This is his time to tell his story and show any evidence to the judge.

Sometimes before the case starts, the judge will ask you and the harasser to mediate.  You do not have to make any agreements in the mediation.  If you are afraid of the harasser tell the judge.  They might not make you mediate if you are afraid of the harasser.

What if the harasser violates my HRO?

Call the police.  Police must arrest the harasser if they believe he violated the HRO.  The police do not have to see the violation themselves.  Tell them you have an HRO. Ask the police to make the arrest.

Violating an HRO is a misdemeanor crime.  Penalties include jail time and fines.  The maximum penalties are 90 days in jail and a $700 fine.  The penalties usually are much lower. Penalties for violations increase for the number of violations.

You may also ask to have the court hold the harasser in contempt of court in the harassment case.  The court clerk has forms to do this.

Where should I keep copies of my HRO?

Make copies of your HRO and keep a copy with you at all times. Keep a copy in your purse, in your car, at work, and anywhere else it may be needed.  Police are more likely to arrest the harasser for violating your HRO if you have a copy with you. 

Consider giving copies of your HRO to your landlord, supervisor at work, day care provider, and your child's school.

Chapter 8. Criminal Charges Against Abusers

Has a crime been committed? What should I do?

Anytime you are physically or sexually assaulted (harmed), a crime has been committed.  It is also a crime for the abuser to violate your OFP or HRO.

Call 9-1-1 when the assault happens. Usually the police file reports for 9-1-1 calls. They do not always file a report every time they are called. If you call the police, ask them to file a report. Ask for a copy.  Anytime a crime is committed you can ask the police to file a police report.  If you did not call the police at the time of the assault, you can call them later and ask them to file a report then.       

Never assume an abuser will be charged with a crime just because the police were called, the abuser was arrested, or the police filed a report.  If you want the prosecutor to charge the abuser with a crime, call the prosecutor and tell him/her. You may want to add more detail to the police report.  Let the prosecutor know you want the abuser charged with a crime.

It helps to bring along an advocate or support person when dealing with police and prosecutors. See the section “Where to Find Help.” Filing police reports and asking for criminal prosecution is difficult and stressful.  It can help to have someone there to support you. 

Why would I want to have the abuser charged with a crime?

  1. Because you are the victim of a crime.  It is against the law to hurt or threaten someone.
  2. If convicted the abuser may get jail/prison time or be fined.
  3. It may stop the violence.

If convicted of a crime, an abuser may serve jail or prison time. This does not always happen. You have the right to tell the prosecutor or the court what type of punishment you think the abuser should get.  The prosecutor may consider your wishes in deciding to prosecute and in sentencing an abuser. The court can order the abuser to undergo counseling and treatment.  The court can also order the abuser to have no contact with you.

Having the abuser prosecuted for a crime provides you with some protection because:

  • the abuser may be jailed
  • the court can order no contact
  • the court may be able to monitor the abuser's behavior
  • The abuser may receive treatment for domestic abuse or drug/alcohol use
     

The court system is one way to try to stop the violence.  Violence does not usually stop without help.

What if I decide I do not want the abuser charged with a crime?

If the police were involved, the decision to press charges is not yours. The prosecutor makes the decision to charge someone. You can ask the prosecutor not to charge the abuser with a crime but it is up to him or her.

The prosecutor might not charge the abuser if you are not willing to testify.  But sometimes they have other evidence and will bring charges anyway.

If the police were not involved, you should write down the abuse even if you do not want the abuser charged with a crime. This is helpful for 2 reasons:

    1. If the abuser gets violent again, you may need to prove it happened before.
    2. If you are ever involved in court hearings such as OFP, child custody, divorce, or child protection, it may help you to show the abuser was violent in the past.  The court is happened.
       

Other things you can do:

  • If there is a police report, get and keep a copy.  
     
  • If you have any injuries take pictures. You can ask the police to take pictures for their report. You can have a friend or advocate take pictures.           
     
  • Make sure the notes you write down and the papers you collect are kept where the abuser cannot find them.  
     
  • If you are hurt get medical attention. Ask your doctor or nurse to write down the cause of your injuries in your medical records.  DO NOT make up a story about how you were injured like "walking into a door."  It may be very hard later to get the truth out if your medical records do not say what really happened.
     
  • Take pictures if any property was damaged. If you repair or replace the damaged property keep a receipt. Keep the damaged property in case you need it later to prove what happened.
     
  • Keep a log or diary of the abuse that happens. Write down each time the abuser assaults you, threatens you, or hurts you. Write down the date and specific information. 

For example
June 12, 2020 - Chris pushed me into the bedroom wall.  Said, “You're lucky I don't have a gun.”  Left shoulder was bruised. 

Chapter 9. Where to Find Help and Get Court Forms

Where to Find Help

A domestic abuse advocate can help you make plans for your safety.  Advocates help women and men that have been abused.  To find your local domestic abuse program:

  • Call Minnesota DayOne at (866) 223-1111
  • Go to Violence Free Minnesota vfmn.org
    • Click “Get Help”
    • Click “Find a program near you”
    • Programs are listed alphabetically by county

REMEMBER:  No one has the right to hurt or threaten you. You deserve to feel safe.

You are not the only person who has ever had problems like this. You are not alone. There are people and laws to help you. Advocates are available to help you and lawyers help too. People who have worked to stop domestic abuse have found that getting an OFP and/or criminal prosecution DOES HELP stop the violence.

Court Forms

OFP (Order for Protection) and related forms can be found on the Minnesota Judicial Branch website at www.mncourts.gov/GetForms.aspx?c=17

HRO (Harassment Restraining Order) and related forms can be found on the Minnesota Judicial Branch website at www.mncourts.gov/GetForms.aspx?c=22

If a district is listed next to a form, the form is for use within that judicial district only.  If the word “statewide” is listed, the form can be used in any district in the state. 

You can also fill out and file the forms online using the court’s Guide and File interview. This program helps you create the forms to ask the court for an OFP or HRO.  The same interview works for both an OFP or an HRO. The interview asks you questions and then uses your answer to fill out the forms.  You can file your forms with the court electronically. Or you can print your forms and take them in person to the courthouse to file. 

To start the Guide and File interview: