In the past, domestic violence was largely viewed as a private, family matter. Legally, there was little recourse and virtually no support services. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that government officials and law enforcement started taking domestic violence seriously.
Today, when domestic abuse happens in Minnesota, alleged victims can request an Order for Protection (OFP). The person initiating an order is the Petitioner. The person being accused of domestic violence is the Respondent.
What is an Order for Protection?
An Order for Protection forbids the Respondent from engaging in certain behavior, such as:
- Entering the family home
- Making contact with the Petitioner, either via phone, email, in person, or through another party
- Spending time with minor children
- Accessing personal items in the family home
When applying for an OFP, the Petitioner has a lot of choice over what restrictions they want included in the order.
It is free to file an Order for Protection and an attorney is not needed to file one. The petitioner can file the paperwork on their own, or with the help of a domestic abuse advocate.
An Order for Protection is not a criminal matter. It is a court order carried out in Family Court. However, if the police were involved at any point, a separate criminal case may be started because domestic violence is against the law.
Petitioners can apply for an OFP for themselves and/or their minor children. In most cases, a minor cannot file request an OFP for themselves. One exception is anyone 16 years of age or older who is requesting an order against a former or current spouse, or someone they share a child with.
An Order for Protection can last anywhere from two to 50 years. Under most circumstances, an OFP initially lasts for two years. If the Respondent violates the order or there are extenuating circumstances, the timeframe may be extended.
What is considered domestic abuse in Minnesota?
Minnesota has a strict definition of what legally constitutes domestic abuse. Domestic abuse occurs when specific actions have taken place between people who are “family or household members.”
Domestic abuse in Minnesota includes:
- Actual physical harm
- Shoving, punching, choking, and kicking
- Throwing things at a person
- Locking someone in a room
- Stabbing or shooting
- A threat of physical harm
- Saying things like, “I’m going to kill you.”
- Interfering with an emergency call, such as a 911 call for medical help
What separates domestic abuse from other forms of assault is that the parties involved must be “family or household members,” which Minnesota law defines as:
- Current or former spouses, either opposite sex or same sex
- Persons related by blood or adoption: parents, children, siblings, grandparents, etc.
- People who currently live together, or used to live together. This can be not just intimate partners but also platonic roommates.
- People who have a child together
- A pregnant woman and the alleged father
- People that are or were in a romantic or sexual relationship, either opposite sex or same sex
Orders for Protection versus Harassment Restraining Orders
Orders for Protection are only for people experiencing domestic violence. If the relationship between the two parties is not one of “family or household member,” then the Petitioner can pursue a Harassment Restraining Order (HRO). An HRO can be issued for relationships such as a coworker, a neighbor, or a friend you never lived with.
False Accusations of Domestic Abuse and OFPs
There is no doubt that Orders for Protections have kept countless Minnesotans safe. But unfortunately, some of these orders are placed under false pretenses and unfounded accusations. One downside to Orders for Protection is that they can be enacted before there is even a court hearing. That means Respondents can have serious restrictions placed on them before having a chance to tell their side of the story.
If you’ve been served with an OFP, it’s important to carefully read through the forms. The paperwork you receive will either list a court date, or give you instructions on how to schedule one.
It’s crucial for your case that you:
- Request a court date if one is not already scheduled
- Attend all court dates
- Make sure the county has your current contact information
- Obey all of the restrictions, no matter how unfair or limiting they seem
- Contact an attorney with domestic abuse and Order for Protection experience as soon as possible
It’s critical that you not violate the Order for Protection, even if the Petitioner initiates the contact. If the Petitioner wants to withdraw the order, they must file a Request for Dismissal of Order for Protection.
Violating an OFP comes with its own penalties, on top of any other charges you may be facing. It’s difficult to be patient, but you will have your day in court.
What an Order for Protection Means for Families
An Order for Protection can tear families apart, at least temporarily. When filling out the paperwork for an OFP, the Petitioner does not need to include their address. This means the Petitioner can move or take up temporary residence, and the Respondent would have no idea where their children now live.
In addition, an Order for Protection may:
- Prevent you from going to your children’s daycare, school, or extracurricular activities
- Have any family pets taken from you and placed elsewhere
- Limit visitation time with your children, and request that such time be supervised
In most matters involving children, a hearing will eventually be held to determine temporary custody and visitation. While it is difficult to be separated from your children, you must follow the OFP until the court hearing.
Order for Protection Attorney in Minneapolis
Judith Samson is an experienced criminal defense attorney, with over 20 years of experience. She’ll find the best strategy for your defense and work for the best possible outcome for your case. Contact Attorney Judith Samson today to discuss your Order for Protection and domestic abuse charges. She is available 24/7, offers off-site appointments and a free initial consultation.
Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.