FAQ: Orders For Protection (restraining orders) in Minnesota

What you need to know about restraining orders in Minnesota.

Everyone is familiar with the basic idea of a restraining order. Yet despite this basic knowledge, it can be difficult for people involved in a family domestic incident to understand the exact nature of these court orders. In Minnesota, there are three orders a court can issue that prevents the person named from endangering the petitioner (the person asking for court protection):

Many people have no idea how to go about getting an OFP, HRO, or DANCO. Or how to contest one if a court has already issued such an order.

With that in mind, below are answers to frequently asked questions about OFPs and restraining orders in Minnesota.

What is an Order For Protection?

An OFP is used in situations in which there have been allegations of domestic abuse, as defined by Minnesota law. An OFP may prevent the respondent (alleged abuser) from:

  • Committing further domestic violence
  • Living with the alleged victim
  • Coming within a reasonable area surrounding the residence or the victim's workplace
  • Having custody of or even visiting with minor children

In addition, the court may require spousal and child support from the respondent or require the respondent to attend treatment or counseling sessions.

What is the difference between a temporary OFP and a long-term OFP?

Courts recognize that domestic abuse can endanger lives. As such, courts will often award "ex parte" orders for protection, meaning that the respondent is not at the hearing when the order is issued. However, in certain cases, such as if the petitioner is requesting child support or sole custody of minor children, a hearing is required. Temporary OFPs are meant to provide for the safety of family members in immediate danger from a domestic abuser.

What is the difference between an OFP, HRO and DANCO?

An OFP is directed specifically towards domestic violence issues, while a harassment restraining order can be taken out against any stalker or harasser. A DANCO is issued in criminal cases.

Does the court need proof that abuse occurred before issuing an OFP?

There does not need to be evidence that past abuse occurred. However, the petitioner should show that he or she is in a relationship with someone who has a "present intention to do harm or inflict fear of harm."

Judges will largely err on the side of caution when deciding whether to issue a temporary OFP, so the evidence does not need to be overwhelming that there is a danger to the petitioner.

How do I contest an order for protection?

The respondent can contest an OFP by requesting a hearing before the judge who issued a temporary or ex-parte OFP. At the hearing, both parties can present evidence, including witness testimony, in order to establish whether an OFP is necessary. A long-term OFP can last for two years without the petitioner asking the court for a formal extension.

Where can I get help?

Orders For Protection are court orders that can have significant consequences for both the petitioner and responder. As such, it is best to speak to an attorney familiar with Orders For Protection and hearings regarding OFPs before taking action.

Of course, anyone in immediate danger should contact law enforcement before taking any other action.

If you have more questions or need help obtaining or contesting an OFP, contact Coodin & Overson, PLLP.