Victims of abuse have several legal options open to them.
Cases Through the Justice System
All legal matters filed in the court system are broadly classified as civil or criminal.
Civil cases are usually disputes between private citizens, corporations, governmental bodies or other organizations. They may involve property or personal rights – for example, actions arising from landlord and tenant disputes, auto or personal injury accidents, breach of warranty on consumer goods, contract disputes, adoptions, marriage dissolutions (divorce), wills and guardianship.
Criminal cases are brought by the government against individuals or corporations accused of committing a crime. The government makes the charge because a crime is considered an act against all of society. The prosecuting attorney prosecutes the charge against the accused person (defendant) on behalf of the government (plaintiff). In criminal cases, the prosecution must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
It is important to remember that the government has the burden of proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant does not have to prove his or her innocence.
What is a Harassment Restraining Order (HRO)?
A harassment restraining order (HRO) is a court order that can prohibit contact. It provides protection from harassment and assault. It may prevent an abuser from entering your home, your place of employment, or educational institution. An HRO is not a criminal court proceeding but takes place in a civil court proceeding.
You may qualify for a Harassment Restraining Order if the other party has engaged in “repeated unwanted acts, words, or gestures that are intended to have an adverse effect on the safety, security or privacy of another, regardless of the relationship between the actor and the intended target.”
How Do I Apply for an HRO?
You can apply for an HRO yourself in the county you live. You do NOT need an attorney. There is a filing fee of $324.00 for Harassment Restraining Orders. Certain individuals may qualify for a waiver called an In Forma Pauperis; this fee waiver is based on your inability to pay the fee. The court may also grant a Harassment Restraining Order fee waiver; this is granted by the Judge if your HRO meets certain criteria. In-depth information and instructions can be found on the MN Court Forms website.
Many victims of harassment find it helpful to have an advocate support them through the HRO process. You can, however, apply for an HRO without the assistance of an advocate or attorney. Contact Someplace Safe for assistance.
What is an Order for Protection (OFP)?
An Order for Protection (OFP) is a court order. It provides protection from abuse. It orders that an abuser not commit domestic abuse. It can also remove the abuser from the home you share. It can order the abuser to not contact you. It can also provide temporary custody, visitation, child support, spousal maintenance, and use of property.
An OFP is not a criminal proceeding; it takes place in the family court division of civil court.
Who Can Get an OFP?
Family members or household members may request an OFP. This includes:
• People who are married
• People who used to be married
• People who are related by blood
• People who live in the same home together
• People who have a child together or a pregnancy together
• Dating partners – you do not need to have lived together or have a child .
To Protect a Minor: If a child under age 18 has been abused, the parent or guardian or another family or household member may apply for an OFP on behalf of the child. Also, a reputable adult age 25 or older may apply for an OFP on behalf of a minor, if the court finds that it is in the best interest of the minor, even if that adult is not a family or household member.
Minors: Minors, age 16 or older, may get an OFP on their own, without a family or household member bringing the case in court, against the spouse, former spouse, or person with whom the minor has a child in common, IF the court finds the minor is mature, has good judgment, and it is in the minor’s best interest.
How Do I Apply for an OFP?
You can apply for an OFP yourself. You do NOT need an attorney. The application does not cost anything. There is no filing fee.
Many victims of domestic violence find it helpful to have an advocate support them through the OFP process. You can, however, apply for an OFP without the assistance of an advocate or attorney. In-depth information and instructions can be found on the MN Court Forms website. Contact Someplace Safe for assistance.
You may apply for an OFP:
• In the county where you live
• The county where the abuser lives
• In the county where other family court proceedings have occurred
• In the county where the abuse occurred