What does it take to get a restraining order against someone who’s harassing me?
Fear should not be a fact of life. If someone is causing you fear or distress, a restraining order is an important step toward feeling safe again.
A restraining order is a court order aimed at stopping someone from harassing you. The definition of harassment is fairly vast, but according to criminal defense attorney David Pierce, it can generally be defined as “a series of actions with no purpose other than to intimidate, to make you feel unsafe.” The actions can be physical, verbal or electronic, as in texts or emails, and in order to be considered harassment, they must be part of a “course of conduct,” notes Pierce, which means that they happen more than once.
If you feel you are being harassed, Pierce advises contacting an attorney to help you with the process of filing a restraining order. Your first step will be to petition for a Temporary Restraining Order, or TRO. This step involves completing a document that describes the harassment and paying a fee. The county clerk’s office is the place to find that form, or you can download it at the Wisconsin Department of Justice website.
The court will decide based on the content in the form whether the respondent’s conduct constitutes harassment sufficient to issue a TRO, which requires the respondent (the person you are filing against) to stay away from you for 14 days, or until an injunction hearing can be set.
While the county clerk’s office is very helpful in these situations, says Pierce, having an attorney on your side can be crucial, especially
- When completing the form. It’s important to clearly illustrate the pattern of harassment. Pierce advises describing the most recent incident, and then creating a context for the court that explains the respondent’s ongoing behaviors.
- If an injunction hearing is set. It is the person who files the form (the petitioner) who is responsible to make sure the respondent is served with a summons to appear at the injunction hearing. If the respondent is not served, the case goes nowhere.
Most importantly, Pierce advises to save all evidence of harassment. If you have a series of texts or emails or voice mail messages, resist the urge to delete. Keep in mind the importance of proving your claim and take important steps to stop the fear.
Information provided by David Pierce, criminal defense lawyer at Johns, Flaherty & Collins, SC. For more information on restraining orders, call him at 608-784-5678.