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Do I Need an Order of Protection or Harassment Restraining Order?

Victims of domestic violence in Minnesota need to know

If you’re a victim of domestic abuse or harassment, you must understand your legal options to protect yourself and family members. The two forms of protection orders used statewide in Minnesota are the Order for Protection (OFP) and the Harassment Restraining Order (HRO). There are important differences between the two, and to ensure a victim gets the relief they need, they must understand these differences.

Are You in an intimate Relationship?

The first difference is that an OFP is meant to deal with those in relationships—marriage, unmarried parents, former spouses, roommates or a significant sexual or romantic relationship. Past relationships count as well.

Without these types of relations, an OFP will fail for good cause, and the victim must determine if they can obtain relief under an HRO. The perpetrator in an HRO can include any adult or juvenile alleged to have engaged in harassment, or organizations alleged to have sponsored or promoted harassment.

Demonstrating Domestic Abuse

To obtain an OFP, the victim must allege domestic abuse occurred. Domestic violence can be demonstrated in several ways, but typically this abuse is either:

  • Physical injury, bodily harm or assault
  • Infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault
  • A threat to commit a crime of violence with the purpose to terrorize the victim, or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror
  • Criminal sexual conduct
  • Interference with an emergency call to law enforcement

Demonstrating Harassment

Although demonstrating harassment is considered to be a lesser standard than that of domestic abuse, the conduct is still clearly dangerous. To demonstrate harassment, the victim must allege either:

  • A single incident of physical or sexual assault
  • A single incident of stalking
  • A single incident of dissemination of private sexual images
  • Repeated incidents of intrusive or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that have a substantial adverse effect, or are intended to have a substantial adverse effect on the safety, security, or privacy of another—regardless of the relationship between the accused and the intended target
  • Targeted residential picketing
  • A pattern of attending public events after being notified that the accused’s presence at the event is harassing to another

The court hearing

Both OFPs and HROs may be granted on an emergency basis until a court hearing can be held. Under an HRO, the abuser has 20 days to request a hearing or it becomes permanent. Under an OFP, the hearing will typically take place within 5 to 10 days from the grant of the emergency temporary restaing order. If a hearing is held, the victim must prepare for a full evidentiary hearing and be ready to present their case. A judge will take testimony from the abuser, victim and any witnesses to the abuse, and make a decision to uphold, modify or deny the OFP or HRO.


Both the OFP and HRO will require the respondent have no contact with the victim. That may include removing the abuser from the home or requiring the abuser stay away from the victim’s place of employment and other important places. However, an OFP allows significantly more options for relief beyond requiring no contact from the abuser, including:

  • Award temporary custody of children
  • Establish child support
  • Order the abuser into counseling or treatment
  • Determine an award of personal property between the victim and abuser
  • Order the abuser to pay restitution to the victim
  • Award any pets or companion animals to the victim
  • Making it illegal for abuser to own firearms

If the court grants an OFP, it’s in place for a two year period, and it can be extended every two years thereafter if necessary. An HRO is typically granted for less than two years, but can also be extended if necessary.

If a victim is filing for a protective order and is unsure which route to take, they should legal advice and sit down with an experienced Minnesota family law attorney and discuss their options.

For more information on this area, see our overview of family law.

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