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Wisconsin Restraining Orders | Harassment and Domestic Abuse

What is the Difference Between a Domestic Abuse and a Harassment Restraining Order in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin has four types of restraining orders:

  1. Domestic Abuse
  2. Harassment
  3. Child Abuse
  4. Individual at Risk

Two of them, domestic abuse and harassment, are the most common, though each type prohibits a person from taking certain actions against another person.

Domestic Abuse

To obtain a domestic abuse restraining order, the filer must be in fear of their physical safety. This is common to all orders, but to qualify as domestic abuse, the complaint must be between people who are related or who have a close relationship. Specifically, the following types of relationships qualify as domestic in Wisconsin:

  • Adult family or household members
  • An adult caregiver against an adult who is under the caregiver’s care
  • Former spouses
  • Adults who have or had a dating relationship
  • Adults who have a child together

Actions that constitute domestic abuse in Wisconsin are:

  • Intentional infliction of physical pain or injury
  • Intentional impairment of a physical condition
  • Sexual assault
  • Stalking
  • Intentional damage to physical property belonging to the petitioner
  • A threat to engage in the conduct of any of these behaviors.


Harassment restraining orders are slightly different from domestic abuse restraining orders. A harassment order is usually filed when the aggressor or attacker is not related to the family or does not otherwise meet the criteria for a domestic relationship, although they can have this type of domestic relationship.

The following actions are all grounds for harassment under Wisconsin statute:

  • Striking
  • Shoving
  • Kicking or otherwise subjecting another person to physical contact
  • Sexual assault
  • Stalking

Obtaining a Restraining Order

Obtaining either harassment or a domestic abuse order follows the same process. Temporary restraining orders (TROs) can be granted quickly and without any trial or hearing. A judge can approve the request for a TRO based on statements from the petitioner as to why they believe they are in danger. Once an order is approved, a formal hearing is usually scheduled within a week.   

Under a TRO, the accused is prohibited from:

  • going near the home or any other location where the petitioner is present, even their own home.
  • having direct or indirect contact with the petitioner, including through phone, email, social media accounts, etc.
  • removing, hiding, harming, mistreating, or disposing of a household pet.

The temporary order remains in place until the formal hearing. Violations can be prosecuted and will make your situation worse, so be sure to follow all requirements of the TRO exactly. At the hearing, both sides present their case to the judge and the judge decides whether to vacate  the TRO or to order an injunction. If an injunction is ordered, the same prohibitions from the TRO carry over. If children are involved, the judge may order child support and/or spousal support to be paid and may assign child custody. All firearms in possession of the respondent must be surrendered.

Both domestic abuse injunctions in harassment injunctions can last for up to 4 years.

Restraining Order Defense at Eisenberg Law

The primary difference between domestic abuse and harassment comes down to the type of actions perpetrated. The outcomes can be similar in either case: restrictions on entering your home and seeing your family and loved ones. This could affect your living situation and reputation and even your financial situation if you need to find alternative housing and/or pay child or spousal support.

Don’t let an out-of-control argument or misunderstanding develop into a situation that results in a restraining order. Contact the defense attorneys at Eisenberg Law Offices in Madison, Wisconsin to talk through your situation and discuss your defense options.

Contact our office at 608-256-8356 or to schedule a free case consultation.



Eisenberg Law has successfully represented our clients in thousands of Personal Injury, Criminal Defense and Family Law Cases during our 30-plus years in business.