Podcast: Domestic Abuse & Harassment: Restraining Orders & Orders For Protection Under Minnesota Law

The Family Law Show returns, with a summary of the issues involved in obtaining, or defending against, an Order for Protection or Harassment Restraining Order.

The conduct giving rise to either Order may impact litigants in three types of cases: a civil case, a family case and a criminal case – often concurrently.

Topics discussed in this podcast include Minnesota’s Domestic Abuse Act, the impact an OFP or Restraining Order may have in family court, the standards and procedures involved in obtaining an Order for Protection, the standards and procedures involved in obtaining a Harassment Restraining Order and the criminal consequences that may stem from violating either type of Order.

Run Time: 15:13

 

How An Order For Protection Impacts A Divorce

A host of implications follow the issuance of an Order for Protection in Minnesota when a marital dissolution action is pending or will be filed:

Marriage dissolution petition. A petition for dissolution of marriage or legal separation must allege whether an OFP that governs the parties or a party and a minor child of the parties is in effect and, if so, the district court or similar jurisdiction in which it was entered.

Custody disputes. In a proceeding where two or more parties seek custody of a child, the court must consider and evaluate all relevant factors in determining the best interests of the child. One of the relevant factors set forth in Minnesota law is the effect on the child of the actions of abuse that has occurred between the parents or the parties. When joint legal or physical custody is contemplated, the court must consider whether domestic abuse has occurred between the parents. If domestic abuse has occurred between the parents, the court must apply a rebuttable presumption that joint legal or physical custody is not in the best interests of the child.

Parenting plan. Upon the request of both parents, a parenting plan may be created in lieu of an order for child custody. A parenting plan must include a schedule of time each parent spends with the child, a designation of decision-making responsibilities, and a method of dispute resolution. The court may not require a parenting plan that provides for joint legal custody or the use of dispute resolution processes (other than the judicial process) if the court finds that either parent has engaged in acts of domestic abuse or child abuse. In determining custody, a court must consider a finding under the Domestic Abuse Act or under a similar law of another state that domestic abuse has occurred between the parties.

Parenting time. Upon the request of either parent, the court must grant parenting time on behalf of the child and parent to enable them to maintain a parent-child relationship that will be in the best interests of the child. If the court finds, however, after a hearing, that parenting time is likely to endanger the child’s physical or emotional health or impair the child’s emotional development, the court must restrict parenting time and may deny parenting time entirely, if the circumstances warrant. If a parent requests supervised parenting time and an OFP is in effect, the judge or judicial officer must consider the OFP in making a decision regarding parenting time.

Modification of parenting time. If a parent specifically alleges that parenting time places the parent or child in danger of harm, the court must hold a hearing at the earliest possible time to determine the need to modify the order granting parenting time. The court must modify an order granting or denying parenting time whenever modification would serve the best interests of the child. Parenting time may not be restricted unless the parenting time is likely to endanger the child’s physical or emotional health or impair the child’s emotional development or the parent has chronically and unreasonably failed to comply with court-ordered parenting time.

Additional parenting time to provide child care. The court may allow additional parenting time to provide child care while the other parent is working, subject to reasonableness and the best interests of the child. In making this determination, the court must consider whether domestic abuse has occurred between the parties.

Move to another state. If a parenting-time order is in effect, the court must look at the effect of domestic abuse on the safety and welfare of the child and the parent when considering a request from a parent to move a child to another state. The burden of proof is upon the parent requesting the move, except that if the court finds that the person requesting the move is a victim of domestic violence, the burden of proof is on the parent opposing the move.

Custody and parenting time of children to unmarried persons. A proceeding by a father whose paternity has been recognized under Minnesota law to petition for rights of parenting time or custody may not be combined with a proceeding under the Domestic Abuse Act. Also, a petition by certain other individuals (e.g., grandparents or a person with whom a child has resided) for visitation rights may not be combined with a proceeding under the Domestic Abuse Act.

Participation in a parenting plan when a person is convicted of certain offenses. If a person seeking child custody or parenting time has been convicted of an applicable crime, the person seeking custody or parenting time has the burden to prove that custody or parenting time is in the best interests of the child. This provision applies if the conviction occurred within the preceding five years; the person currently is incarcerated, on probation or under supervised release for the offense; or the victim of the crime was a family or household member. In these cases, the court may not grant custody or parenting time to the person unless it finds that the custody or parenting time is in the best interests of the child. Also, if a person who has court-ordered custody of a child or parenting-time rights is convicted of an applicable crime and no action is pending regarding custody or parenting time, the sentencing court must refer the matter to the appropriate family court or action. The family court must:

  • Grant temporary custody to the noncustodial parent, unless it finds that another custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child; or
  • Suspend parenting-time rights, unless it finds that parenting time with the convicted person is in the best interests of the child.

Proceedings under this law must be expedited. The defendant has the burden of proving that continued custody or parenting time is in the best interests of the child. If the victim of the crime as a family or household member, the standard of proof is clear and convincing evidence.

Temporary orders and restraining orders. A temporary order in a proceeding brought for custody, dissolution, legal separation, or related matters may not vacate or modify an order granted under the Domestic Abuse Act restraining an abusing party from committing acts of domestic abuse. Upon proper motion the court may, however, hear a motion for modification of an OFP concurrently with a proceeding for dissolution of marriage.

Guardian ad litem. In all child custody, marriage dissolution, or legal separation proceedings in which custody or parenting time of a minor child is an issue, the court must appoint a guardian ad litem if the court has reason to believe that the minor child is a victim of domestic child abuse or neglect. The guardian ad litem must represent the interests of the child and provide advice to the  court on custody and parenting time.

Consequences For Violating An Order For Protection In Minnesota

The violaton of an Order for Protection in Minnesota can yield a number of penalties for those who are found to have done so, including criminal penalties, civil contempt and firearm possession implications.

Criminal penalties. Minnesota law provides misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, and felony penalties for a violation of an OFP issued under the Domestic Abuse Act or under a similar law of another state, the District of Columbia, tribal lands, or U.S. territories. In addition, any violation of an OFP constitutes contempt of court and is subject to the penalties for contempt. A known violation of an OFP is a misdemeanor. The penalty is a gross misdemeanor if the person knowingly violates an OFP within ten years of a previous qualified domestic violence-related offense conviction or adjudication of delinquency. The penalty is a five-year felony if the person knowingly violates the order within ten years of the first of two or more previous qualified domestic violence-related offense convictions or adjudications of delinquency. Felony penalties also apply to persons who commit the violation while possessing a dangerous weapon. The law provides minimum sentences upon misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, and felony convictions. The law also requires the court to order the defendant to participate in counseling or other appropriate programs selected by the court.

Statement of obligation and bond. The court may require the respondent to acknowledge an obligation to comply with an OFP on the record if the court finds that (1) the respondent has violated an OFP, and (2) there is reason to believe that the respondent will commit a further violation of the provisions of the order restraining the respondent from committing acts of domestic abuse, or excluding the respondent from the petitioner’s residence. The court also may require the respondent to post a bond sufficient to deter the respondent from committing additional violations. If the respondent refuses to comply with an order to acknowledge the obligation or to post a bond, the court must commit the respondent to the county jail during the term of the OFP or until the respondent complies.

Order to show cause. The court may issue an order to the respondent requiring the respondent to appear and show cause within 14 days why the respondent should not be found in contempt of court and punished. This order may be issued upon the filing of an affidavit by the petitioner, a peace officer, or an interested party designated by the court, alleging that the respondent has violated an OFP.

New order to replace expired order. If an OFP has expired between the time of an alleged violation and the court’s hearing on the violation, the court may grant a new OFP based solely on the respondent’s alleged violation of a prior order, which is effective until the hearing on the alleged violation of the prior order. If the court finds that the respondent has violated the order, the court may extend the relief granted in the new OFP for a fixed period, not to exceed one year, except when the court determines that a longer fixed period is appropriate.

Firearm and/or pistol possession. No person who has been convicted of domestic assault in Minnesota or elsewhere or of violating a domestic abuse OFP may possess a pistol unless three years have elapsed since the date of conviction and, during that time, the person has not been convicted of any other assault crime or OFP violation.

Relief Available Under The Minnesota Domestic Abuse Act

In a proceeding for an OFP under the Domestic Abuse Act, the court may provide the following relief, upon notice and hearing:

  • Restrain the abusing party from committing acts of domestic abuse;
  • Exclude the abusing party from the dwelling which the parties share or from the residence of the petitioner;
  • Exclude the abusing party from a reasonable area surrounding the dwelling or residences;
  • Award temporary custody or establish temporary visitation with regard to minor children of the parties on a basis which gives primary consideration to the safety of the victim and the children;
  • Establish temporary support for minor children or a spouse and order the withholding of support from the income of the person obligated to pay the support;
  • Upon request of the petitioner, provide counseling or other social services for the parties, if married, or if there are minor children;
  • Order the abusing party to participate in treatment or counseling services;
  • Award temporary use and possession of property and make other orders regarding property;
  • Exclude the abusing party from the place of employment of the petitioner or otherwise limit the abusing party’s access to the petitioner at the petitioner’s place of employment;
  • Order the abusing party to pay restitution to the petitioner;
  • Order the continuance of all currently available insurance coverage without change in coverage or beneficiary designation; or
  • Order, in its discretion, other relief it deems necessary for the protection of a family or household member, including orders or directives to the sheriff or constable.

Relief that is granted by the order is for a fixed period of time, not to exceed one year, except when the court determines a longer fixed period is appropriate.