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Question: What are Restraining Orders and Injunctions and how are they used in family and juvenile court?

Answer: (Temporary) Restraining Orders and Injunctions are  two stages of a commonly available type of remedy ordered in both Juvenile(children's) and family court. These are civil, not criminal judgments, used to enjoin or prevent certain conduct Once a temporary restraining order(TRO) or injunction is in place after being ordered by a court, a provable violation of the TRO or the injunction can be used to prosecute the violator criminally(have charges filed). The TRO is the initial stage according to Wisconsin law(Chapter 813 Wisconsin Statutes), and only lasts a short time; a "permanent" injunction then can be ordered if the requirements are met in the opinion of the judge hearing the case.

             The three types of TRO's/injunctions concerned are 1)domestic abuse, 2) child abuse, and 3) harassment. Domestic abuse concerns conduct between adults in certain relationships defined by law(statutes); for example dating, co-parent, caregiver, adult family member in same house etc. Child abuse concerns certain harmful physical or emotional behavior to children, again, as defined and explained in the statutes. Harassment concerns certain physical or verbal or social behaviors which are repeated and meet one of the statutory definitions of harassment(one example being repeated threats to injure or cause physical harm), serve no legitimate purpose and which intimidate the targeted person.

               The person bringing the lawsuit(the "victim" or targeted person) is called Petitioner and the person whom the petitioner is seeking protection from is called Respondent. If both petitioner and respondent are adults the matter, both TRO and injunction, is handled in family court. If one of the parties is a child(under 18) juvenile(children's( court hears the matter. Also when petitioner or respondent is a child the parent or guardian acts on their behalf. Additionally, if either petitioner or respondent is under 18, usually the court appoints a guardian ad litem, an attorney representing the best interests of the child.

                The process is started when petitioner files a petition for a TRO( in Milwaukee County this occurs on the 7th floor of the courthouse), and states in writing, what the grounds,or reasons,are. A court, usually a Family Court Commissioner, determines if this initial request is reasonable, and either orders it dismissed, or grants the TRO based on reasonable grounds. The court orders the TRO for 14 days( and one additional 14 day extension may occur), and a hearing on the permanent injunction is scheduled within the 14 days. While the petitioner obtains the 14 day TRO without notifying the respondent, the petitioner must get either the local Sheriff's Department or a private process server to serve(usually hand-deliver) the TRO papers to respondent. The one 14 day extension is offered when the petitioner cannot get personal service, but believes it can get served within the next 14 days. It is important to have good address(and phone) info so that the sheriff or process server can succeed.

             If there is no service despite the extension, the court usually dismisses the TRO and request for injunction. Then the petitioner would have to begin the entire sequence again. If service is accomplished, the judge then holds a hearing in the presence of both sides, where there may be testimony under oath, and makes a determination if the evidence that came out in the hearing is reasonable grounds for a permanent injunction. If there is a permanent injunction ordered(and the maximum time could be two years or four years depending on the type), and respondent is in court, respondent gets served right in court. If respondent, despite having been served, does not show up, the judge still gets to hold the hearing and decide whether to order an injunction. In that scenario, however, petitioner still has to take the permanent injunction, if it is ordered, to the sheriff or process server and get service, again. If a petitioner fails to show up, and does not have a good reason, usually the injunction request and TRO are dismissed.

        Certain injunctions may involve restrictions on firearm possession, and violations of TRO's and injunctions may result in arrest and prosecution. An attorney can help a petitioner present the grounds in a better and more efficient way,and know how to accomplish the proof at the hearing. An attorney can help a respondent oppose an injunction request, and present that defense in court. Respondent's attorney can also attempt a negotiated(agreed upon) solution if a compromise is possible, where both sides achieve the most important goals.

        Attorney Phillip A. Arieff is  experienced in representing  both petitioners and respondents, and has been guardian ad litem for both minor petitioners and respondents.


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