The Rise of Domestic Abuse During COVID-19: What Legal Protections Do You Have?

Jul 12, 2020 | Kathleen M. Newman

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, there has been a dramatic increase in domestic abuse against both adults and children.   Have you or your child been the victim of domestic abuse?  If you have, Minnesota law provides you protections, including an Order for Protection which can result in stiff criminal penalties for violations.   Experienced attorney Kathleen M. Newman of the DeWitt LLP law firm assists victims in getting the best legal protection as swiftly as possible. 

Minnesota law defines Domestic Abuse  as acts between “family or household members” including: (a) physical harm by hitting, kicking, slapping, etc.; (b) causing fear in a family/household member of physical harm, including threats of harm; (c) terroristic threats, such as threats to commit a crime of violence (e.g. exhibiting a firearm to instill fear); (d) criminal sexual conduct (examples - forced intercourse/other sexual contact or intercourse/other sexual contact with a minor);  or (e) interference with an emergency call (grabbing your phone while you are trying to call for help).  Additionally, it is important to note that the legal definition of “family or household members” is broad and is not limited to just blood relatives but also includes “persons involved in a significant romantic or sexual relationship.” 

If the act(s) committed against you or your child meet the definition of “domestic abuse,”  you can ask a judge to issue an Order for Protection against your abuser.  The Order can include a wide range of protections, including:  (a) ordering the abuser not to abuse you or your minor children; (b) ordering the abuser’s removal from your home;  (c)  ordering the abuser to stay away from your place of work; (d) ordering the abuser not to contact you;  (e) giving you temporary custody of your child and/or establishing temporary parenting time; (f) establishing temporary child support and/or spousal support; (g) awarding you temporary use/possession of personal property you shared with the abuser, (h) ordering the abuser to compensate you for your medical bills and/or lost income caused by the abuse; and (i) ordering any other relief that is necessary to protect you and your child, including ordering law enforcement to assist you.

You can obtain information about getting an Order for Protection by contacting court administration in the county where you live.  You can fill out paperwork at the court house and a judge will review it.  After reviewing your paperwork, a judge can give you an Ex parte Order for Protection” which is issued without prior notice to the abuser because there is an “immediate and present danger of domestic abuse”.  The Ex Parte Order is then served on the abuser by law enforcement.  The Ex Parte Order will give you protection until there is a full hearing on your allegations of abuse.  At the hearing you will present evidence of the abuse and the alleged abuser will present a defense.  After hearing all the evidence, the judge can either dismiss the Ex Parte Order, or it the judge finds abuse, she can issue an Order for Protection for up to two years, or longer if appropriate. Lastly, a violation of an Order for Protection can be a criminal offense resulting in imprisonment.

Take-away:   COVID-19 has forced many of us to be in close quarters in our homes for long periods of time.  More than ever, we all need to feel safe and secure.  If you think you are the victim of domestic abuse, please contact Attorney Kathleen M. Newman of the DeWitt LLP law firm.  Ms. Newman and her team will effectively guide you to the legal protections you need.   

Source: Minn. Stat. § 518B.01