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Legal System

Legal System

Violence Free Minnesota develops resources to support member programs and victim/survivors  navigate the legal system.  


Victim/survivors often find themselves involved in legal systems beyond the criminal courts. Is housing in jeopardy due to repeat police calls? Is child protection concerned about the welfare of the children?  


Victim/survivors and their families may find help from a variety of court systems as well.


Is it helpful to seek a protective order? Are there specific protections for victims within the immigration system? 


We work across legal systems to make policies more responsive to victim/survivors.


Protective Orders

Protective orders are court orders that tell one person that they cannot have contact with another. Protective orders are known by many different names: no contact orders, stay-away orders, orders for protection. 


In Minnesota there are a number of different types of protective orders: 

  • Order for Protection (OFP): issued from state district court’s family court; 

  • Harassment Restraining Orders (HRO): issued from state district court’s general civil court; 

  • Domestic Abuse No Contact Orders (DANCOs): issued from state district court’s criminal court; 

  • Each tribal court in Minnesota issues their own protective orders. 

  • Protective Orders Available in Minnesota


Family Law Custody 

The family court system handles divorces and custody cases. When domestic violence is present in a family and the family is involved in a family court custody or parenting time dispute, the decisions made can have dangerous - and at times devastating - consequences that compromise the safety of the children, the safety of the parent, and the safety of those connected to the parents and children. 


We need family court laws and policy that promote safety and respond appropriately to domestic and sexual violence without barriers to parents raising those concerns. 



Child Protective Services

Children’s exposure to domestic violence – either being present in the home when relationship violence occurs or being witnesses to domestic abuse – has been a concern families, advocates, educators, communities, and the government have tried to address for decades.


We are committed to making thoughtful, clearly defined changes that do not deter families from seeking services; offer fully resourced responses; prioritize the safety of both the child and non-offending parent; and allow flexibility for individualized responses to address the safety needs for a child and family.  


Housing Ordinances (aka Nuisance Ordinances)

Access to safe, affordable housing and economic resources are necessary for victim/survivors to maintain safety.


Addressing housing and economic concerns includes working on legal issues that impact a survivor’s ability to access and maintain housing. 


Cities across the state and nation have passed local "crime-free" ordinances. These ordinances penalize landlords for frequent law enforcement calls to a specific property. These calls - often made in response to a "domestic dispute or disturbance" - can result in fines or eviction for tenants. "Crime free" ordinances have created housing problems for those experiencing relationship abuse. Violence Free Minnesota created an informational toolkit with strategies to address "crime-free" ordinances.




Immigrant and refugee survivors face increased barriers when accessing services and support.


Violence Free Minnesota’s member programs provide services to victim/survivors who are immigrants and refugees. Some member programs have specific expertise working with immigrant and refugee survivors. 


Immigrants who have experienced domestic or sexual violence or sex trafficking may qualify for specific relief under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA created the U-Visa for immigrant crime victims who cooperate with law enforcement. The U-Visa is a potential pathway to lawful immigration status and protection against deportation.


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