Part 1: The Differences Between OFPs and HROs
Orders For Protection (OFPs) and Harassment Restraining Orders (HROs) are terms often used interchangeably by the general public. There are actually important differences between these legal documents. Filing a restraining order can be one of the most important things you can do to move toward a safe life.
OFPs and HROs are court documents against your abuser, rapist, stalker, or assailant. The documents order the perpetrator to stay away from you and spell out penalties if they violate the order. OFPs and HROs give you some powerful friends. Both are an order from a judge (representing The People) to your perpetrator. If the perp violates the order, then it is not just your problem any more. The entire power structure of the county rises up to enforce the order and protect you.
OFPs and HROs have gotten some bad press over the years. Dear Abby used to say they weren't worth the paper they're written on. While that may be overstating the issue, it is important to know what they can and cannot do. Statutes can and do vary by state and country. It's important to contact an advocate or attorney to learn about the specific laws where you live.
In Minnesota, an OFP is stronger than an HRO. It provides more protection, specifies how far the perpetrator has to stay away from you (and your children, if applicable), allows applications for monetary compensation, and deals with temporary custody of children. An OFP can be amended after it is granted, allowing you to change it as your situation changes. But the OFP can only be used against someone who is related to you in some way: husband, boyfriend, someone with whom you have had a significant sexual relationship, someone with whom you have had a child, or someone with a blood relationship to you, such as a sibling or parent. The OFP is also complicated. It can take two and a half to three hours for a trained advocate to properly fill out the forms.
The paperwork for an HRO can usually be completed in an hour or less. The Minnesota version is only two pages long. It simply asks for details of the harassment. If granted, an HRO tells the perpetrator to stop doing whatever he's doing. There are no contingencies for compensation, there are no details about maintaining distance, and HROs don't address custody issues. HROs can not be amended. This isn't a big weakness, because there isn't much detail to amend. Filing an HRO costs over $100, although any crisis center can get the fee waived for you. Generally speaking, you would only choose an HRO if you don't qualify for an OFP.