Legal Issues

Partner abuse in LGBT relationships may be complicated by the fact that the legal system may or may not have laws that directly address LGBT relationships.  The laws that do exist may not be applied equally to LGBT and non-LGBT people.  A final layer of complication is added, because states may have differing laws related to LGBT relationships.  The following is a list of legal issues that may affect LGBT people in abusive relationships.

Partner Abuse Laws

Wisconsin’s partner abuse and sexual assault laws are relatively progressive and protect both LGBT and non-LGBT individuals.  They apply to couples across a gamut of relationships from newly dating couples to long-term partners.

  • Wisconsin’s laws regarding partner abuse are written in gender neutral language
  • Laws in Wisconsin protect people in many relationships including dating relationships
  • Mandatory arrest laws apply to LGBT domestic partners

Civil Protection Orders

Restraining orders (also called civil protection orders) are available to members of LGBT individuals in the state of Wisconsin.  For information on how to obtain a restraining order, click here.

Second Parent Adoptions

Adoption laws in Wisconsin are not as progressive as partner abuse laws.  Because abusers in partner abuse situations may use children, laws regarding child guardianship and custody are especially important to those experiencing abuse.

  • Wisconsin does not allow second parent adoptions
  • Second parents are not given guardianship rights
  • Couples parenting jointly should, if possible, file a joint parenting agreement in order to protect both parents’ rights
  • The parent with guardianship rights can potentially wield more power in the relationship than the parent without parental rights

Marriage & Civil Unions

Neither marriages nor civil unions are legal in the state of Wisconsin.  Domestic partnerships are legal in the state.  When possible, couples should legally draw up documents that lay out how property should be divided between the two parties.  Wisconsin’s domestic partnership registry contains a limited discussion of division of property between domestic partners.  An abusive partner could take property from a survivor and use a survivor’s possessions as a method of abuse.

Other Resources