It is not unusual in divorce and family law cases for issues to arise that pertain to harassment. Not harassment as in physical or sexual assault, or residential picketing (although these do constitute harassment by statute). It is the form of harassment defined as “repeated incidents of intrusive or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that have a substantial adverse effect or are intended to have a substantial adverse effect on the safety, security, or privacy of another, regardless of the relationship between the actor and the intended target.” Minn. Stat. Section 609.748, subd. 1(a)(1).
What is an unwanted act in one person’s view is completely innocuous in another person’s view – especially when the two persons involved do not get along. Therefore, it is necessary to clearly identify that something (such as showing up unannounced at one’s residence, or sending hostile emails) is unwanted. It is a matter of setting the record straight, for example, on whether a rash of emails is hostile or harmless.
Essentially, it is a 3-strike rule. Strike 1: Offender engages in conduct that Recipient considers hostile, but Offender considers (or claims to be) harmless. Recipient is fed up, and so informs Offender in writing. Recipient is well served to make it clear in the written correspondence that Recipient (a) finds the act to be hostile, not harmless; (b) therefore, future similar conduct is unwanted; and (c) legal action will be taken if Offender persists. Strike 2: Offender persists with hostile conduct. Under these circumstances, the act squarely fits the statutory definition of harassment, because Recipient has clearly called out the fact that the conduct is unwanted. Offender cannot reasonably claim that the conduct is innocuous when Recipient has identified the “unwantedness” in writing. If Recipient is successful in obtaining a Harassment Restraining Order from the court restraining Offender from the unwanted conduct, that leads to… Strike 3: Offender further persists with hostile conduct, and is subject to arrest and prosecution.