Family violence is a sad fact of life for many Missourians, both adults and children. Whether it involves spouses, domestic partners, girlfriends or boyfriends or children, physical or sexual abuse or stalking can have lifelong effects. In some cases, family violence is fatal.
Who May Obtain an Order of Protection?
Missouri’s laws set forth who may seek a protective order, also commonly referred to as a restraining order. The guidelines differ slightly, depending on whether the victim is an adult or a child.
Adult Abuse Protective Order
A person who is 17 years of age or older and who has been subjected to or threatened with assault, battery, coercion, harassment, sexual assault, unlawful imprisonment or stalking may seek a restraining order against a family member, household member, current or former romantic partner or anyone with whom he or she has a child.
Child Abuse Protective Order
A child younger than 17 years who has experienced nonaccidental physical injury, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or stalking by current or former household members, a current or former romantic partner or anyone whom he or she has a child may be covered by a restraining order. A parent, guardian, guardian ad litem, court-appointed special advocate or juvenile officer must file a petition to obtain such an order.
How Does an Order of Protection Help?
An order of protection aids the victim of abuse in several ways:
- A judge is ordering an end to the abuse or harassing behavior.
- The abuser is ordered to stay away from the home, workplace or school of anyone protected by the order.
- The abuser is prohibited from telephoning, mailing, emailing or sending other types of messages to the victim.
- If the abuser and victim are adults who have children together, the abuser may be ordered to stay away from the children.
- The judge may order the abuser to pay medical expenses and reimburse the victim for property damage incurred during the abuse.
- If police must be called to address the abuser’s behavior, an order of protection alerts law enforcement ahead of time to the seriousness of the matter by indicating that the situation involves a history of problems.
How Is a Restraining Order Obtained in Missouri?
A victim of abuse, harassment or stalking does not need an attorney to obtain an order of protection, but having an experienced Missouri family lawyer on your side can help make the process much easier. A qualified attorney can provide advice on such important related issues as child support and child custody.
The victim may seek a temporary order of protection. Also known as an ex parte order of protection, this order may be granted when a judge believes that an immediate or present danger of abuse exists. The order is typically granted without the abuser present.
Within 15 days of granting an ex parte order of protection, the judge must hold a full hearing on the request; the abuser must receive at least 72 hours’ notice of the hearing. At the hearing, the judge will take testimony and review the evidence to decide whether to issue a full order of protection.
If the abuser is under the age of 17, once a judge enters the ex parte order of protection, the case is transferred to juvenile court where a full hearing on the restraining order will be held. If the abuser is not represented by a parent or guardian, the juvenile court will appoint a guardian ad litem.
The parties may sign what is known as a consent order of protection if the abuser agrees to the terms and conditions of the order, even if he or she does not admit to the abuse. A mutual order of protection may be entered if each party has filed an ex parte order of protection against the other