Orders of Protection
This is an order you can get from the court to protect you from being abused by a person who is:
• your spouse or ex-spouse,
• someone you live with or used to live with,
• your current or former sexual partner, or
• someone you are related to by blood or marriage.
There are two types of orders of protection:
Ex-Parte Order of Protection
This is a temporary order that the judge may order for you if he/she believes that you are in immediate danger. An Ex-Parte Order is granted without holding a hearing and without the abuser’s knowledge or consent. An Ex-Parte Order lasts until your court hearing for a Full Order of Protection.
Full Order of Protection
This is an order issued after the court hearing during which both you and your abuser will have a chance to tell the judge your side of the story.
You may also file for an Order of Protection against someone who is stalking or harassing you, regardless of your relationship with that person. The stalking or harassment act must have happened more than one time.
If you are responsible for a minor child, you can ask for an order on behalf of the child. If both you and your child are being abused, you should file a petition for an Order of Protection yourself, and a separate petition for a Child Order of Protection for your child.
You can go to the circuit court in the county:
• where you live, or
• where the person who abused or stalked you lives, or
• where the abuse occurred.
There are no court filing fees.
Go to the circuit clerk’s office and ask for a petition for a Full Order of Protection. Also tell the clerk that you want an Ex-Parte order. You can fill out the petition at the courthouse or take it with you to fill out somewhere else. If you have trouble understanding the form, ask the clerk, a friend, or an advocate for assistance.
Some County Circuit Courts ask you to use their special forms when asking for an Order of Protection. Check with your County Courthouse to obtain a copy of their forms. First ask the Court Clerk if your County requires special forms. Generally, however, most other counties will accept these general forms approved by the Missouri Supreme Court. They are provided for use by The Office of the State Courts Administrator (OSCA).
You are the petitioner, and the person who abused you is the respondent. Describe the abuse with as much detail as you can remember, using descriptive language (hitting, strangling, threatening, etc.) that best describes the incident. Make certain to advise the court if a weapon was used against you. Include dates if possible.
In the last section of the form, where you are asking the court to give certain orders, be sure to check all of the boxes that apply to you. You can change your mind later and drop any requests. However, if you leave the boxes unchecked, the judge may not allow you to ask for those remedies later, since the respondent was not put on notice.
You are not required to reveal your address on your petition. However, if you have moved to a different county to escape your abuser, and file a petition in the county of your new residence, the abuser will know, from the court papers, the county in which you now live.
The petition has to be notarized. This means that you must sign the petition, swearing that it is true, in front of the clerk, or a notary. The clerk will then forward your petition to the judge. The clerk may also ask you to complete a Adult Abuse Service Information form. On this form, write down where the respondent can be found. This will allow the police or sheriff to find the respondent to serve the court papers.
Maybe; each county is different. In some counties, the judge will always want to talk with you. In some counties if your petition has enough information, the judge may give you the Ex-Parte Order of Protection without talking to you. For more specific information, you should call the circuit clerk of your county.
Yes. A police officer or sheriff will “serve” the petition, notice of hearing, and a copy of the Ex-Parte order, if you received one, on the respondent.
What if the Respondent Does not Live in Missouri?
The court will order out of state service.
You should still go to the hearing at the scheduled time. The judge will continue the hearing and set a new date. This might happen several times before the respondent is served. You may want to consider hiring a special process server if you are having difficulty getting the respondent served. If after three or four continuances, the respondent still cannot be found, your petition will most likely be dismissed. You may file a new petition if the respondent shows up later and you still believe that you need an Order of Protection.
Yes, you must go to the hearing. If you do not go, the judge will dismiss your case and if you have an Ex-Parte order, it will end. If you have a very compelling reason why you cannot attend the hearing, you may ask the judge in writing for another hearing date. The judge will decide whether to postpone the hearing or not.
Many order of protection cases are handled without a lawyer. However, it is almost always to your advantage to have a lawyer. In particular, if you believe the respondent will have a lawyer, or if there are complicated issues to be raised in your case, it may be important to have a lawyer represent you. If you want a lawyer for the hearing, call one as soon as possible. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may be able to get one through one of Missouri’s Legal Aid Programs. Your local domestic violence project may also be able to offer assistance.
At the hearing, you will have to prove to the judge that the respondent has abused you or your child in one of these ways:
• trying to hurt you or touch you in a hurtful way, including in a sexual manner.
• making you afraid of being hurt, for example, by threatening, harassing, or tormenting you.
• forcing you into doing something against your will, or using force to prevent you from doing something you have the right to do.
• repeatedly following you or hanging around near your home or work place to keep an eye on you
• kidnapping you or treating you like a prisoner.
You must convince the judge that you need protection, and of the other things that you asked for in your order.
Gather any evidence you need to show the court
This evidence could include:
• police reports
• medical reports
• dated pictures of your injuries
• a threatening letter from the respondent
• 911 tapes
Decide if you will call any witnesses to testify
Remember that any witnesses that you call to testify should have seen the abuse or the injuries from the abuse.
Prepare your testimony about the respondent’s behavior
To show the court why you need a Full Order of Protection. You must testify that the respondent:
• physically harmed you; or
• tried to physically harm you; or
• tried to scare you by threats, intimidation, or harassment; or
• forced you to stay with him/her by threats or by physical means; or
• threatened to harm someone you care about; or
• follows you wherever you go; to work, school, etc.
Decide what relief you want the court to grant
Court relief may include any or all of the following:
• A Full Order of Protection.
• Custody of children you and the respondent have together. If you are seeking custody of the children, and feel that the respondent should have supervised visitation only, be prepared to tell the judge why you believe supervision is necessary, and have someone in mind to supervise. This could include a grandparent, other relative, or trusted friend. Some, but not all, counties have programs for supervised visitation. You may also request the court appoint a guardian ad litem, a lawyer to represent the best interest of your child(ren), if you believe the respondent is a danger to your child(ren) and you are asking the judge to limit his/her visitation.
• Child support. If you are seeking child support, be prepared to advise the judge of your income and the income of the respondent. It will be helpful if you have a recent pay stub for each of you.
• Possession of your residence. If this is something you are asking for, ask the court to have the respondent turn over his/her keys at the time the order is issued.
• Personal property. If possible you should bring receipts indicating it is your property that you are asking for. If you or the respondent are to exchange property, ask the court to set a specific time in the Order to allow the police to accompany to the respondent when picking up the property.
• Maintenance payments. Have a budget prepared in order to show the court exactly how much you need. Be prepared to testify accurately regarding both your income and the income of the respondent.
• Order the respondent into counseling for batterers or substance abusers.
Practice your testimony
Your testimony should be specific and to the point. Tell the court what happened in your own words, but be specific; for example, “we argued, and the respondent grabbed my throat and began strangling me.” If you are nervous, you may want to take notes to court with you. However, be aware that if you use the notes while testifying, the respondent may be allowed to see what you have written.
• Arrive at court on time.
• Dress appropriately; do not wear shorts, cut-off jeans or revealing clothing.
• Stand when the judge enters the courtroom.
• Address the judge as “Your Honor” and speak directly to him/her.
• If the respondent appears, do not speak directly to, or argue with him/her.
• Be prepared to spend several hours in court. There could be many hearings besides yours.
The court will call your case, at which time you should go to the bench and politely identify yourself.
• If the respondent has not been served, the judge will ask you if you want a continuance in order that the court can still attempt to obtain service on him/her.
• If the respondent has been served, but does not appear, the judge may ask you questions to determine whether an Order of Protection is appropriate.
• If the respondent appears and agrees to the issuance of the Order of Protection, the judge will usually issue the order without a hearing.
• If the respondent appears, and does not agree to the issuance of the Full Order of Protection, a hearing will be held.
If a hearing is held, you will be sworn in and then asked to testify. As the petitioner, you will testify first. You should tell the judge why you filed for the order and what relief you are seeking (the Order of Protection, child support, supervised visitation, etc). Show the judge any paperwork that you brought with you. If you have witnesses to testify, they will testify after you are done testifying.
The respondent will then testify. You will then be given the opportunity to question the respondent at the conclusion of his/her testimony. The respondent’s witnesses, if any, will then testify. You will then be able to question the witness(es). If you disagree with the testimony of the respondent or his witness(es), do not interrupt him/her. Write down the questions that you want to ask, and wait until the testimony is finished to respond.
Once all of the testimony is concluded, the judge will decide whether to
issue an Order of Protection. The Order will be in effect for six months to one year. The Order can be extended two times. If the Order is issued, you will be given a copy of it before you leave the courtroom. The clerk will forward a copy of the Order to your local police or sheriff’s office.
You should call the police immediately and make a report so that the police can determine if an arrest should be made. Even if the police do not take a report from you following the violation, you should file a report yourself at the police station. You should keep a copy of the Order on you at all times, so that you can show it to the police in the event that the respondent does violate it. If the Order includes a custody order, be sure to provide a copy of the Order to all your child(ren)’s caregivers and to their school administrator.
To extend your Order of Protection, you should return to the Adult Abuse Office located in the court in which you initially filed. No new abuse need have occurred in order to file for an extension of the original Order. You should file the Motion for Extension at least four weeks prior to the end of your original Order. If you fail to do so, and the original Order expires, you will have to prove that a new instance of abuse has occurred in order to obtain a new Order of Protection.
To change or modify your Order, the same procedure is followed. You should file a Motion to Modify, stating the changes that you are requesting. The respondent will have to be served, and another hearing will be held. At that hearing you need to tell the judge what changes you need, and why you need them.
Your Order of Protection is valid everywhere in Missouri. In addition, federal law provides that an Order of Protection issued by another state or territory is enforceable in every state. If you relocate to another state, you should contact the court clerk in your new area to determine the state and county policies for registering your Order of Protection. The Order of Protection will be enforceable as long as it is in effect in the issuing state.
If you relocate to Missouri from another state, you will need to file a certified copy of the Order of Protection issued from that state and an affidavit swearing that the certified copy of the Order of Protection is a true and accurate copy. There is no cost for registering an Order of Protection issued by another state.
Keep in mind that when you register your Order of Protection in another state, the respondent will most likely be sent a copy of the petition and Order of Protection by mail. The respondent will then know the state and county in which you are living.
The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence is a grass roots organization of community-based programs providing services to battered women and their children.
Missouri Police and Sheriff's Offices. Addresses and contact information.
Missouri County Courthouses. Addresses and contact information.
How to Handle Anger. A Missouri Bar pamphlet.
Marriage. A Missouri Bar pamphlet.
Divorce. A Missouri Bar pamphlet.
Juveniles and the Law. A Missouri Bar pamphlet.
Child Support in Missouri. A Missouri Bar pamphlet.
Adoption. A Missouri Bar pamphlet.
You Are Still Parents. A Missouri Bar pamphlet.
Assistance to Parents of Children with Disabilities. A Missouri Bar pamphlet.
Domestic Violence and the Law (A practical guide for survivors). A Missouri Bar pamphlet.
Personal Safety Plan. From the Family Violence Prevention Fund.
Personal Safety Plan. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Getting Help. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Workplace Guidelines. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Workplace Safety Plan. Family Violence Prevention Fund.
Prepared by Missouri legal aid lawyers. October, 2004.
Sometimes the laws change. We cannot promise that this information is always up-to-date and correct. If the date above is not this year, call us to see if there is an update.
We provide this information as a public service. It is not legal advice. By sending you this information, we are not acting as your lawyer. Always consult a lawyer, if you can, before taking legal action.
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