What is an order of protection?
Orders of Protection are civil court orders issued by a judge for victims of abuse, stalking, harassment, or sexual assault. It is a crime for a person to violate an Order of Protection that is issued against them.
What kind of conduct does an Order of Protection protect against?
- Physical harm
- Threatening to cause physical harm
- Forcing someone to do something against their will
- A person commits the offense of harassment by engaging in a purposeful or knowing course of conduct involving more than one incident that alarms or causes distress to an adult or child and serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable adult or child to suffer substantial emotional distress and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the petitioner or child.
- There must be 2 or more events that have occurred for a victim to file for an order of protection under harassment. This means that if only one incident has occurred, a Judge will not sign off on an order of protection.
- Examples: someone following you, peering inside your window, or lingering outside your home.
- Confining or holding someone against their will
- Repeated Stalking:
- A person commits the offense of stalking if he or she purposely disturbs (i.e., causes a reasonable person to be frightened, intimidated, or emotionally distressed) or follows with the intent of disturbing another person and at least one of the following:
- Makes a threat communicated with the intent to cause the person who is threatened to reasonably fear for his or her safety, the safety of his or her family or household member, or the safety of domestic animals or livestock and the threat is against the life of, to cause physical injury to, or the kidnapping of the person, the person’s family or household members, or the person’s domestic animal or livestock.
- The person’s conduct violates an order of protection, and the person has received actual notice of such order.
- The person’s conduct violates a condition of probation, parole, pretrial release, or release on bond pending appeal.
- At any time during the course of the conduct the victim is seventeen years of age or younger and the person disturbing the minor is twenty-one years of age or older.
- The person committing the disturbing acts has been found guilty of domestic assault, violation of an order of protection, or any other crime where the person being disturbed was the victim.
- At any time during the course of conduct, the victim is a participant of the address confidentiality program and the person committing the disturbing acts knowingly accessed or attempted to access the victim’s address.
- There must be a pattern of conduct composed of two or more acts, including communication by any means, over a period of time.
- If there is no current or prior romantic relationship between the victim and abuser, this is the only offense that can be filed for an Order of Protection.
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse toward a child.
Who are the parties?
In the legal process, a person who seeks an Order of Protection is called a “Petitioner” and the person whom an order is sought against is called the “Respondent.”
Who can file an Order of Protection?
Missouri law allows a victim of abuse, stalking, harassment, or sexual assault to seek and obtain an Order of Protection without an attorney and without cost. You must however, be at least 17 years old or be emancipated (“on your own,” such as married or a member of the military).
You can file for an Order of Protection for domestic violence if you are 17 years of age or older or otherwise emancipated (if you are younger than 17, your parent or guardian may file for you against a Respondent older or younger than 17), and you are a family or household member as defined by law as follows:
- If you are the spouse or former spouse of the abuser;
- If you have a child in common with the abuser;
- If you are the current or former live-in girlfriend or boyfriend of the abuser;
- If you are related by blood or marriage to the abuser; or
- If you have been in a dating relationship with the abuser, defined as a “continuing social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.”
***If filing for an Order of Protection against an individual who is not a relative nor a romantic partner, you can only file under Stalking.
How do I file for an Order of Protection?
File a verified petition alleging the domestic violence, stalking, harassment, or sexual assault that you experienced by the respondent.
Where do I file?
You can file for an Order of Protection in the circuit clerk’s office during business hours, located in the county courthouse:
- Where you live;
- Where the alleged abuse occurred; or
- Anywhere the Respondent can be served (where the Respondent lives, works, etc.).
A petition seeking an order of protection is not required to reveal a current address or place of residence except to the court for purposes of filing in the correct location. The petitioner may be required to provide a mailing address unless the petitioner alleges that he or she would be endangered by such disclosure, or that other family or household members would be endangered by such disclosure.
If it is after business hours or on a holiday and the court is not open, you can call your local police, sheriff’s department or domestic violence program to find out where you can fill out a petition for an Order of Protection.
Will my contact information be released in an Order of Protection?
If you do not feel safe with the Respondent knowing where you live, or if you have moved to a new address unknown to the Respondent, you have the right to request that your address not be disclosed in the court documents.
Missouri’s Safe at Home program allows you to establish a PO Box address in Jefferson
City through the office of the Secretary of State. Your mail will be forwarded to you.
(Call 866-509-1409 or visit www.sos.mo.gov)
What do I file?
You will need to fill out a written application form, called a Petition for Order of Protection. This form is available at the circuit clerk’s office. When you go to the courthouse to fill out the Petition, you should bring any documentation or proof of the abuse, stalking, or sexual assault.
Can I get help to complete the forms?
Reach out to your county clerk to see if they can provide you the necessary forms and explain how to file them. Clerk may provide such assistance, however the clerks are not attorneys and cannot give you legal advice.
Domestic violence program advocates and staff in some circuit clerk’s offices can assist you in the process for filing for an Order of Protection. Domestic violence program advocates often can go with you to court.
Types of Orders of Protection
Ex Parte – This is a temporary emergency order issued to protect the petitioner until a court hearing occurs.
Full Order of Protection – This is an order entered after the court hears the evidence. It can be issued for up to one year and may be renewed.
Do I need an attorney?
Missouri law allows a victim of abuse, stalking or sexual assault to seek and obtain an Order of Protection without an attorney and without cost. Sometimes people will hire an attorney to help them through the process.
How much does it cost to file an Order of Protection?
There is no filing fee, court cost, or bond required to file for an order of protection.
What happens after I file for an Order of Protection?
Upon the filing of a verified petition and for good cause shown in the petition, the court may immediately issue an ex parte order of protection. An immediate and present danger of domestic violence to the petitioner or the child on whose behalf the petition is filed shall constitute good cause. An ex parte order of protection entered by the court shall take effect when entered and shall remain in effect until there is valid service of process and a hearing is held on the motion. The order is given to a local law enforcement agency and entered into a statewide computerized records system used by law enforcement.