It is unimaginably painful to suffer from or watch a loved one suffer from domestic abuse. It can feel like an impossible situation with no way out and no solution. But victims have options. The State of Missouri offers two ways for victims to gain protection against their abusers.
Protective order vs. restraining order
A victim of domestic abuse can obtain an order of protection against their abuser.
An ex parte order of protection is a temporary measure that can be filed quickly. A full protection order, or restraining order, is granted after a court hearing and lasts for a longer period of time than the ex parte order.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt outlines these two methods of protecting adult victims of domestic violence in a resource booklet.
What is an order of protection?
A victim of stalking or abuse can file an order of protection against a current or former spouse, adult member of the family or household, any adult in a social, intimate, or romantic relationship, or a person the victim shares a child with.
To obtain an ex parte order of protection, the accused abuser does not have to be present. That order can prohibit the abuser from stalking, molesting, threatening, abusing, or disturbing the peace of the victim.
The ex parte order dictates that the abuser cannot enter the victim’s premises, cannot communicate with the victim through email or third parties, that certain personal property be turned over to the victim, and that the victim can obtain a temporary order of custody of minor children.
The ex parte order of protection can be obtained from the circuit court in the county where the victim resides, where abuse took place, or where the abuser can be served.
Victims do not require a lawyer to file an ex parte order and can approach the circuit clerk or county victim advocate for help filing papers. To contact a victim advocate in Boone County, call 573-886-4145 .
How long does the ex parte protection order last?
The order takes effect as soon as the judge grants it and lasts until the full protective order hearing is held, usually within 3-15 days.
What is a restraining order?
A full order of protection, also known as a restraining order, can only be issued following a full order hearing, which the victim must attend. This order cuts off all communication and contact between the abuser and the victim.
How does a restraining order work?
The full order can award custody of children and establish a visitation schedule in the best interest of the children, grant child support, and award maintenance if the abuser and victim are legally married.
It can dictate that the abuser contribute to the victim’s housing costs, hand over property such as cars or checks, and prohibit the abuser from selling shared property.
The order can mandate that the abuser participate in counseling or substance abuse treatment, as well as pay the victim’s attorney fees and medical costs.
How long does a restraining order last?
A full protective order is valid for 180 days or up to a year. However, a new act of abuse does not have to occur to renew the full order. Victims who move while under a protective order can conceal their new address through the Missouri Secretary of State’s Safe at Home program. Visit MoSafeAtHome.com for more information.
What if there is a violation of a protective order?
Protective order information will be logged within 24 hours and can be accessed by all law enforcement in Missouri. Orders of protection are enforceable throughout the entire state.
If the abuser is not obeying the protective order, a victim should call 911 and indicate an order of protection is in effect, if violence is imminent, or that domestic abuse has occurred before between the two parties.
Violation of a protective order is a Class A misdemeanor and is punishable by up to a $2,000 fine and one year in jail. If the abuser has been found guilty of violating a protective order in the previous five years, that new violation can become a Class E felony and is punishable by up to four years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
A protection order lawyer can walk you through the legal process, from filing a legal petition to obtaining a protective order to facilitating the filing of criminal charges should an abuser violate a protective order. Benner Family Law has a decade of experience in domestic violence law in Columbia, Missouri, and can help your or your family members escape domestic abuse situations.