Missouri residents can obtain a restraining order if they are victims of stalking, harassment, coercion or other form of personal abuse. The order forbids and makes it a crime for the accused to continue the abusive behavior. Missouri law allows a victim to file for a restraining order at the local circuit court. The court can issue an immediate temporary restraining order. Victims should then attend a court hearing to obtain a full restraining order.
Restraining Order Basics
Any victim of stalking may file for a Missouri restraining order. Other types of abuse that may form the basis of a restraining order include assault, battery, harassment, coercion, unlawful imprisonment and sexual assault. However, the abuser must have one of the following relationships to the victim in cases of non-stalking abuse: current or former spouse; adult family or household member; or a continuing romantic, intimate or social relationship. Additionally, the victim may file if the victim and abuser have a child together.
Although you may use an attorney or file for a restraining order on your own behalf, additional resources are available to help you through the process. The prosecutor's offices in numerous Missouri counties house crime victim advocates who can assist you in petitioning the court for a restraining order. If you're fleeing domestic violence, local shelters also maintain staff workers capable of guiding you through the legal processes necessary to protect yourself and your family.
Filing the Documents
Visit the circuit court clerk in the county where you and the abuser live, where any of the abuse took place or where authorities may deliver a copy of the protective order to the abuser. If the victim appears alone, the Missouri Adult Abuse Act requires the circuit court to explain the procedure for obtaining a restraining order. The court will provide all the necessary petition forms. Request instructions to file for an "ex parte order of protection." This order is a temporary restraining order that you can receive without giving notice to the accused. You do not have to pay a fee for a Missouri order of protection.
Discussing Your Case
Speak to the judge who receives your petition. Explain every instance of abuse when the judge asks you what happened. Photographs or other evidence of abuse may help you obtain the order. The judge should issue the temporary order of protection and schedule a hearing, generally within 15 days. The judge will order the authorities to deliver the order to the accused. If you feel additional threats will follow official delivery, find a safe place to stay, such as with friends or family or at a shelter.
Attend the hearing to get a full restraining order that lasts a minimum of 180 days and a maximum of one year. Bring any witnesses to the abuse to support your case. You may also request two renewals from the judge.
Staying Safe Long-Term
Contact police every time the abuser violates the order. You should also alert neighbors, co-workers and family members to be on the lookout for the abuser.
On days when the circuit courts are closed, one judge and clerk remain on call to process emergency petitions. Filings may take place at a city police station or county sheriff's office.
The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence may also offer information and support for abuse victims (see Resources). This nonprofit organization can also sometimes refer victims to a local domestic violence shelter for protection against an abuser. Victims may contact the organization at 573-634-4161.