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How courts can protect you from domestic abuse

34026887_S.jpgVictims of domestic violence do not have to suffer alone. Missouri courts offer protection from acts, attempts, or threats of abuse and stalking. Under the Missouri Domestic Violence Act, victims of domestic abuse can petition for a protection order.

In addition to prohibiting an abuser from committing any further acts or threats of violence, protection orders can also provide other means of keeping you safe. For example, the protection order can prohibit the abuser from contacting you or can order the abuser to stay a certain distance away from locations such as your home, or work. Protection orders can also require the abuse to do things like surrender firearms, attend counseling, or move out of your home. 

To qualify for a protection order, you must meet certain requirements. First, both you and the alleged abuser must be over the age of 17 or legally emancipated. You must also be a family or household member or intimate partner of the abuser. Examples of these include spouses or ex-spouses, relatives, and people who have been in romantic or intimate relationships with the abuser or have had a child with the abuser.

If you fall under one of these categories, you may petition the court for a protection order. After you fill out a petition and file it with the court, the petition is immediately given to a judge. The judge has the discretion to grant the protection order if he or she finds that you are in imminent danger. This is called an ex parte order of protection because only the victim is involved--the abuser is not present.

Once an ex parte protection order is granted, it goes immediately into effect. At that point, the judge will schedule a hearing to determine if a full order of protection is warranted.

It is important to remember that the protection order cannot prevent an abuser from hurting you. However, it allows you to call the police and have the abuser arrested if they violate the order.

While Missouri courts offer resources to help victims of domestic violence, the process of obtaining a protection order can be intimidating. To ensure that your rights are protected throughout this process, it may be helpful to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney.

Source: Courts.mo.gov, "Adult Abuse/Stalking Forms," Accessed April 26, 2015

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