An order of protection can make it a crime to contact a person in any undesired way. You can file for an order of protection when you have experienced physical abuse or stalking in the recent past and fear that you are at risk of further abuse or stalking.
Individuals age 17 and over can file for orders of protection for themselves or on behalf of any children in their custody. Individuals under the age of 16 must have an adult file for an order of protection on their behalf.
The steps to obtaining an order of protection are as follows:
1. File the Paperwork. The necessary paperwork for an order of protection for an adult, called a petition, can be obtained at your local courthouse or police station. To a file a petition, you must have an address (usually home or work) or other specific location where the other person can be found and served. If the other party cannot be served with a copy of your petition, then your order cannot be granted. In St. Louis County, there are non-lawyer advocates at the courthouse who can help you file the petition.
Note: When filling out the petition, some forms leave very little room to describe the events that caused you to file for an order of protection. Additional pages may be added to provide as much information as possible. It is helpful to include a chronological list of incidents that describe the abuse over the recent past.
2. Ex Parte Order. If the information provided in the petition shows an immediate danger of abuse, the court may issue what is called an “ex parte” order of protection. This is an emergency order that takes effect immediately when it is issued and remains in effect until the other party is served and the case goes to court for a hearing. If you have been issued an ex parte order of protection, then you should call the police if the person you filed against violates the order in any way. If you were not granted an ex parte order of protection, your case is still active, it just means that the judge wants to hear from you directly before making a decision. Either way, you will be assigned a court date for a hearing that you are required to attend.
3. Hearing. Within 15 days after the petition is filed, you will go to court for a hearing. It is possible that the hearing will be postponed and scheduled for a later date if the court finds good cause for doing so. In that event, an ex parte order remains in effect until the new hearing date.
At this hearing, you must prove the allegations in your petition by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which means that the court believes the statements in the petition are more likely true than not. You can prove the allegations with police reports, medical records, pictures, text messages, emails, recordings, and most importantly, your own testimony.
4. Decision. If the person filing the petition proves the allegations of abuse or stalking, the court will issue a full order of protection that remains in effect for anywhere from 6 months to 1 year, depending on what the court deems to be appropriate. If the court feels like you did not adequately prove the allegations in the petition, then your case may be dismissed. Even if your case is dismissed, you can file another petition if another incident takes place.
A lawyer at Jane Doe is available to coach you through the process of getting an order of protection. Because of the nature of these orders, coaching sessions are available to anyone filing for an order of protection, not just to survivors of sexual abuse. At each coaching session, we will:
- Answer questions about your current situation,
- Prepare testimony so that you know what to say in court,
- Sort through evidence to create admissible exhibits,
- Brainstorm witnesses and other sources of evidence,
- Create a personalized hearing plan for your case, and
- Discuss the underlying situation and holistic legal options.
To talk with a lawyer about an order of protection please call Jane Doe at 314.329.5339.
To schedule a safe time for one of our lawyers to call you, please click here.