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 some Missouri counties, there are non-lawyer advocates at the courthouse who can help you fill out the paperwork and file the petition. Keep in mind that there may be legal implications for what you choose to include in your paperwork. If possible, you may always consult a lawyer for help with the initial paperwork.
2. Ex Parte Order. If the information provided in the petition shows an immediate danger of further 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 may be able to prove the allegations with evidence such as police reports, medical records, pictures, text messages, emails, recordings, and most importantly, your own testimony. During the hearing, you may be subject to questions from the judge and/or cross-examination by your alleged abuser.
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 or if you come across more evidence to present to the court.
Do you need help with an order of protection?
We at Jane Doe are happy to coach you through the process of getting an order of protection. Because of the nature of these orders, legal help is available to anyone filing for an order of protection, not just to survivors of sexual abuse.
Please Note: More direct legal representation is available for 17-year olds and high school students seeking an order of protection. To learn more, please visit the section on Child Advocacy.
You can register for a coaching session with a lawyer at Jane Doe by selecting the phase of the process you currently need assistance with:
Phase 1: Filing the Paperwork
The first phase of the coaching process helps you fill out the paperwork required to file for an order of protection. At this session we will do the following:
- Discuss your current situation and ascertain the goal(s) of the order of protection
- Complete the paperwork to file for an order of protection with the assistance of an attorney
- Briefly discuss the filing and hearing process so that you know what to expect
- Create an action plan for what to do if you get or do not get the immediate ex parte order of protection
A Phase 1 coaching session is most appropriate for those who want to make sure that their petition is legally sound and structured. This is ideal for those who have experienced a severe incident of abuse and/or a pattern of abuse that has been running over a period of time.
Online registration and scheduling coming soon! To schedule a Phase 1 coaching session, please call 314-329-5339.
Phase 2: Hearing Preparation
The next phase of the coaching process helps you prepare for the hearing on your order of protection. At this session we will do the following:
- Prepare testimony so that you know what to say in court
- Sort through evidence to create valid exhibits
- Brainstorm witnesses and other sources of evidence
- Create a personalized hearing plan for your case
- Talk about how to represent yourself in court
(If you are truly unable to represent yourself, we will also discuss options for representation by a Jane Doe lawyer.)
A Phase 2 coaching session is most appropriate for those who want to make sure that they are ready to present a sound, cohesive case in court. This is ideal for those who may not have a lot of material evidence of the abuse and/or those who know that the opposing party has hired a lawyer to represent them in court. You may register for Phase 2 even if you did not complete Phase 1 at Jane Doe.
Online registration and scheduling coming soon! To schedule a Phase 2 coaching session, please call 314-329-5339.
Phase 3: Hearing Follow-Up
Even if your order of protection is granted, it will expire after 1-2 years. If your order is not granted, you may go back to court and request one again if you need to. The final phase of the coaching process helps you create a long-term action plan for the issue that took you to court in the first place. At this session we will do the following:
- Answer any questions you may have about the order of protection process and your experience
- Identify any long-term legal issues that result from your situation
- Create a long-term action plan to address underlying legal issues
A Phase 3 coaching session is most appropriate for those who want to talk about how to best utilize their order of protection or, if your order was denied, how to collect evidence and decide when to try filing again. This is ideal for those who do not feel their situation has been fully resolved, those who were unsatisfied with previous lawyers, and those who have other ties to their abusers such as shared children, property, and/or assets.
Please Note: A Phase 3 coaching session is included free of charge to those who complete Phase 2 at Jane Doe. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org after your hearing to schedule your complimentary follow-up session.
Online registration and scheduling coming soon! To schedule a Phase 3 coaching session, please call 314-329-5339.
Want to talk to someone first?
We are happy to offer you a no-charge telephone consultation with a lawyer to make sure we can help you reach your goals before registering for your coaching session. To do this, call our office at 314-329-5339 between 9am-7pm CT, Monday-Friday.
If you you would rather pre-schedule a safe time to speak with an attorney, please click here.