Feeling Safe in Your Own Home – Orders of Protection

Each year, thousands of Missourians become victims of domestic violence.  While most people think of domestic violence as a women’s issue, Kathleen has had both male and female clients that have been stuck in a pattern of verbal abuse that often turns violent late at night when the abuser gets his or her hands on alcohol.  While the victims of abuse often think they can handle the abuser, their kids often see and hear much more than the victims think.

Domestic violence can take many different forms and can have life-altering effects for you and your children.  However, help is available

State law allows courts to issue Orders of Protection to protect victims of abuse or victims from the threat of abuse.  An Order of Protection can order the accused abuser not to abuse, threaten to abuse, molest, stalk or disturb the peace.  The Order of Protection can also order the accused abuser not to enter the premises of your home whether you own, lease, rent, or are just temporarily staying at a home.  It can also order specific personal property to be turned back over to you, as well as order the abuser not to communicate with you in any way, including over the internet.

The following acts are considered abuse:

  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Coercion
  • Sexual assault
  • Unlawful imprisonment
  • Harassment
  • Stalking

A victim may seek an Order of Protection if the abuser is a family or household member or intimate partner.  If the abuser is stalking you, then the abuser does not need to be a family or household member.   The following relationships are considered “family or household member” for purposes of Orders of Protection:

  • Spouses, former spouses of the abuser
  • Related by blood or marriage to the abuser
  • Reside together with the abuser
  • Resided in the past with the abuser
  • Have or had a continuing romantic or intimate relationship with the abuser
  • Have a child in common with the abuser

What if Your Child is a Victim of Abuse?

If your child is being abused by your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or even a classmate, you as the parent need to consider filing an Order of Protection on his or her behalf.  If your child is 17 years old or older, he or she can file an adult Order of Protection.

With more and more children using social media to bully their classmates, it has become much easier for kids to fall victim of abuse in the form of stalking.  Stalking is the purposeful and repeated engaging in unwanted course of conduct that causes a reasonable person alarm.

The following story illustrates the behavior that can be considered stalking through the text messages and social media.  Anne is a freshman in high school.  She made friends with an older student, Sam.  Sam would confide in Anne about his troubled home life and about his intimate thoughts.  Anne soon began to be worried about Sam.  After she expressed her concern for Sam, Sam started sending very scary text messages to Anne.  Anne went to her parents with her situation with Sam.  Her parents were very alarmed about Sam and the things he was saying to their daughter.  One text message that Sam had sent to Anne said “I am going to kill myself if you do not respond to me.”  Anne’s parents immediately called Sam’s parents once seeing this.  After a long discussion with the school counselor, Sam’s parents, and Anne’s parents, it was decided that it was best if Sam did not have any more contact with Anne.  However, Sam continued to send Anne threatening text messages as well as Facebook posts and Facebook messages.  Finally, Sam sent Anne a message saying that he was going to kill her.  Anne’s parents filed an Order of Protection on behalf of Anne.  As a result of the Order of Protection being granted, Sam had to attend a different school in order to keep Anne safe.

The original petition for an Order of Protection is called an “Ex parte Order.”  This means that the court can grant the Order without the alleged abuser present.  After this petition is granted, the alleged abuser is then served with the Order.  Shortly after,  you and the alleged abuser will go to court for a hearing on the “Full Order.”  It is an important consideration to have an attorney with you through this process.  The Full Order hearing will be like a mini-trial where you will have to provide the court with evidence proving that the alleged abuser is engaged in a pattern of abuse.  Also, if you have already filed for divorce or if you have children, this process can become even more complicated.  Kathleen Shaul and her legal team are available to handle any questions or concerns you might have about your legal options.

Call us at (314) 499-1476

If you are in danger, contact the Crime Victim Advocate for your area:

  • St. Louis City:  314-622-4373
  • St. Louis County:  314-615-4872
  • St. Charles:  636-949-7370
  • Jefferson County:  636-797-5321

 

About 

Kathleen E. Shaul concentrates her practice exclusively in family law with an emphasis in divorce litigation. Prior to attending law school, Ms. Shaul taught high school English in Chicago. She is a certified Guardian ad Litem and is passionate about children’s issues.

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