Can the abuser have a gun?
Once you get a protection order, there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession. There are a few places where you can find this information:
- first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in Missouri have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
- second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
- third, you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal laws that apply to all states.
You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website.
What should I do when I leave the courthouse?
Here are some possible ideas of things you may want to do when preparing to leave the courthouse. Not all will apply to everyone. Please consider which ones you think may help you.
- Review the order before you leave the courthouse. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk how to correct the order before you leave.
- Make several copies of the order as soon as possible.
- Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
- Leave copies of the order at your workplace, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
- Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live or work along with a picture of the abuser.
- Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in and protected by the order.
- If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, you may want to take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.
- You may wish to consider changing your locks and your phone number.
Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving the order. People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school. Many abusers obey orders for protection, but some do not. It is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe. For more information, please visit the Safety Planning page. Advocates at local domestic violence programs can assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support.
What can I do if the abuser violates the order?
You can call the police or sheriff to report the violation even if you think it is a minor violation. When a law enforcement officer believes that the abuser has committed an act of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking in violation of an order of protection, the officer is supposed to arrest the abuser even if the officer didn’t witness the incident.1 Also, if you get awarded custody of your children as part of your order of protection, and the abuser does not return the children to you, the police are supposed to arrest the abuser and give you your children.2
If the abuser violates any of the following terms of an ex parte or full order of protection, it can be a class A misdemeanor or, if the abuser has previously pleaded or been found guilty of a prior violation within the past five years, it can be a class D felony:
- s/he commits domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking;
- s/he violates a term regarding child custody;
- s/he initiates communication with you;
- s/he enters your home, place of employment, or school; or
- s/he comes within a certain distance of you or your child.3
It is generally a good idea to write down the name of the responding officer(s) and their badge numbers in case you want to follow up on your case. Note: You do not need a certified copy of your order to show to the police; any copy of the order is enough.4
Another option you may have is to file a motion for civil contempt or criminal contempt in court. This can be difficult to do on your own, so it may be a good idea to try to get a lawyer to help you if you can. Some courts have fill-in-the-blank motions, which you can use if you do not have an attorney. Although there is a filing fee for these motions, it can be waived if you are low-income. You’d have to fill out another form called a motion to file in forma pauperis explaining why you can’t pay, and the judge would make a ruling.
A motion for civil contempt generally applies when the abuser has not followed a part of the order involving something other than abuse. For example, s/he didn’t pay the child support that s/he was ordered to pay. These parts of the court order are generally not enforced by the police. The abuser will be served with the motion and have a chance to appear in court at a hearing. In the hearing, you will present your evidence saying how the abuser violated the order and s/he will get a chance to respond. If the judge finds that s/he did violate the order, s/he can be held in contempt and punished until s/he follows the order.
A person may file a motion for criminal contempt in cases where the abuser is criminally violating the order of protection, by continuing to abuse you, for example. The process is generally the same as for the motion for civil contempt, however, it may be more complicated to do on your own. For legal help, go to our MO Finding a Lawyer page.
For more information about contempt, including the difference between criminal contempt and civil contempt, go to our general Domestic Violence Restraining Orders page.
1 MO ST § 455.085(2)
2 MO ST § 455.085(5)
3 MO ST § 455.085(7), (8)
4 MO ST § 455.083
How do I renew, change, or dismiss an order of protection?
Renewing an order
Your full order of protection can include a term that allows it to automatically renew annually unless the abuser files an objection and requests a hearing within thirty days before the expiration of the order. If the abuser files an objection and requests a hearing, you are supposed to be personally served with these papers at least three days before the hearing date.1
If your order does not allow for an automatic renewal, you can file a motion to renew your order each time the order is set to expire. After holding a hearing, the judge can renew it for a period of time determined by the judge. If the judge determined in the original order of protection hearing that the abuser posed a serious risk to your or your child’s physical or mental health, the judge can renew the order for a minimum of two years and can even make it valid throughout the life of the abuser. There does not have to be a new incident of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking to renew your order. In order to avoid any lapse in your protection, it is usually a good idea to file for your extension at least two weeks before your current order of protection expires. In the event that your current full order expires before you are able to schedule a hearing on extending it, the judge may grant you an ex parte order to protect you until your next hearing.2
Changing an order
To change (modify) an order, either you or the abuser can file legal papers (a motion) asking to change the order. The person asking for the change would have to include a sworn statement (affidavit) explaining there has been a change in circumstances that calls for changing the order in the way the person is requesting. The judge would hold a hearing to decide whether or not to grant the modification.3
However, if the judge determined in the original order of protection hearing that the abuser posed a serious risk to your or your child’s physical or mental health, the judge will not modify the order unless both of the following are true:
- the order has already been in effect for at least two years; and
- in a hearing:
- the abuser shows proof of treatment and rehabilitation; and
- the judge determines that the abuser no longer poses a serious danger to you or your child.4
Dismissing an order
If you want to dismiss or end (terminate) your order, you can file a motion to dismiss. The judge has the option to hold a hearing where s/he can question you or others to see if you are voluntarily asking to dismiss it.5 (Voluntarily means that you are asking for this freely, on your own, without being pressured into it by the abuser.)
1 MO ST § 455.040(4)
2 MO ST § 455.040(1), (2)
3 MO ST § 455.060(1)
4 MO ST § 455.040(5)
5 MO ST § 455.060(5)
What happens if I move?
Your order of protection is valid everywhere in the state. Additionally, federal law provides what is called “full faith and credit,” which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. territories and tribal lands. Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders. You can find out about your state’s policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or the prosecutor in your area. You may also call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith Credit for information on enforcing your order out of state, phone: 1-800-903-0111. We have general information about enforcing your order in another state on our Moving to Another State with an Order of Protection page.
If you move, you may want to call the clerk’s office at the court where you originally received the order to tell them your new address so that they can contact you if necessary. This may be especially important if your order allows for an automatic renewal so that you can receive the notice of the hearing date if the abuser files an objection to the order being automatically renewed. You can ask to keep your new address confidential from the abuser.
Missouri has a process for registering orders issued by another state, tribe, territory, or possession of the U.S. You can register your order in Missouri although it is not required - a certified foreign order of protection can still be enforced in Missouri. To register an order, you must file a certified copy of the foreign order and a sworn statement (affidavit) that the copy is a true and accurate copy and has not been altered by the circuit court having jurisdiction. You must notify the court if the order gets dismissed (terminated) before the date on the order. There is no fee for filing the order.1
1 MO ST § 455.067(2)-(4)
If I get a protection order, will it show up in an internet search?
According to federal law, which applies to all states, territories, and tribal lands, the courts are not supposed to make available publicly on the internet any information that would be likely to reveal your identity or location. This applies to all of these documents:
- the petition you file;
- the protection order, restraining order, or injunction that was issued by the court; or
- the registration of an order in a different state.1
1 18 USC § 2265(d)(3)