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