Step 1: Get and file the necessary forms.
To get the forms, you can go to the circuit court in:
- the county where you live;
- the county where the domestic violence occurred; or
- any county where the abuser can be served.1
You can go to the civil court clerk and request a petition for a full order of protection. Also tell the clerk if you want an ex parte order. You can read more about the types of orders in What types of orders of protection are there? How long do they last?
You will want to carefully fill out the petition. When filling out the forms, you will be referred to as the “petitioner” and the abuser will be called the “respondent.” When writing about incidents of violence or abuse, use descriptive language that fits your situation. Descriptive language means words that tell what the abuser did, for example, “slapping,” “hitting,” “grabbing,” “choking,” “threatening,” etc. Be specific. Include details, dates, and locations, if you can. Mention any injuries, pain, or fear that the abuser’s actions caused you.
A domestic violence advocate may be able to help you fill out the forms. To find an advocate or an organization near you please visit the MO Advocates and Shelters page. If you need to file for an order of protection when the circuit court is closed, you can. See Can I get an order of protection when the courthouse is closed? for more information.
If the abuser doesn’t know your address, you can ask the clerk how to keep your address confidential. If you are asked to give a mailing address, you may not have to give one if you tell the clerk or judge that sharing the address would put you or other family or household members in danger. Also, the law says that you cannot be required to give your Social Security number on any court document like a petition that the abuser may have access to.2
Please remember not to sign the petition until you have shown it to a clerk, as the form may need to be notarized or signed in the presence of court personnel. Also, you may need to bring photo ID for the notary. It may also help to have some information about the abuser such as a photo, addresses where the abuser lives or works, any history of drugs or gun ownership, etc.
1 MO ST §§ 455.073(1)(2), 455.015
2 MO ST § 455.030(3)
Step 2: A judge will review your petition.
Once you file your petition, the clerk will forward it to a judge. The judge may wish to ask you questions as s/he reviews your petition. Based on what you wrote in your petition, the judge will decide whether or not to issue you an ex parte order. A judge can grant you an ex parte order if you prove there is “good cause” to do so. “Good cause” can be when the judge believes there is an immediate and present danger of abuse to you.1
Whether or not you get an ex parte order, you will likely receive a “notice of hearing,” which will state the date and time when you must go back to court for your full order of protection hearing. This hearing usually takes place within 15 days.2
Note: Remember that even if you do not receive an ex parte order, you may still receive a full order of protection at the hearing. You must go to the hearing, as stated on your notice of hearing, in order to get the full order of protection. If you do not attend the hearing, your case may be dismissed. It may be best to have a lawyer for the hearing, especially if you think the abuser may have one. Go to our MO Finding a Lawyer page for free and paid legal referrals.
1 MO ST § 455.035(1)
2 See MO ST § 455.040(1)
Step 3: Service of process
Just as you received a notice of hearing, the abuser will also receive the same notice of hearing so s/he knows when to show up for the hearing. (The court will refer to the abuser as “the respondent.”) The abuser must be “served” with the notice of the hearing along with a copy of the petition that you filed and your ex parte order, if you received one. The court is supposed to arrange for service by any sheriff or police officer at least three days before the hearing.1 You cannot serve the abuser yourself. If you desire, you can receive a notification when the ex parte order is served on the abuser.3 Ask the clerk for information on how to get this notification.
Law enforcement personnel will also enter any protection orders into the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES) within 24 hours of when the order is issued.2
You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?
1 MO ST § 455.040(2)
2 MO ST § 455.040(3)
3 MO ST § 455.038
Step 4: The hearing for the full order of protection
If you want to get a full order of protection, you must go to the hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, the court may dismiss your case. If you received an ex parte order, it will expire and you will have to start the process over. If you do not show up at the hearing, it may even possibly be harder for you to be granted an order in the future.
At the hearing, both you and your abuser will have the chance to present evidence, present or “call” witnesses, and give testimony to prove your case. You must prove that the abuser committed the act(s) of domestic violence, as defined by the law, which you alleged in your petition. You must also convince the judge that you need protection and the specific things you asked for in the order. See the At the Hearing section for ways you can show the judge that you were abused. You can learn more about the court system in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section. The judge will then decide whether or not to grant you a final order of protection. If the abuser was served but does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you an order of protection or the judge may order a new hearing date. You may want a lawyer for the hearing, especially if you think the abuser will have one. For free and paid lawyers, go to our MO Finding a Lawyer page.