What is the definition of stalking in Missouri?
For the purpose of getting an order of protection, stalking is defined as when any person purposely behaves two or more times in a way that:
- serves no legitimate purpose; and
- causes you, or someone else who lives with you, to reasonably fear that either you or someone who lives with you is in danger of being physically harmed.
The behaviors could include when a stalker does any of the following things, either directly, indirectly, or through another person (a third party):
- follows you;
- monitors, observes, or spies on (surveils) you; this includes if the stalker uses a device, such as a GPS tracker or other technology;
- threatens you;
- communicates with you using any action, method, or device; or
- other similar behaviors.1
1 MO ST § 455.010(15)
What is the legal definition of sexual assault?
For the purpose of getting a protective order, sexual assault is defined as when someone causes you or attempts to cause you to engage involuntarily in any sexual act by force, threat of force, pressure or coercion (duress), or without your consent.1
1 MO ST § 455.010(13), (1)(e)
What protections can I get in an order of protection due to stalking or sexual assault?
An ex parte order of protection can:
- forbid the abuser from doing or threatening to do any of the following:
- commit domestic violence against you;
- sexually assault, stalk, or bother (molest) you;
- disturb your peace; or
- be violent towards a pet;
- forbid the abuser from entering your home when it is:
- jointly owned, leased, rented, or occupied by you and the abuser;
- owned, leased, rented, or occupied by you individually;
- jointly owned, leased, or rented by you and someone else who is not the abuser; or
- jointly occupied by you and someone else who is not the abuser as long as the abuser does not have a property interest in the home;
- forbid the abuser from communicating with you in any manner or in any way, such as by phone, computer, etc.;
- make a temporary order of custody of your minor children where appropriate;
- make a temporary order of possession of pets where appropriate; and
- include other terms that the judge reasonably believes are necessary to ensure your safety.1
A full order of protection, issued after notice to the abuser and a hearing, can:
- include all of the terms listed above;2 and
- order any of the following if your petition includes facts or allegations about these topics and specifically asks for these things:
- award custody of any minor child born to or adopted by the parties when:
- the court has power (jurisdiction) over such child;
- no prior order regarding custody is pending or has been made; and
- the best interests of the child require that a custody order be issued;
- make a visitation schedule that is in the best interests of the child;
- order the abuser to pay child support;
- order the abuser to pay spousal support (maintenance) for up to 180 days if you are legally married;
- if you are married or have children together, the judge can order the abuser to:
- continue to pay the mortgage or rent for your home; or
- pay your rent if you stay somewhere else;
- order you to have possession and care of any pet, along with any money necessary to cover medical costs that may have resulted from the abuse of the pet;
- give you temporary possession of personal property, such as cars, checkbooks, keys, and other personal items;
- prohibit the abuser from transferring, selling, or getting rid of property jointly owned or leased by you and the abuser;
- order the abuser to participate in batterers’ counseling or drug treatment;
- order the abuser to pay for housing and other services provided to you by a domestic violence shelter;
- order the abuser to pay court costs;
- order the abuser to pay for medical treatment and services provided to you as a result of injuries caused by the abuser’s domestic violence;3
- direct a wireless service provider to transfer the rights to, and billing responsibility for, any cell phone number(s) that you or any minor children in your care use, if you are not already the account holder;4 and
- order the abuser to pay your attorney’s fees for the time period before bringing the court case, during the court case, and after the entry of judgment.5
- award custody of any minor child born to or adopted by the parties when:
1 MO ST §§ 455.045; 455.050(1)
2 MO ST § 455.050(1)
3 MO ST § 455.050(3)-(8)
4 MO ST §§ 455.050(9)(1)
5 MO ST § 455.075
What types of orders of protection due to stalking or sexual assault are there? How long do they last?
There are two types of orders:
1) Ex parte orders of protection
Ex parte is Latin for “from one side.” Ex parte orders may be granted without the abuser’s prior knowledge and without his/her presence in court. A judge may grant you the order based solely on your petition and testimony, without holding a hearing, if you prove there is “good cause” to do so. “Good cause” can be when the judge believes you are in immediate and present danger of being stalked or sexually assaulted.1
An ex parte order generally will be valid until your court hearing for a full order of protection, which usually takes place within 15 days.2 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.
If you ask for an ex parte order but the judge doesn’t give you one, you may get a “Notice of Hearing” instead. Although this is not an order protecting you, it means you have a date and time for a hearing, where the judge will decide whether or not to grant you a full order of protection. To get a full order of protection, you will need to prove your allegations of stalking or sexual assault to the judge.
2) Full orders of protection
A full order of protection can be issued only after a court hearing in which you and the abuser both have a chance to tell your sides of the story. If the judge grants you an order, it will usually last for a period of time between 180 days and one year. However, it can last between two years and ten years if the judge issues specific written findings that the abuser poses a serious danger to your or your child’s physical or mental health. The judge will decide if the abuser poses a serious danger after considering the following factors:
- the strength (weight) of the evidence;
- the abuser’s history of causing physical harm, bodily injury, or assault;
- the abuser’s history of stalking or causing fear of physical harm, bodily injury, or assault to you or your child;
- the abuser’s criminal record, including whether s/he has been found guilty of any dangerous felony under Missouri law;
- whether any prior full orders of adult or child protection have been issued against the abuser;
- whether the abuser violated any term of probation or parole; and
- whether the abuser violated any term of a prior full or temporary order of protection, especially those that were specifically intended to protect you or your child.2
Orders of protection can be set to automatically renew or a petitioner can file to renew it each time it is set to expire.4 For more information, see How do I renew, change, or dismiss an order of protection? in our Orders of Protection due to Domestic Violence section.
1 MO ST § 455.035(1)
2 MO ST § 455.040(1), (4)
3 MO ST § 455.038
4 MO ST § 455.040(2), (3)
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.