Frequently Asked Questions
If you are filing for an Order of Protection, you are called the “Petitioner.” The person you are filing the Order of Protection against is called the “Respondent.”
An Order of Protection is a court order that prohibits the Respondent from abusing, molesting, stalking, threatening, communicating with, committing domestic violence or sexual assault against and/or otherwise disturbing the peace of the Petitioner. An Order of Protection may also include provisions such as: limited communication/contact only in regards to a shared child, financial orders and an order for the Respondent to relinquish firearms, get a substance abuse evaluation and/or attend a Batterer’s Intervention Program.
A Child Order of Protection can be filed by a parent or guardian if any of the above acts have been committed against a minor child or children.
To file for an Order of Protection in St. Louis County, one (or more) of the following must be true: (1) You reside in St. Louis County; (2) The Respondent can be served with the paperwork in St. Louis County; and/or (3) The abuse/stalking/sexual assault occurred in St. Louis County.
Come in person to the St. Louis County Adult Abuse/Order of Protection Office, located in the St. Louis County Courthouse at 105 South Central Avenue, Clayton, MO 63105. The Adult Abuse Office is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. NOTE: The Adult Abuse Office does not accept any filings for Orders of Protection after 4:00 p.m. on weekdays.
In the event that you or someone you know needs to file an Order of Protection after business hours, please contact your local police department for appropriate guidance.
No, there are no filing or court fees associated with filing for an Order of Protection.
Missouri law requires a Petitioner to be at least 17 years of age to file for an Order of Protection. If you are not 17, but the Respondent is, there is the option for your parent or guardian to file a Child Order of Protection against the Respondent on your behalf. If the Respondent is less than 17 years of age, the Petitioner will be required to provide the name and address of the Respondent’s parent or guardian for purposes of serving the paperwork. In addition, Orders of Protection involving Respondents less than 17 years of age will be transferred to the Family Court juvenile division.
You'll want to think carefully about what you want to include on your petition before you start writing. Your petition is what the judge reviews to determine whether or not you will receive a temporary Order of Protection or Ex Parte (see below for more information). Some things to consider including in your petition would be: What has happened most recently/what caused you to come and file the Order of Protection paperwork? What has happened in the past that causes you to be afraid for your personal safety? What are specific dates when incidents have occurred or when you have felt afraid? You can request to speak to an advocate if you need help completing your petition. If you are a victim of domestic violence, this handout includes some suggestions for what might be important to include in your petition. There are also some resources at the bottom if you have further questions or need additional support.
After you file for an Order of Protection, a judge will review your petition and may grant a temporary “Ex Parte” order that grants certain protections and relief until the court date (approximately 15 days after the petition is filed). The temporary order may be extended if your case in continued. In cases where an Ex Parte is not granted, you may still receive a “Summons,” which does not include any protection or relief.
A full Order of Protection can only be granted after the Respondent has been notified (see below). Full Orders of Protection are a minimum of six months in length. They are typically entered for one year and are renewable.
If a previous custody plan is in place, this custody plan will usually be upheld; however, sometimes provisions can be written into the Order of Protection around communication related to the child. If a custody plan is not in place, the Petitioner and Respondent may have an opportunity to work with their attorney(s) or a volunteer attorney provided by the court to establish a custody and visitation plan in regards to the minor child or children.
Although an Order of Protection is a civil matter, violations can become criminal offenses. If your Ex Parte or full Order of Protection is violated and you are in immediate danger, you should call 911. Let the 911 dispatcher know that you have a pending or full Order of Protection. Even if you are not in immediate danger and your Ex Parte or full Order of Protection is violated, you can still call the police and make a report. If there have been violations of your Ex Parte order, make sure to document them and provide this information to the judge when you appear for your hearing. The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office or a municipal court may decide to press criminal charges against the Respondent for violating the Ex Parte or full Order of Protection.
In addition, if your full Order of Protection is violated, you can come back to the Adult Abuse Office where you filed your petition and file a Motion for Contempt. You can file a Motion for Contempt even if you have made a report with the police. Information about Motions for Contempt can be found here. You cannot file a Motion for Contempt for violations of the Ex Parte Order of Protection.
When you file, you provide the court with one or more addresses for the Respondent. The Sheriff’s Department in the county the Respondent lives or works will attempt to serve the respondent with your petition and the Ex Parte or Summons. The Sheriff’s Department will report back to the court whether or not they were able to serve the respondent. Service must be obtained to move forward with the case. If service has not been obtained by your court date, the judge or an advocate will talk to you about your options.
If you do not have an address for the Respondent, you may do what is called “self-carrying” the paperwork. You cannot serve the Respondent yourself. In this case, if the Respondent is near you or you know their whereabouts, you will need to call law enforcement and request that they serve the Respondent with a copy of the Order of Protection paperwork.
Click here for more information about getting the Respondent served.
No, you can file your address as “confidential” on the Order of Protection paperwork. You must alert the Adult Abuse staff that you would like to keep your address confidential. You will also be required to provide a mailing address to the court on a confidential form (Adult Abuse Petitioner Information: Confidential Record). This form is only be accessible by court personnel and will not be served upon the Respondent.
Advocates from the County Order of Protection Assistance (COPA) program may be available Monday through Friday during regular office hours to meet with Petitioners at the time they are filing the petition for Order of Protection. If you need special accommodations, you may want to contact the COPA office at (314) 615-3210 and schedule an appointment to meet with an advocate.
Advocates are also available at weekly Domestic Violence (DV) Court dockets and through several community domestic violence agencies [click for resource list].
The court can provide petitions in English, Spanish, Bosnian, French, Russian, Ukrainian and Vietnamese; however, responses on the petition must be written in English so that they can be reviewed by the judge and other court staff. Petitioners who need language accommodations are strongly encouraged to contact the COPA office at (314) 615-3210 to schedule an appointment for assistance with completing the petition. Petitioners may choose to bring in a trusted friend or family member to assist with interpretation during the filing process. Court personnel can also access a language line or, in some situations, utilize a live interpreter for assistance.
If a Petitioner needs an interpreter for the Order of Protection hearing(s), s/he will need to complete a Motion for Order to Appoint an Interpreter, indicating the language spoken, and submit it with her/his petition. Either a live interpreter or the language line can also be used at court hearing(s).
You have the right to represent yourself in Order of Protection proceedings, or you may also obtain an attorney. Many people go through the Order of Protection process both with and without attorneys. If you are a victim of domestic violence, you may be able to obtain legal assistance through one of the agencies listed here [resource list]
Orders of Protection are civil cases (not criminal), so the entry of a full Order of Protection does not typically appear on a Respondent’s criminal record. However, while Orders of Protection are obtained through civil court, violations of these orders can be criminal offenses. Violating an Order of Protection may result in arrest and/or criminal charges against the Respondent.
If there is no proof in the court file that the Respondent has been served, notice of the dismissal will not be sent to the Respondent.
For more information about service options, click here.