Fox Family Lawyers
Cynthia Moseley Fox
Attorney at Law
7751 Carondelet Avenue,
Suite 700
Clayton, Missouri 63105
(St. Louis)
314.727.4880

An Order of Protection May Be the Fastest Way To Protect a Child From Abuse, Even Stalking

“Larry’s” concerned about his 8 year old daughter’s safety. He is divorced and his daughter lives with him. A month ago, he broke up with “Elaine”, his girlfriend of two years. They had been serious, but Larry became convinced there was something “off” about Elaine and gradually disengaged before breaking off completely.

 

Elaine couldn’t accept Larry’s decision. She called everyday or dropped by his work and home, begging for a second chance, but Larry remained firm. After a couple weeks, Elaine seemed to pull back until she showed up at his daughter’s school to invite her out for ice cream. His daughter was reluctant, but finally went along after Elaine assured her that her daddy said it was okay. Over ice cream, Elaine pressed for information about her father and if there was anybody new in his life. According to his daughter, it felt a little “creepy”.

 

Larry called Elaine immediately, telling her to stay away from his daughter. Despite the warning, Elaine was back at school two days later, saying nothing but following in her car as the little girl walked the three blocks from school to the neighbor’s house where she stayed until her father returned from work. The same thing occurred the next day and the day after. Again, Larry ordered Elaine to stay away, but Elaine protested that she was just making sure the little girl was safe. “No one can tell me where I can drive” were Elaine’s last words before hanging up.

 

Larry considered calling the police, but wasn’t sure a crime had been committed. His daughter was not harmed; just uncomfortable. Still, what might Elaine do next? It all seemed a little desperate.

 

Rather than calling the police, Larry’s best option may be to seek a restraining order under Missouri’s Child Protection Orders Act. With this little known law, a parent or guardian can obtain a court order preventing another adult from the same household from physically, sexually or emotionally abusing a child, or any adult, whether living with the child or not, from stalking a child.

 

Undoubtedly, the legislature was most concerned about protecting children from injury and molestation, yet it included “stalking” as something it wants Missouri courts to act upon immediately when notified by a concerned parent or guardian. Under the law, the parent or guardian simply goes to court to file a petition for an order of protection. There is no fee and there is no need for an attorney because the court clerks assist the petitioner in completing the forms.

 

The petition can be filed in the county where the child lives or where the abuse occurs, or in any Missouri jurisdiction where the alleged abuser/stalker can be found.

 

Immediately after the petition is filed, and with few exceptions, the court will issue a temporary order restraining the alleged abuser or stalker from continuing the prohibited behavior. (For example, the court will not act when a parental spanking is alleged as abuse, so long as the spanking is “reasonable”.) This order will be “ex-parte”-- issued based solely upon the allegation without the benefit of a hearing where the alleged abuser/stalker can defend him/herself. However, a hearing must be held within 15 days, where evidence from all sides, including the child, can be presented. At  the hearing, the restraining order can be made permanent or extinguished.

 

With either a temporary order or permanent one, if the abuse/stalking continues, the parent or guardian can have the offender arrested. As for Elaine, she could no longer drive anywhere she wanted if that resulted in her observing, following or contacting Larry’s daughter in any way.