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

Missouri’s Adult Abuse Law Protects Men and Women Alike

“First, he smashed my Precious Moments collection. Then, he took off after me.” This is “Claire” and with a black eye and a fat lip, she’s terrified. For the first time in eleven years married to an abusive husband, she’s seeing an attorney.


I explain Missouri’s adult abuse law and the protection it offers women or men in Claire’s situation. One moment, Claire says she want to go ahead, but the next moment she hesitates, worried about how her husband will react. This is a typical of someone controlled by another for so long that they can’t contemplate acting in their own interest without the permission of their controller.


They are usually scared to death as well, and often for good reason, of what will happen when their spouse finds out. That’s why the protections of an “adult abuse order” are so valuable. Anyone that believes they are the victim of abuse by another adult, be that physical, verbal or mental, can petition the court for an order that will restrain the alleged abuser from having any contact with the person seeking the order. The victim can have their alleged abuser “restrained out of the residence” as well as preventing them from making contact at any other location.


The person seeking the order does not have to be married to the abuser or even live with them, but just be in a relationship that brings them into contact. The order can be issued against a spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, sibling or co-worker. It is enforceable through any police department and the police will see that the alleged abuser is removed from the residence.


In addition, when the victim is living with and dependent financially upon the alleged abuser, the order will require the alleged abuser to provide for the economic well-being of the victim while the order is in place.


I have used the term “alleged” to describe the abuser. That’s because the initial order is for just 15 days until a hearing is held, at which time the person making the charge has to present evidence to a judge supporting their allegations. The person charged is also provided the opportunity to refute the accusation.


The judge decides whether to make the order permanent or set it aside. Typically, judges are reluctant to put someone back in harm’s way if there has been a reasonable showing of evidence by the victim, such as police reports from any domestic disturbance calls involving the parties; photos or hospital reports relating to any injuries; or testimony of neighbors, friends, counselors or clergy. Should the judge keep the order in place, he/she can do so for up to one year, when the order can be extended for a second year and even a third.


Often, the 15 days away from the abuser provided by the temporary order is enough to restore the sense of self required for the victim to take back control of their life. In Claire’s case, she used those 15 days to reflect on what she had been through and to find the willpower to file for divorce. At her adult abuse hearing, she confronted her husband at the courthouse for the first time in two weeks. In a moment, her rage and determination overtook her, and she rebuked him so forcefully in words and tears that he took refuge in the men’s room.


Claire was on the way back. The judge made the order permanent and later granted her a divorce  Several years ago, she married a really good guy and they have been happy ever since.