(If you or someone you know is a victim of spousal abuse/ physical abuse/ adult abuse, either threatened or real, your/their immediate priority has to be securing your/their physical safety. Moving to a safe, protected location, be that the home of a friend or relative or a shelter for domestic violence victims, should be your/their first step. Accordingly, please see our listing of domestic violence telephone hotlines serving the St. Louis metropolitan area, where you can learn about the various options available to domestic violence victims.)
A person may bring an adult abuse case against someone with whom they are or were married, are or were living with, are or were having a romantic or intimate relationship with, or against a relative by blood or marriage. The immediate purpose is safety, both physical safety to the person being threatened or abused, as well as financial safety to that person and his/her family, and to provide this protection and support quickly.
Physical and Financial Safety Are Provided Through The Adult Abuse Law
Physical safety in the form of an “order of protection” can be obtained immediately upon filing the adult abuse case. The order will typically prohibit the accused abuser from abusing the person further, from entering or staying within the residence where the person lives, and from communicating in any way with the person filing. In some cases, the alleged abuser will also be prohibited from being within a certain vicinity of the person filing. The order is issued “ex parte”, meaning without a hearing and without the accused being offered an opportunity to answer the charges. For that reason, it is a temporary order until a hearing can be held.
Within 15 days of the filing, there will be a court hearing to determine if the temporary “order of protection” should be made into a “full order of protection” extending for up to a year, with the possibility of being further extended two additional periods of a year each. At the hearing, the court will also decide whether to award whatever financial relief the petitioner sought when filing, such as maintenance for the accuser and child support for any children born of the relationship. The court may also require the abuser to pay the attorney fees of the person filing, or any domestic violence shelter fees that person incurred, as well ordering the accused to participate in counseling.
There are several actions covered under the adult abuse law, including physical abuse, mental or emotional abuse, coercion, sexual assault, unlawful imprisonment, harassment and stalking, for which an order of protection can be obtained. However, while the temporary or “ex parte” order is provided automatically, the court will not convert it into a full order until the person seeking it can convince the court at the hearing that the accused committed, attempted or threatened any one or all of these acts.
Violating an Order of Protection Is a Crime
Failure to abide by either a temporary or full order of protection is a criminal offense, punishable by incarceration. In addition, commission of any of the underlying actions covered by the adult abuse law, such as assault and battery, exposes the perpetrator to criminal prosecution for those acts as well.
Cynthia Fox offers caring and effective counsel and representation to those involved in an adult abuse case, having represented dozens of clients, including the victims of abuse as well as those who believe they have been falsely accused of abuse.