Effective August 31, 2021, a new law goes into effect in Missouri that provides more protection for victims of abuse, and even includes some new provisions to protect pets. Here are a few highlights:
- “Stalking,” which previously meant “engaging in an unwanted course of conduct that causes alarm,” is now defined as two or more acts that serve no legitimate purpose, including acts in which the stalker directly, indirectly, or through a third person, follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to a person by any action, method, or device.
- Under the old law, orders of protection could only be renewed for a limited period of time. The recently passed bill makes a major change by allowing the court to issue a full order of protection for at least two years and not more than ten (unless a lifetime order is warranted—see the next bullet point). That order can be renewed.
- Perhaps the most significant change is one that permits a court to issue an order that lasts for the perpetrator’s lifetime. To get this kind of extraordinary order, the court must find that the perpetrator poses a “serious” danger to the physical or mental health of the victim or to a child living in the household.
- If the court has found a serious risk, the perpetrator can only ask for modification of the order after two years have elapsed, and then must show proof of treatment and rehabilitation and that they no longer pose a threat. In determining whether there is a serious danger, the court must consider the history of abuse, the criminal record of the perpetrator, whether there has been a prior order of protection, any history of stalking, whether there are convictions for a dangerous felony, and whether there has ever been a violation of probation or parole.
- The new bill allows for a temporary order of custody of a pet to protect a pet from violence. Abuse of a pet occurs when someone threatens injury or causes or attempts to cause injury to a pet with the intent to control, punish, intimidate, or distress the pet’s owner. The court can include an order for money to pay veterinary fees.
- The bill allows the court to ensure that a person can keep their existing wireless number by ordering that the wireless provider transfer the billing and rights to the victim.
The law covering orders of protection is long and complicated. A family law attorney at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal can help you understand whether the law applies to your situation. Contact us today.