SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – By the end of the month, the Greene County Circuit Clerk’s Office hopes to have up-and-running an online portal where residents subject to domestic violence or the victim of stalking or sexual assault can file for an emergency order of protection at any time. It will stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
An ex parte order of protection is a temporary restraining order issued by a judge in cases where an alleged abuser has committed domestic violence or stalked the petitioner or protected child. The order generally prohibits the alleged abuser from entering the petitioner’s home, place of work, or school, and from communicating with the petitioner.
Currently, anyone who wants to file for an order of protection must apply in person at the Greene County Circuit Clerk’s Office located on the second floor of the County Judicial Courts Facility at 1010 N Boonville Ave when the courthouse is open, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. (excluding holidays) or go to the Greene County Family Justice Center located at 1418 E Pythian (417) 874-2600, from 8:30 a.m.- 4 p.m. Monday-Friday (excluding holidays).
“This new service will allow survivors the ability to just go on their phone, fill out the order of protection, and then get notified by email when the decision is made,” said Jamie Willis, the Direction of Family Justice Center Operations.
“From our perspective, this is a great thing,” said Alisa Garbisch, the Education Director for the Victim Center, which provides counseling and crisis intervention for victims of violent or sexual crimes. “Because we know these types of emergencies and incidents don’t always happen within the traditional 8-5 time frame.”
As far as how the procedure will work, considering a judge has to decide whether to grant the restraining order?
“If you were to file an emergency order of protection, it goes to an overnight judge, and once they review the order and approve it, you’ll be able to pick up a copy of the order the next morning,” Willis explained.
Going through the experience can be traumatizing as there’s a lot of paperwork to deal with and a lot to consider when deciding whether or not to go through with the emotional process. But places like the Justice Center and the Victim Center can provide help and guidance.
“They’re asking themselves, ‘Do I want to do this, should I do this, is this going to make me safe, is this maybe going to create a more dangerous situation for me when my abuser finds out I’m trying to get assistance,’” Willis pointed out. “The civil and criminal justice systems are extremely complex even for those of us who work in the system. So for a survivor who has never been to court before, there are a lot of questions. That’s why it’s so important for survivors to come to the Family Justice Center at some point. If they need legal representation or legal advice, we work with Legal Services of Southern Missouri to provide that, and we can even file those papers from here at the Family Justice Center so that survivor never has to go to the courthouse.”
The Victim’s Center even offers a 24-hour hotline for counseling (417-864-7233).
“Where we start with that caller is with some education,” Garbisch said. “Letting them know what the process is. It’s not our place to tell them what to do. We support the individual in whatever decision they think is best for them. If they submit the form, we explain to them what happens next, and two-of-the-three potential outcomes involve court dates that people do not commonly know. We also talk about safety planning, support systems, and shelter resources, so if that individual is trying to find a safe place to live, we give them the options that are available in the community.”
Until the online service is available, Greene County’s deputy clerk will take calls at 417-407-0358 after regular business hours from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on the weekend.
But also remember that if you feel you are in immediate danger, call 911 and seek assistance from law enforcement.
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