Missouri domestic violence laws up for debate in State Assembly

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Family Law on Monday, April 25, 2011

Last week, Missouri State Senators passed groundbreaking legislation which could revamp the state’s approach to domestic violence cases. A bill representing the findings of a domestic violence task force passed through the Senate with a unanimous vote and will now go up for debate in the House of Representatives.

If approved by the House and signed into law, the bill will make significant changes around important domestic violence issues such as orders of protection, child custody, and the legal definitions of the terms used in many abuse cases. The legislation would mark the first time the state has revised its domestic violence statutes since the 1970s.

Some of the bills specific provisions include waving fees for individuals who request extra assistance implementing their order of protection and making such orders more flexible in order to better protect victims in diverse situations.

Furthermore, whenever applicable, whoever files the order of protection will be required to immediately and fully divulge the conditions of the family’s child custody and visitation arrangements. This information can prove vitally important to police officers and officials from departments such as child services when they are called upon to intervene in an alleged domestic abuse situation.

The bill would also implement plain and standardized legal definitions for words, such as “abuse,” which appear a lot in domestic violence cases. Understanding exactly what constitutes “abuse” will help the state’s judicial system make rulings that are fair and consistent. It may surprise many people to know that there is no official definition for the term “domestic violence” under Missouri state law; this new bill would remedy this situation.

The head of the domestic violence task force mainly responsible for shaping the proposed legislation joins many of the bill’s other supporters in hoping that State Assembly Members will be able to make a decision regarding the bill in the upcoming weeks.

Source: Greenfield Reporter, “Missouri Senate approves first major rewrite of domestic violence laws in decades.” Wes Duplantier, 21 April 2011

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