Missouri takes domestic violence very seriously – whether it’s against partners, children, or other family members. Allegations of domestic violence often accompany divorce. If you are involved in any type of domestic violence incident on either side in the Kansas City area, you should know your legal rights and what to expect in terms of the domestic violence issue influencing your divorce proceedings.

What Is Domestic Violence?

The legal definition of “domestic violence” includes any harmful or threatening acts committed against one’s family members or members of their household. A few of the most common examples of domestic violence seen in the US include:

  • Different types of abuse and threats of violence.
  • Physical injury inflicted on a family or household member.
  • Sexual abuse inflicted on a family or household member.
  • Any form of assault that causes the victim to fear for their safety.
  • Harassment with the intent to cause emotional distress.
  • Unlawful imprisonment or confinement.
  • Stalking.

This list does not include every potential incident of domestic violence but should provide you with a general overview of what domestic violence entails. When domestic violence occurs between married spouses or children, divorce is often the end. The alleged offender’s actions could significantly alter the course of those proceedings.

Potential Penalties for Domestic Violence

Domestic violence charges can apply to any situation in which an individual intentionally engages in an act of domestic violence against their spouse or intimate partner, against their own child, stepchild, or child of a domestic partner, any member of the offender’s household, or any individual with whom the offender has lived in the past. Domestic violence can also occur between people who have children together but do not cohabitate or those involved in intimate relationships without children.

The state of Missouri prosecutes domestic violence cases very aggressively, and the penalties for domestic violence fluctuate based on the severity of the offense. Missouri upholds three separate degrees of domestic violence:

  • Domestic violence in the third degree can include acts of criminal negligence, reckless endangerment, or causing injury with a weapon or dangerous object. Unlawful imprisonment, threats of violence, stalking, and engaging in reckless conduct that carries grave risk of serious injury to the victim can also qualify as domestic violence in the third degree. These offenses are Class D felonies that generally carry penalties of up to one year in jail and fines of $1,000 or more in addition to civil liability for the victim’s damages. If an offender commits three such offenses, the penalties escalate to one year in jail to up to four years in prison, fines up to $5,000, or both.
  • Domestic violence in the second degree pertains to recklessly causing or knowingly causing physical injury utilizing a dangerous instrument, choking, or strangulation, as well as any willful act that results in physical injury to the victim. This offense is a Class C felony with a potential punishment of up to seven years in prison and fines up to $5,000.
  • Domestic violence in the first degree is a Class B felony punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison or even life in prison, depending on the severity of the offense. This charge is reserved for incidents involving attempts to kill domestic victims or knowingly causing severe physical injury to domestic victims.

These charges often lead to the aforementioned penalties for offenders, as well as a requirement to pay restitution to their victims. Additionally, incidents of domestic violence involving deadly weapons or dangerous objects used as weapons can lead to escalated charges of aggravated assault and battery. The Missouri court system also allows victims to secure different types of legal protections to put a stop to abusive behaviors while criminal proceedings unfold.

Legal Protections Against Domestic Violence

Missouri law enforcement officers who respond to calls of domestic violence have a legal duty to arrest an individual accused of domestic violence. If evidence is unclear, or it is a “he said, she said” type of situation, the accused may very well face a wrongful arrest. Unfortunately, the only option left for a person in this position is to seek legal representation as soon as possible from an experienced criminal defense attorney. It’s a sad reality that false accusations of domestic violence are relatively common in the US, and anyone facing such a scenario must have reliable legal counsel to help them avoid wrongful penalties for domestic violence charges.

Those accused of domestic violence may also become subject to restraining orders and protective orders issued by the courts. These orders exist to protect victims of domestic violence by preventing their aggressors from coming within a certain distance or contacting them, and they are temporary. Typically, these orders will last until an investigation into alleged domestic violence concludes. If the subject of the order is found guilty, they will likely face significant restrictions when it comes to contacting victims in the future.

Domestic Violence in Missouri Divorce Cases

It’s easy to see how domestic violence charges can potentially influence a divorce case. If an individual is accused of abusing their spouse or children in any way, this can significantly sway the court’s decision when it comes to determining property division, child custody, and other aspects of the divorce. An individual found guilty of committing any kind of domestic violence should expect to face the appropriate criminal penalties, including fines and incarceration. They should also prepare to lose child custody rights and face restitution requirements in addition to any child support determinations the court decides.

If you are on either end of a domestic violence issue, whether you are a victim or have been accused of committing domestic violence of any kind, seeking experienced legal representation as soon as possible should be your top priority. Your attorney can evaluate the legal protections in place that apply to your situation or help you build a defense if you have been wrongfully accused of domestic violence. It is essential to act quickly to protect your rights and to ensure the domestic violence issue is reflected accurately in your divorce proceedings.