A common belief when a marriage or live-in relationship goes bad is that the one who thinks they are free from blame has the right to kick the party at fault out of the family home.

A common belief when a marriage or live-in relationship goes bad is that the one who thinks they are free from blame has the right to kick the party at fault out of the family home.

But where, as in most cases, the family home is titled, leased or rented in the name of both parties, neither has the right to oust the other regardless of who thinks who is right or wrong, at fault or not at fault, or good or bad, even in those instances where such determinations may be clear.

And after all, there’s usually a lot of room for difference of opinion as to fault when such a relationship fails, and the familial residence is just as much the home of one party as it is the other.

The exception to this rule is found in Chapter 455 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, Missouri’s adult abuse law. Under the adult abuse law, a person who contends they have been abused by their significant other can fill out a form at the county courthouse detailing the abuse, and ask the court for an order of protection, ordering the other party out of the family home, immediately, for up to a year, all free of charge, of course.

Such orders can also include provisions granting custody of children, child support, and maintenance, typically in favor of the filing party.

“Abuse,” however, is difficult to pin down. According to the statute, it can include physical assault, detaining one against one’s will, threatening to cause harm, or engaging in a course of conduct that causes substantial alarm or emotional distress.

Thus, it would seem that the basis upon which an unhappy significant other can get the court to order their one-time love out of the house for up to a year would include such egregious acts as stabbing them with a butcher knife or beating their face in with their fists, a hammer or a meat cleaver; to such lesser forms of conduct as standing in their way when they are trying to run out the front door, saying something like “I ought to slap you,” or raising one’s voice during an argument on more than one occasion.

Any one of these can get one slapped with a court order to leave their home immediately for up to a year, sometimes with barely enough time to grab so much as a clean pair of underwear and a toothbrush as they are escorted out the front door by police officers who have shown up to enforce such an order, under which the person must leave immediately, find someplace to go and live, and are given a date when they can tell their side to a judge in two weeks or so.

Now, I understand that domestic abuse is a horrible thing, that people, usually women, get caught in terribly abusive relationships in which they live in a state of constant abuse and fear of physical harm at the hands of their significant others, and their lives are a living hell.

But having attended a number of domestic abuse dockets, it would seem that the “He grabbed my wrist,” “He yelled at me,” or “He stood in my way as I was trying to run out the door during an argument” cases far exceed the “He broke my nose and blackened my eyes with his fists,” “He held a gun to my head and said he was going to kill me,” or “He cut my neck with a knife” cases.

Frankly, I think that a large number of those cases in which faces get pummeled, guns get held to heads, and necks get cut by knives don’t get reported anywhere, because next time, someone very well may die, and a court order won’t stop it.

I have also seen a large number of the Chapter 455 cases that appeared to have been initiated by someone more interested in a convenient way of getting their significant other out of the house after the relationship has gone sour than truly needing an order of protection from a pattern of abuse.

Unfortunately, the way the law is written and administered, it’s not too difficult for someone to use the adult abuse law to dispatch their one-time love out of their home and onto the street if they want to.