Missouri Law Updates Fall 2019
Our Legal Advocate at The Women’s Safe House has prepared a report that highlights changes to Missouri laws that help domestic and sexual violence victims.
Section 441.920 RSMo allows lease termination, other housing rights to victims of stalking, domestic and sexual violence
Victims of stalking, domestic and sexual violence are legally allowed to terminate their leases when documentation of their victimization (or risk of victimization if they remain in the dwelling) is provided to a landlord. The documentation could be a police report, protection order or statement from a service provider (mental health provider, victim services provider, medical services provider etc.). The law also provides victims with protections from eviction or lease termination because of domestic violence etc., this seems to strengthen existing laws nuisance laws that offer protection to survivors as well. The law establishes an affirmative defense in suits for back rent from tenants who left a rented residence because of their victimization. The standard is a preponderance of evidence, similar to the level of evidence required for obtaining an Order of Protection. Landlords are allowed to charge a “reasonable” termination fee to a victimized tenant who terminates a lease, this language is vague.
Section 567.020.5 RSMo requires a child abuse report be filed if an affirmative defense is raised for a prostitution charge for a child under 18
If an individual raises an affirmative defense (if they introduce evidence that, while affirming the fact that they did commit these acts, absolves them of criminal or civil liability) to a prostitution charge for acts that occurred while they were under the age of 18, a child abuse report must be filed
Section 610.131 RSMo allows those who were convicted of prostitution while they were under the age of 18 to obtain an expungement of the offense
If an individual was younger than 18 when they were convicted of prostitution, they can apply to expunge all records of the offense. If the court finds that they were under 18 or acting under coercion (this has great potential, hoping this could apply to those who were older than 18 but acting under coercion) the court shall order an expungement for the prostitution conviction or guilty plea. The petition must be made to the court in which the person pleads guilty or was sentenced for the offense.
Sexual Abuse of Children
Section 170.045 requires schools to provide trauma-informed sexual abuse prevention trainings to students in grades 6-12
Beginning in the 2020-2021 school year Missouri schools will be required to provide sexual abuse prevention training to students grade 6-12. Parents must be notified and are allowed to pull their children from those classes if they choose. The courses must provide children with the knowledge and tools to recognize sexual abuse, the knowledge and tools to report sexual abuse, information about what actions a victim could take to obtain assistance and intervention, and available resources for students affected by sexual abuse.
Section 168.133.1 RSMo requires volunteers to be screened and undergo background checks
School volunteers must be screened and have criminal background checks before they are left alone with a student or have access to student records.
Section 162.203 RSMo requires orientation for school board members to include training on identification of child sexual abuse
Out of the 18.5 required hours of orientation training for elected and appointed school board members, 2.5 of those must be “up to date and reliable” trainings on how to identify signs of sexual abuse in children, and danger signals of potentially abusive relationships between children and adults. Annual one hour refresher trainings are also required.
Section 210.110 RSMo adds school personnel and volunteers to the law defining child abuse
The section of law that defines child abuse has been amended to include abuse by school personnel, contractors, and school volunteers, and includes abuse or neglect that occurred outside of school hours or off school grounds.
Child Custody: Relocation
Section 452.377 RSMo gives parents the right to file a motion against the proposed relocation of a child by the other parent
A parent who files a child relocation motion with the court is now required to inform the other parent via certified mail of their right to file a motion in opposition to the proposed relocation. The information is designed to inform the parent that they must include an affidavit specifying the “good-faith factual basis” of their opposition, and it must be filed within 30 days of receiving the written notice.
Child Custody: Grandparent Relocation
Section 452.402 RSMo allows courts to grant visitation to grandparents if they are denied visits for more than 60 days
A court may order grandparent visitation with grandchildren if the grandparent has been “unreasonably” denied previously awarded visitation for more than 60 days and the court has determined that it is in the child’s best interest to have visits with the grandparents. This does not apply if the child’s parents are legally married to each other and are living together with the children.