A person living in the state of Ohio who believes they are the victim of domestic violence, stalking or harassment can get an order of protection from a county circuit court. This order makes it a crime for the offender to continue their abusive behavior toward the victim or other persons covered by the order, such as the victim’s children.
If the court believes immediate danger is present, it will issue an "ex parte" or temporary order to protect the victim before the court hearing date for a more permanent protection order. "Ex parte" means that the petitioner can ask for an immediate protection order without notification to, or the appearance of, the abuser.
Domestic Violence in Ohio
Ohio defines domestic violence as an occurrence in which a family member of a victim, someone living with them, or someone they are in a dating relationship with does certain acts:
- Recklessly causes or attempts to cause the victim bodily injury.
- Puts the victim in fear of threat of force or immediate and serious physical harm.
- Commits menacing by stalking or aggravated trespass.
- Commits an act that would result in the abuse of a minor child, including mental injury that threatens or harms a minor's health or welfare.
Some sexually oriented offenses include:
- Sexual battery.
- Sexual contact with a minor or soliciting a minor for sex.
- Sexual imposition or gross sexual imposition.
- Compelling or promoting prostitution.
- Pandering obscenity with an adult or minor.
- Using a minor in nudity-oriented performance or materials.
- Felonious assault.
- Committing menacing by stalking.
Types of Protection Orders in Ohio
Ohio has two kinds of protection orders: ex parte temporary protection order and civil protection order (CPO).
An ex parte order is usually granted the day the victim files their petition against the abuser and gives them immediate protection, which lasts until a hearing for a longer-term civil protection order takes place, typically between seven to 10 days.
The court grants the ex parte order if it believes there is good cause to do so, such as in:
- Situations where the respondent has threatened the victim with bodily harm or sexually-oriented offenses.
- Situations where the respondent has already had a conviction of, or pleaded guilty to, domestic violence against the victim.
A civil protection order is issued after a full hearing and can last up to five years, unless the respondent is 18 when the order is issued. In this instance, it remains in effect only until they turn 19, unless the court renews or extends it.
Ending a Civil Protection Order
A final CPO may end earlier than the court-mandated date if it has a temporary custody/visitation provision or order of support. The court may also end it earlier if either party files for divorce, the couple legally separates, or a judge makes an order for custody/visitation, support, or allocates parental rights and responsibilities.
What a Protection Order Can Do
Both orders may protect the petitioner in various ways. For example, an abuser may not:
- Abuse, harass or annoy the victim.
- Have contact with the petitioner or their children.
- Enter the victim's home, school, business or workplace, or their children’s home, school, business or workplace.
The court can also:
- Evict the abuser and award the petitioner possession of the residence, even if the abuser owns it.
- Award child custody to the petitioner.
- Order the abuser to pay the victim monthly support or pay for their rent, mortgage and/or utility bills.
- Require the abuser to attend counseling.
- Require the abuser to not damage, harm, hide, remove or get rid of a companion animal owned or possessed by the petitioner. The court can also allow the petitioner to remove their companion animal from the abuser’s possession.
- Grant the victim of the abuser their motor vehicle and other possessions.
- Direct a service provider to transfer the rights to, and billing responsibility for, phones that the petitioner or their children have, if the petitioner is not already an account holder.
- Grant the victim any other relief that it considers fair and reasonable.
Filling Out Protection Order Forms
A person can find protection order forms at the civil clerk of court's office at the courthouse in their area. They can also find them online and fill them out at home. If they need help filling them out, they can contact a local domestic violence program for more information.
On the form, the petitioner (victim) explains their reasons for wanting the order and details the incidents of abuse with specific language that fits their situation, as well as the dates the acts occurred.
When Immediate Protection Is Needed
If the petitioner needs immediate protection, they can tell the clerk they want an ex parte order and fill out an application specifically for one. The clerk will forward it to a judge, who may question the petitioner about their need for immediate protection.
The court may or may not grant the ex parte order, but even if it doesn't, the judge will schedule a hearing for a full protection order.
Is There a Fee for a Protection Order?
An Ohio petitioner cannot be charged court fees for certain procedures, but the court can make the abuser pay costs connected to any of them:
- Filing a protection order.
- Order issuance.
- Registering or modifying an order.
- Order enforcement.
- Dismissal or withdrawal of the order.
- Having law enforcement serve the order.
- Requesting a witness subpoena from the court for a hearing.
- Getting a certified copy of an order.
A petitioner does not need an attorney to file a protection order, but they may want to have one, especially if the abuser has an attorney. If a petitioner cannot afford an attorney, they can find help through domestic violence programs or legal assistance agencies in their area.
Serving an Ex Parte Order
If the petitioner gets an ex parte order, the respondent must be served with the petition, a copy of the order, and a notice of hearing for a full order. If they live in Ohio, the court clerk will take these documents to the local sheriff’s office in the respondent's county. A sheriff will then attempt to serve the papers on the respondent.
If a petitioner requests it, the clerk can send the documents to a process server or anyone over 18 who is not involved in the case to serve them to the abuser. Once the abuser is served, the person who delivers the documents must fill out a form notifying the court that they have successfully completed the task.
If the petitioner does not live in Ohio, the court clerk will give them the order, so they can arrange with a sheriff, process server or party over 18 to have the documents delivered. After serving the abuser, they must also fill out a form stating they were successful in delivering the documents and give the form to the clerk's office.
Hearing for Civil Protective Order
The petitioner must ask the court to turn the temporary order into a CPO, which lasts up to five years. If the petitioner misses the court date, the ex parte order expires. If the abuser does not show, the court can still grant the petitioner the CPO or, alternatively, can reschedule the hearing.
If the abuser shows up with an attorney, but the petitioner does not, the petitioner can ask the court for a delay so they can find a lawyer. They can also represent themselves if they choose.
If the petitioner can’t appear at the hearing at the scheduled time, they can ask the court to request to continue the case, but the request may be denied.
What Happens if the Respondent Isn’t Served
If the person serving the abuser is unsuccessful in reaching them before the hearing, the judge can continue the case, giving the server more time to serve the documents, or they can dismiss it. Additionally, the petitioner can file for “service by publication or posting and mail” through an affidavit filed in court. The affidavit will state that:
- Petitioner does not know where the abuser lives.
- Petitioner made an effort to try to find the abuser.
- Petitioner cannot find the abuser after giving “reasonable diligence” to the search.
Once the petitioner files this request, the court clerk will post notice of the protection order in a newspaper, courthouse or other public place in the county as determined by local law for six consecutive weeks.
The clerk will also mail the documents to the abuser’s last known address. After the six-week period is over, the clerk will enter the information as having been served.
Serving an Out-of-State Abuser
If the abuser lives outside of Ohio, the court may not have “personal jurisdiction” over them, meaning that the court may not be able to legally grant a protection order against them. However, it can have personal jurisdiction to serve someone out of state under the following circumstances:
- The abuser is substantially connected to Ohio. For example, they traveled to the state frequently to visit the petitioner or extended family, traveled to the state for business, or lived in the state and recently left.
- The abuse occurred in Ohio. For example, the abuser sent threatening texts or made phone calls from outside the state to the petitioner in Ohio. The abuse may have also taken place while the abuser was in Ohio, but they have since left the state.
- If the abuser is served with the petition while present in Ohio.
Even if none of the above scenarios apply, the petitioner may still be able to get a protection order. They may be granted on consent, which means the order is issued with no hearing or finding of wrongdoing by the abuser, or the court may find other circumstances that allow it to be granted.
What to Do After the Hearing
After being granted the CPO, the petitioner should review it before leaving the courthouse and let the clerk know if anything is wrong or missing so it can be corrected immediately.
They should then make several copies of the court order, keep one with them at all times, and leave copies at their workplace, home, car, and at their child’s school or daycare. Anyone who is named in, and protected by, the CPO should also have a copy.
The court may give a copy to local law enforcement, but if not, the petitioner should do so. After leaving the court with the order, the petitioner should consider taking safety precautions, such as changing their locks and phone number.
- WomensLaw.org: Domestic Violence Protection Orders
- The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland: What Should I Know About Civil Protection Orders (CPOs)?
- Ohio Legislature: Section 3113.31 | Domestic violence definitions; hearings.
- Supreme Court Ohio: OHIO RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE
- Supreme Court Ohio: Protection Order
- Women's Law.org: What is the difference between an order granted after a hearing and a consent order?
- Call 1-800-934-9840 if you have questions about getting a restraining order or 1-800-799-SAFE, nationwide.
- Let everyone (friends, family, neighbors, employers) know that you have a restraining order.
- Keep a copy of the order with you everywhere you go.
- Each county within Ohio may have different procedures. Contact your county's Clerk of Courts to determine the exact procedures for your place of residence.
- Call 911 immediately if the person violates the order.
- Contact a shelter or crisis center if you need a place to go to avoid danger.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.