Restraining orders restrain. Protective orders protect. In many states, including Ohio, these terms are used interchangeably because the reason the court restrains one person is to protect another. It is a sad fact that most people who require restraining orders to protect them are threatened by someone in their family or someone with whom they have an intimate relationship. This is termed domestic violence. Note that in the 12-month period beginning July 1, 2017, a total of 91 deaths were reported in domestic violence situations in Ohio.
But domestic violence is not the only type of harassing and abusive behavior out there. Someone might also be harassed or stalked by acquaintances, neighbors or strangers. Ohio offers civil protective orders, or CPOs, to cover all of these situations. Once a restraining order is in place, dropping it is not as easy as it sounds.
What Is a Restraining Order?
Most of us remember at least one instance in childhood when a parent admonished us for bad behavior and promised punishment if we continued: "Don't you dare hit your brother again. If you do, you'll be sorry," or in earlier times, "If you do it again, I'll tell your father when he gets home."
A restraining order is the grown-up equivalent. It is not a parent drawing the line in the sand, but a judge in a court of law. And a restraining order is generally issued only for extremely abusive behavior. If someone drives 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, a police officer issues a ticket, not a restraining order. In most states, courts have authority to issue protective orders when someone is being injured or threatened by someone else. Injured is pretty inclusive, meaning hit, kicked, beaten, smacked, shoved, pushed, assaulted, battered or harassed. Threatened means that a person fears this type of injury. Courts grant restraining orders when a reasonable person, in the same circumstances, would be afraid that any of these types of abuse were likely to happen to them or someone in their family in the foreseeable future.
A restraining order is itself intended as a threat. It is a court order telling the abuser not to continue the abusive behavior against the victim or her family or kids, and sometimes not to come anywhere near her...or else. The "or else" usually includes the police being called, an arrest being made and charges being filed.
When You Need to Get a Restraining Order
Is someone hurting or harassing you or your kids? Are they making direct threats to do so? Or have they made indirect threats by behaving in a threatening manner? If your answer to any of these question is "yes," you may need to seek a restraining order.
A restraining order, or CPO, in Ohio, like in every other state, is issued against a particular person. It tells that person not to do certain things. That means that the only time a court will give you a restraining order is when a specific person is abusing you or your family, or has threatened to do so. You can only get a restraining order if you know who is harassing you. If you are stalked by someone whose identity you don't know, for example, or your house is painted with threatening graffiti and you have no idea who did it, you may think you need a restraining order, but you won't be able to get one.
If you are being hurt, abused, harassed or threatened by someone that you have a close relationship with, as defined by Ohio law, you can seek a domestic violence civil protection order in Ohio. If you are being hurt, abused, threatened or harassed by someone you don't have such a close relationship with, like a neighbor, someone you are casually dating, a coworker or even a stranger, you can get a stalking or sexually oriented offense civil protection order in Ohio. Criminal protective orders are also available in Ohio if certain charges are brought against the abuser.
Can I Get a Restraining Order for Harassment?
Under Ohio law, a number of different types of restraining orders are available, and each applies to a different situation. If you are considering whether to get a restraining order in Ohio, you need information. You can either read up on the basic types of orders available or get advice and help from others. You can go to an Ohio court and talk over the situation with the court personnel in charge of CPOs, since they can point you in the right direction. You can also turn to a website offered by the Ohio Domestic Violence Network that provides information, forms and instructions, as well as links to associations that may be able to help you.
The restraining orders in Ohio can be viewed in two categories, criminal protection orders and civil protection orders, or CPOs. The Ohio criminal courts can issue a Domestic Violence Temporary Protection Order (DVTPO) or a Criminal Protection Order (CRPO) if someone is charged with a crime, misdemeanor or felony, for abusive or threatening behavior. The prosecutor in the case can help you get this type of order if you are a victim. Civil courts issue CPOs if the abuser is a family or household member of the defendant. They issue Civil Stalking or Sexually Orientated Offense Protection Orders, or SSOOPOs, if the abuser is not in a close relationship with the victim. You must apply for this type of order.
The type of behavior that results in a protective order includes harassment. A domestic violence order can issue for any abusive behavior where the abuser causes or attempts to cause bodily injury, or, by threats of force, puts the victim in fear of serious physical harm. It can include stalking, trespassing, committing child abuse, or committing a sexually oriented offense. The requisite fear for bodily harm can come from actual physical abuse, stalking or trespass.
Most of these terms are interpreted broadly for protective order purposes. For example, a sexually oriented offense can include rape, sexual battery, sexual contact with a minor, sexual imposition, soliciting a minor for sexual activity, being a voyeur, forcing someone into prostitution, using a minor in pornography, menacing by stalking with a sexual motivation, as well as a variety of crimes if they were committed with a sexual motivation, including human trafficking, kidnapping and murder. Attempting to carry out any of these actions is likewise sufficient to obtain a protective order.
How to Get a Restraining Order in Ohio
To get a civil domestic violence restraining order in Ohio, you must establish that the abuser is in a close relationship with you. What relationships qualify? The abuser must be either a family or a member of the household; someone you are in a dating relationship with; or someone you used to be in a dating relationship with. Family includes a spouse or an ex-spouse; someone you have a child with; a parent, foster parent or stepparent; a child or stepchild; or anyone related to you or to a spouse by blood or marriage. A dating relationship is an intimate relationship that took place within 12 months of the domestic violence incident. It is not a casual acquaintance or a typical social relationship.
If the person abusing or harassing you is not in a close relationship with you, there is still a CPO available. You can ask for a stalking or sexually oriented offense protective order.
So how to get a restraining order in Ohio? For either of these types of CPOs, you must fill out the Ohio forms and file them in court. You can get them at the court itself from the civil clerk, but it's easier to fill them out before you go. Ideally, you should do this with assistance from an advocate of a domestic violence program. You can usually find one at a battered women's shelter, legal aid or other domestic violence prevention organizations. They will assist you to fill out the correct forms and support you in court.
If you decide to do it alone, remember that you are the Petitioner on the form, while you list the abuser as the Respondent. The forms basically ask you to identify the parties, then describe the abuse. Make this description as detailed and specific as possible. Sign the forms at the court in front of the clerk so that he can notarize them for you. Alternatively, sign them in front of a notary before filing them. There is no charge to file for a CPO.
If you need immediate protection, you must indicate that and ask for a temporary (ex parte) order. It is called an ex parte order because the judge gives it to you to protect you if you are in immediate danger without first telling the abuser about it or giving him a chance to appear. If you ask for this, you will see a judge or magistrate and talk to her about the situation. If she is convinced that you are in danger, she will issue the order. In any case, she will also give you a date for a hearing for a permanent order.
These papers must be personally served on the abuser, usually by handing them to him, so that the court is certain that he got notice. This is usually done by law enforcement in Ohio or by private process server agencies. The court hears all sides at the hearing and decides whether to issue a permanent order.
How to Drop a Civil Protection Order in Ohio
If you ask for an ex parte order, and the judge grants one, it doesn't last forever. It is a temporary order, putting the protection in place only until the hearing for a permanent civil protection order. This usually happens within 10 days.
There is no mechanism in the law for a victim who receives a temporary protection order to drop it before the hearing. But if you decide not to go through with it, you can simply decide not to show up at the noticed hearing. If the protected person fails to show up at the CPO hearing, the court usually denies the petition and doesn't order a CPO put in place.
Once that hearing is held, however, the court can order a civil protection order. If the abuser has been served with the papers but fails to show up at the hearing, it is very likely that the court will issue the CPO. If it does so, the court can make the duration of the order as long as five years. Note that if the abuser is himself a minor, the CPO cannot restrain him until he turns 19, although it can be renewed at that time by the court.
A CPO in Ohio can include divorce-type provisions if the court believes them necessary. This can be a provision giving temporary custody of minor kids to the victim, and it can also include an order of financial support. One way to get these terms of the CPO dropped is to file for divorce, legal separation or some other allocation of parental rights and responsibilities. If either parent files for these, the judge in that court makes new determinations about these matters. However, the other terms of the CPO remain in place.
If either the victim or the abuser wants to drop the CPO altogether, the person must file a form called Motion to Modify or Terminate Domestic Violence Protection Order, or CPO. If the victim files this form, she must assure the court she is not being bullied, threatened or harassed into doing so. Whoever makes the motion must convince the court that the protection is no longer required.