Understanding domestic violence from a legal perspective


Ohio State Bar Association



Q: What is domestic violence?

A: According to Ohio law, domestic violence is conduct that causes or threatens to cause physical harm or bodily injury to a “family or household member.” Domestic violence includes acts of stalking, aggravated trespass or violations of sexually oriented offenses. In addition, the civil protection order statute includes acts that result in a child being abused or endangered.

Q: I’m a victim of domestic violence. What can I do legally?

A: You can ask your local police department or prosecutor’s office to file charges against the person (“defendant”) who hurt or threatened you. If charges are issued, the defendant may be summoned to appear in court or be arrested. If arrested, a defendant may have to remain in jail until the case is decided. If the defendant posts bond, he or she may be released until the case is over. Once criminal charges are filed, you may seek a temporary protection order (TPO) to cover you and your family or household members while the case is pending. The TPO terms can require the defendant to refrain from doing certain acts, such as abusing you, contacting you and/or coming near you at home, school or work. You may also seek a civil protection order (CPO) in the court that has jurisdiction over domestic relations matters. Unlike a criminal case that a prosecutor files, you, as the victim (“petitioner”), would ask the court to issue a civil protection order against the abuser (“respondent”). If the court grants the CPO, the order may protect you and other parties in your household for up to five years. It may order the respondent to stop abusing, threatening or stalking you and other family or household members. The court can also prohibit the abuser from having contact with any family or household member or from going to the home, school or place of employment of those covered by the order. The court may also order support, custody or visitation, and may award one party the use of property, which may include the car.

Q: How can I get a TPO?

A: Once a complaint is issued, the police or prosecutor may ask the court to grant a TPO to enhance your safety and that of any others named in the TPO. Before the TPO is issued, you must appear in court so the court can determine whether to issue the order. If the order is issued without the defendant being present, the court will allow the defendant to challenge the order at a second hearing once the defendant is arrested or surrenders. The defendant is not required to have the second hearing; he or she may waive the hearing and simply comply with the order.

Even if a TPO is not requested, the court may still decide, based on the facts, to issue a TPO for your safety.

Q: How do I get a CPO?

A: You can get a CPO whether or not a criminal case is pending; sometimes, however, it is a good idea to wait until the criminal case is over before filing a CPO. You must give the court evidence that domestic violence is an immediate and present danger for you or another household member. For example, the court may issue a CPO in response to evidence of physical abuse, threats to harm or kill, or stalking behavior.

As the petitioner, you must fill out forms and give a sworn statement describing the violence. If you are asking for an “ex parte” CPO based on your statements alone, you will be the only one to appear before the court. The court will review the forms you completed to determine whether or not to grant the “ex parte” order.

If the order is granted, another hearing will be held within 7 to 10 court days of the first hearing. At this second hearing, the respondent may be present to dispute your allegations. If the respondent agrees to the CPO terms, the court will issue a consent agreement and grant the CPO, but will not hold a hearing. If an agreement is not reached, the court will hold the hearing and, based on the evidence, will determine whether to issue the CPO. Both you and the respondent will be able to present evidence and call witnesses. If the respondent fails to appear, the court will take your evidence and may still issue the CPO.

Q: Do I need an attorney?

A: You may request and obtain a CPO with or without an attorney. As the complaining witness in a criminal case, the prosecutor will help you obtain a TPO. Whether a CPO or a TPO is being requested, you may be accompanied by a victim advocate during all stages of the proceedings.

This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Alexandria M. Ruden, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

Ohio State Bar Association

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