Working through the Unthinkable: Obtaining a Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order

Asking a court to issue an order of protection is one of the last things anyone wants to think about; however, if you or your loved ones are involved in an abusive or otherwise dangerous relationship, it is important to know to whom to turn for help. You can call the police to report an act of violence, but how do you keep the perpetrator away?

Domestic Violence Civil Protection Orders (DV-CPO), pursuant to Ohio Revised Code 3113.31 are issued by the Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division, when the parties involved are family or household members. You can seek an order of protection for yourself, your children, or on behalf of any family or household member in one of three counties – where you (the Petitioner) reside, where the Respondent resides, or in the county where the incident occurred.

Who qualifies as a family or household member? Pursuant to Ohio law, a family or household member can be a person who is residing or has resided with the Respondent at some point in the past. This can include a spouse, a former spouse, a foster parent, a child, or any other person related by love or affection to the Respondent. A family or household member can also be a person living as a spouse with the Respondent. In order to determine if you are “living as a spouse,” courts will look at factors such as whether you are currently living with or have lived with the respondent in the past five years, whether you had a common law marriage until October 1, 1999, whether you were involved in a same- sex relationship, or if you were involved in an intimate relationship with the Respondent while sharing family and/or financial responsibilities. A family or household member could also be someone who had never resided with the Respondent, but who shares a child with him or her.

Domestic Violence Civil Protection Orders are issued in response to violent threats or acts. This could include domestic violence, assault, felonious assault, any sexually oriented offense, or any other attempt to cause bodily harm. It also includes threats which place you in fear of imminent physical harm. It is not required that criminal charges be filed, but you must be able to substantiate the claims that you are making with evidence.

Once you ask the court for the DV-CPO, an ex parte hearing is held on the day of the filing. An ex parte hearing means that you present the evidence you have to the judge or magistrate, but the Respondent is not present at the hearing. A magistrate may conduct the hearing and grant or deny the DV-CPO without requiring the judge’s approval for it be final. If your request at the ex parte hearing is granted, the Order is effective once signed and filed with the clerk, but only until the expiration date. The matter will then be set for a full hearing, so the Respondent has a chance to be heard.

DV-CPOs are designed to ensure the safety and protection of all protected parties. To that end, they can offer many different types of relief. They can evict Respondents and give exclusive use of the family home to the protected parties, temporarily allocate parental rights and responsibilities, require the Respondent to maintain support for the protected parties or the children, prohibit the Respondent from going near the parties, require the Respondent to seek counseling, or any other relief that the court determines is equitable and fair. Another important form of relief DV-CPOs offer is a firearms disability notice, prohibiting the Respondent from using or possessing any firearms. If the Respondent violates the Order, he or she could be found in contempt of court or even be prosecuted for the violation.

DV-CPOs are typically good for a period of five years, unless a sooner expiration date is sought; however, they are renewable in the same manner that the original was issued or approved.

Article contributed by Stephanie Anderson