Aaron Eckhardt, MSW, BRAVO Training & Technical Assistance Director
I know it can be very confusing when trying to navigate the Ohio Civil Justice System especially when trying to obtain protection from another person. During a scary and potentially dangerous time, the system can seem like a series of closed doors leading to empty hallways. There is a light at the end of those hallways and a system of protection: this article will outline the different kinds of Civil Protection Orders Ohio has to offer and when someone can request them. Also I will discuss some myths regarding the world of Protection Orders and why, if enforced, they do work.
Adult Civil Protection Orders in Ohio:
Civil Protection Order (CPO)
The CPO can be used for adult family or household members in the event that someone needs to protect him/herself from an intimate partner or any other adult family or household member. CPOs are filed and heard in the Domestic Relations Court.
Those seeking a CPO have to provide evidence of violence or fear of violence. Upon filing in the Domestic Court there will be a same day hearing called the ex parte hearing. This is an initial hearing for the person requesting the CPO to go before the Judge and make their claim. If the Judge sees violence or fear of violence the CPO will be issued. The following steps will then happen.
- The defendant (i.e. the perpetrator of the abuse) will be served by the county sheriff’s office and notified that the CPO is in place and the date of the full hearing.
- There will be a full hearing scheduled for two weeks after your initial ex parte hearing.
- This full hearing is where the person seeking protection will need to provide further documentation and/or evidence to the court for the CPO to be extended for up to 5 years depending on the case details.
Eligible Parties for the CPO include the victim/survivor AND any family or household members. This includes all persons cohabitating, biological parents of children, intimate partners regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Stalking and/or Sexually Oriented Offence Protection Order (SSOOPO)
The SSOOPO can be used for NON-family or NON-household members. SSOOPOs are filed and heard in Common Pleas Court General Division where the person to be protected resides.
Those seeking a SSOOPO have to provide evidence of a person who engaged in a violation of menacing by stalking in Ohio this is defined as follows:
No person by engaging in a pattern of conduct shall knowingly cause another to believe that the offender will cause physical harm to the other person or cause mental distress to the other person. R.C. 2903.211 (A)
Anyone being able to document at least two or more incidents of any threats or actions described in the above statute is eligible for protection. NOTE: The rule of two incidents only applies to stalking! Any person filing on the basis of a sexually oriented offense does NOT need to prove a “pattern of conduct” meaning that one incident will meet the statute for and SSOOPO.
Upon filing in the Common Pleas Court there will be a same day hearing called the ex parte hearing. This is an initial hearing for the person requesting the SSOOPO to go before the Judge and make his/her claim. If the Judge issues the SSOOPO, the following steps will then happen.
- The defendant (i.e. the perpetrator of the stalking/sexually oriented offense) will be served by the county sheriff’s office and notified that the SSOOPO is in place and the date of the full hearing.
- There will be a full hearing scheduled for two weeks after the initial ex parte hearing.
- This full hearing is where the person seeking protection will need to provide further documentation and/or evidence to the court for the SSOOPO to be extended for up to 5 years depending on the case details.
Civil Protection Orders are an important step in the safety of any survivor. A study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine published in January of 2003 found that women who obtained and maintained a CPO where significantly safer than those without them in the 5 month period after they were initially threatened of abuse. The same can be said for all persons in need of Civil Protection regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. CPOs and SSOOPOs are filed every day here in Ohio… their popularity also speaks to their effectiveness.
It has been said that Protection Orders are just paper, and paper can’t stop a bullet or a fist. This may be true; however the homicide statute ore any other law is also just a piece of paper. It is not the law or statute that protects—it is the enforcement of the law. It is highly important to have your protection order enforced, and to report any violation to law enforcement no matter how small. Also keep your own log and documentation of any violations.
Civil Protection Orders do work. In a subjective study by the National Center for State Courts, 85.5% of petitioners said they felt safer six months after their protection order was issued, and 95% said they would seek an protection order again.
Have a safety plan in place! Stay with friends, in a shelter, or other safe environment. Having safety planning in place before the perpetrator is served with the protection order is imperative. It can provoke perpetrators to be served with court papers. Trust your gut reactions to potentially dangerous situations!
If you are in need of assistance with safety planning or obtaining Civil Protection call 866-86-BRAVO today! Legal representation assistance also available!