A restraining order, or order of protection, can be a vital tool in ending or preventing future harm or abuse. This legal document sets punishment for those identified as committing harassment or assault. Learn more about how to get a restraining order, an important step in instituting safety measures.
Why a Protection Order is Helpful
According to the Ohio Domestic Violence Network 2017-2018 Fatalities report, 69 incidents resulted in 91 deaths. Almost a quarter of domestic violent incidents also included child witnesses. Although restraining orders aren’t a guaranteed deterrent to violent behavior, they are a strong pause for thought. With that document on file, the charges and repercussions for violations add to the charges for the crime itself.
Also known as civil protection orders in Ohio, these filings typically occur after incidents of:
- domestic violence
- sexual assault
- abduction or unlawful imprisonment
- violation of adult protection laws.
Get a Restraining Order as Soon as Possible
You should get a restraining order as soon as possible following an act of threat of violence. You will find the requisite forms at the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, or any other borough courthouse, free to file. Court personnel can only advise on form instructions, so you may want an Ohio Domestic Violence Program advocate to assist. Obtain a notarized signature either at the Court or under the supervision of another agent, and then submit the paperwork.
The initial filing is considered ex parte, meaning that there is only your account for a judge to review. A temporary restraining order is often granted, valid for approximately one week, until the hearing is scheduled. You can file for the order in the county where you live, where the abuser lives, or where the crime took place. Defendants will be served with the papers, so ask the Court of Domestic Relations about hiding your address if necessary. Ask if it’s possible to serve legal papers on social media, if you’d rather inform the person, instead of the having authorities do it.
Restraining Orders and Provisions
At the hearing, the judge will listen to testimony from you and the defendant. You are not required to have an attorney, but it’s a good idea to get one. He or she can help emphasize the severity of the situation, and make sure that all legal infractions are noted. The case may be rescheduled if the defendant does not appear, but your presence is mandatory. Unless you or your attorney can get a continuance, your absence will result in the case being dismissed.
Bring any relevant documentation to the hearing, including police, doctor, and/or hospital reports, therapist notes (if confidentiality is waived), and correspondence with friends, family, clergy, or colleagues relaying the incidents.
Civil court-ordered protection is based more on “preponderance.” This means the evidence may not be airtight, yet show the likelihood that abuse occurred. Criminal court-ordered protection, usually filed by the state, demonstrates abuse “beyond reasonable doubt.” The ensuing restraining order may be valid for up to five years, then eligible for renewal if still needed. If you represent yourself and your request for an order of protection is denied, seek counsel for re-applying.
Along with the obvious no-contact stipulation, restraining orders may also include the following:
- eviction if abuser lives with you
- visitation and/or custody restrictions or denials if you have children with the defendant
- division of property and/or assets
- court-mandated therapy
- request for defendant to pay your attorney costs and other fees associated with the incident
Once You Get a Restraining Order
Orders of protection typically extend to your place of employment, school, and anywhere else you could encounter the abuser. Make sure to keep copies of the orders (even temporary ones), and even give them to close friends and family. Should a violation occur, contact police as soon as possible and document the incident, especially if there’s no arrest. It’s a good idea to implement a safety plan, so you’re better prepared in case of a violation. Learn about Ohio’s “Castle Doctrine” law to understand the legal parameters if you must defend yourself at home.
Protection orders should remain in effect if you move out of state. Double-check with the new courts that it gets registered, along with any other coordinating (support, visitation, etc.) details. Also contact the local courts if the issuing order involved a military base, because different registration regulations may apply.
Don’t let the emotions overwhelm you during an already stressful time. Contact a qualified law firm to help you get what you need.