What is the legal definition of domestic violence in Ohio?
This section defines domestic violence for the purposes of getting a protection order. Domestic violence is when a family or household member or someone you are in a dating relationship with does any of the following:
- attempts to cause or recklessly causes you bodily injury;
- by the threat of force, puts you in fear of immediate, serious physical harm;
- commits menacing by stalking;
- commits aggravated trespass;
- commits any act with respect to a child that would result in the child being an “abused child” (as defined by law),1 which includes mental injury that harms or threatens to harm the child’s health or welfare;2 or
- commits a sexually oriented offense,1 which is defined as any of the following acts:
- sexual battery;
- unlawful sexual contact with a minor (see the statute sections (A)(2) and (3) for certain conditions regarding the age difference of the victim and offender);
- gross sexual imposition;
- sexual imposition;
- importuning (soliciting a minor for sexual activity);
- voyeurism (deals with secretly videotaping sexual acts or similar actions);
- compelling prostitution;
- promoting prostitution;
- pandering obscenity;
- pandering obscenity involving a minor;
- illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance;
- felonious assault when committed with a sexual motivation; and
- committing menacing by stalking with a sexual motivation.3
- Note: There are additional acts involving human trafficking, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping and other crimes when sexually motivated, which we have not included in the above list; to read these, see sections (A)(4),(7)-(11) of the law.
1 Ohio Rev. Code § 3113.31(A)(1)
2 Ohio Rev. Code § 2151.031(D)
3 Ohio Rev. Code § 2950.01(A)
What kinds of protection orders are there in Ohio? How long do they last?
There are two kinds of protection orders in Ohio. A temporary ex parte protection order can be granted the same day you file your petition in order to give you immediate protection from the abuser. The judge can grant the ex parte order if there is “good cause” to do so. Immediate danger of domestic violence or dating violence can count as good cause to grant a temporary ex parte order, which includes, but is not limited to:
- situations in which the respondent has threatened you with bodily harm or a sexually oriented offense; or
- a situation in which the respondent previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a domestic violence crime against you (including a juvenile adjudication for a domestic violence crime).1
An ex parte order will last until the hearing for your civil protection order, which generally takes places within seven to ten days.2
A civil protection order (CPO) can be issued after a hearing is held where the abuser has the opportunity to appear in court (even if s/he chooses not to appear). A CPO can last up to five years but if the respondent (abuser) is under age 18 when the order is issued against him/her, the order can only last until s/he turns 19 (unless it is renewed/extended).3 However, if the CPO includes a provision for temporary custody/visitation and/or an order of support, those terms may end earlier than the five years if either parent files for divorce, legal separation, or allocation of parental rights and responsibilities and a judge in that court case makes an order for custody/visitation or support.4
1 Ohio Rev. Code § 3113.31(D)(1)
2 Ohio Rev. Code § 3113.31(D)(2)
3 Ohio Rev. Code § 3113.31(E)(3)(a), (E)(3)(c)
What protections can I get in a domestic violence or dating violence protection order?
An ex parte order and a final protection order may:
- order the abuser to refrain from abusing, harassing, and annoying you;
- order the abuser to have no contact with you or your children;
- keep the abuser from entering your home, school, business or place of employment, or those of your children;
- evict the abuser and award you possession of the residence, even if the residence is owned by the abuser;
- award you custody of your child;
- require the abuser to pay you monthly support;
- require the abuser to pay rent, mortgage, and/or utility payments;
- require the abuser to see a counselor;
- order that the respondent not remove, damage, hide, harm, or get rid of any companion animal owned or possessed by you (and the judge can allow you to remove your companion animal from the possession of the abuser);
- grant you use of motor vehicle and other possessions;1
- direct a wireless service provider to transfer the rights to, and billing responsibility for, any wireless service (cell phone) number(s) that you or any minor children in your case use if you are not already the account holder;2 and
- grant any other relief that the court considers reasonable and fair.1
Whether a judge orders any or all of the above depends on the facts of your case.
1 Ohio Rev. Code § 3113.31(E)(1)
2 Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3113.31(E)(1)(k); 3113.451
In which county can I file for a protection order?
You can file a petition in the county in which you currently or temporarily live.1
1 Ohio R. Civ. P. Rule 3(C)(10); see Instructions For Completing the Petition for a Domestic Violence or Dating Violence Civil Protection Order
How much does it cost to get, modify, dismiss, or serve an order? Do I need a lawyer?
You cannot be charged any fee or cost in connection with filing for a protection order, which includes filing your petition, getting an order issued, registering the order, modifying the order, enforcing the order or even dismissing/withdrawing the order. You also cannot be charged anything to have the order served by law enforcement, to request a witness subpoena from the judge for a hearing, or to get a certified copy of your order.1
However, the court can make the respondent (abuser) pay costs in connection with any of the above-mentioned actions.2
Although you do not need a lawyer to file for a protection order, it may be to your advantage to seek legal counsel, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. Even if the abuser does not have a lawyer, you may want to contact a lawyer to make sure that your legal rights are protected. If you cannot afford a lawyer but want one to help you with your case, you can find information on legal assistance and domestic violence agencies on the Ohio Places that Help page. Staff at domestic violence agencies in your area and/or court staff may be able to answer some of your questions or help you fill out the necessary court forms.
If you are going to be in court without a lawyer, our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section may be useful to you.
1 Ohio Rev. Code § 3113.31(J)(1)
2 Ohio Rev. Code § 3113.31(J)(2)
If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?
When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.
There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:
- The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
- One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
- If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.
However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.
You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.
Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.