Step 1: Get and fill out the necessary forms.
You can find the forms from the civil clerk at the courthouse where you live, but you may want to find them before you go and fill them out at home or with an advocate from a domestic violence program. You will find links to forms online on our Ohio Download Court Forms page and you will find courthouse locations on our Ohio Courthouse Locations page.
On the petition you will be the “petitioner” and the abuser will be the “respondent.” In the box provided for explaining why you want the order, write about the most recent incidents of violence, using specific language (slapping, hitting, grabbing, threatening, etc.) that fits your situation. Include details and dates, if possible. Clerks and magistrates can show you which blanks to fill in, but they cannot help you decide what to write. Note: Do not sign the forms until you are in front of a notary or a clerk. The clerk can usually notarize the forms for you.
If you need immediate protection, let the clerk know you also want a temporary (ex parte) order. An ex parte order is a temporary emergency order that a judge can grant you if you or your child are in immediate danger without any prior notice to the abuser.
You will need to provide your name and contact information so that the court can reach you. Be sure to use a safe mailing address and phone number. If you are staying at a shelter, give a post office box, not the street address. If you do not have a safe address, do not fill it out - ask the clerk first how you can keep your address confidential.
Step 2: The ex parte hearing
After you complete the application, return it to the clerk. The clerk will forward it to a judge, and the judge will consider your application. The judge may wish to question you about your allegations in an ex parte hearing. “Ex parte” means “from one side.” In this hearing the judge hears only from you, not from the abuser. You will explain to the judge why you fear the abuser and feel you need a protection order. The abuser does not need to know about this hearing until after it has taken place.
After hearing your testimony, the judge will decide whether or not to issue a temporary protection order until your full hearing. Whether or not the judge grants you a temporary order, s/he will generally give you a date for your full court hearing. Your full hearing will take place within seven to ten days of your filing the petition.
Step 3: Service of process
After you receive an ex parte order of protection, the abuser must be served with your petition, a copy of the order, and notice of the hearing for the final order.
If the abuser lives in Ohio, the clerk of the court will deliver a copy of the following documents to the local sheriff in the county where the abuser lives:
- your petition for an order of protection;
- the affidavit you filled out describing the abuse;
- a summons/notice to appear with the time and date of the next court date; and
- any other relevant documents.1
The sheriff will then try to “personally serve” the abuser by finding him/her and giving him/her the documents. If you request it, the clerk could send these documents to a process server or any person over 18 who is not a party to the case for service instead of the sheriff. That person can then locate the abuser and give him the documents.
Once the sheriff, deputy, process server, or person over 18 has completed service, s/he must fill out a form notifying the clerk the abuser has been served and give that form to the clerk.
If the abuser does not live in Ohio, the clerk of the court will give you a copy of the order for the abuser so that you can arrange for service. You can give this copy to a sheriff, process server, or any person over 18 who is permitted by the court to serve process. This person must give the copy to the abuser and then fill out a form notifying the clerk the abuser has been served and give that form to the clerk.2 You can find contact information for sheriffs in other states on our Sheriff Departments page.
Regardless of whether the abuser lives in Ohio or not, if the abuser is not served before the next court date, the judge may either “continue” the case to allow for more time to try to serve the abuser or dismiss the case for lack of service. In addition, if the sheriff or other person who attempted to serve the documents is unable to serve the abuser, you can file for “service by publication by posting and mail.” To do so, you would file an affidavit in court that:
- gives the last-known address for the abuser;
- says that you do not know where the abuser lives;
- describes all your efforts to try to find the abuser; and
- states that after “reasonable diligence,” you have been unable to find the abuser so that s/he can be served.3
Once you file this request, the clerk of the court will post notice of the order of protection in the courthouse, and in two public places in the county as determined by the local rules for six weeks in a row. The clerk will also mail the documents to the last available address for the abuser. Once the clerk has posted the documents in these places for a period of six weeks, s/he will enter the information on the docket and service is complete.
You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?
1 Ohio Civ. R. 4.1(B)
2 Ohio Civ. R. 4.3(B)(2)
3 Ohio Civ. R. 65.1(C)(2); 4.4(A)(2)(B), (A)(1)
Step 4: The full court hearing
On the day of the hearing, you must go to the hearing to ask to have your temporary order turned into a CPO, which will last for up to five years. If you do not go to the hearing, your temporary order will expire. If the abuser does not show up for the hearing, the judge may still grant you a CPO or may reschedule the hearing.
You may wish to hire a lawyer to help with your case, especially if the abuser has a lawyer. If the abuser shows up with a lawyer, you can ask the judge for a “continuance” (a later court date) so that you have time to find a lawyer. Go to Ohio Finding a Lawyer to find help in your area. You can also represent yourself. See the At the Hearing section for ways you can show the judge that you were abused. You can learn more about the court system in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section.
If you absolutely cannot go to the hearing at the scheduled time, you may call the courthouse to ask how to request that your case be “continued,” but the judge may deny your request.