The Family Law Unit helps ensure that families are safe and stable. The demand for family law representation is overwhelming. In response, Legal Aid prioritizes cases where there is domestic violence and where children are at risk.
Family Law Matters We Handle
- Protection orders for victims of domestic violence
- Custody and divorce proceedings for victims of domestic violence
- Custody and divorce proceedings where children are at risk
- Child support cases for disabled people
The Family Law Unit also provides assistance to people to help them proceed on their own (pro se) to obtain a divorce where there are no children and no assets.
The Family Law Unit works with courts and bar associations to develop processes to assist pro se litigants, helps increase pro bono attorneys’ involvement in the area of family law and provides community legal education and advice on family law issues. The Family Law Unit works with other organizations to affect systemic change for victims
of domestic violence, children at risk, and low income people in domestic relations and juvenile courts.
Domestic violence occurs when a past or present family or household member:
- Causes or tries to cause bodily harm by hitting, pushing, beating, physically abusing, or forcing unwanted sexual relations
- Threatens harm
- Abuses children in the family or household
- Commits acts of stalking or trespass
A family or household member includes: current or former spouse, parent, child, person related by blood or marriage, persons currently living together, or who have lived together within the past five years, persons who have children together.
- Go to a hospital or seek medical treatment if injured
- Call the police
- Go to a safe place
Call a Hotline help
Geauga County, call WomanSafe at 888-285-5665;
Lake County, call Forbes House at 440-357-1018;
Lorain County, call Genesis House at 440-244-1853;
From anywhere, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE(7233).
Ask the Prosecutor to file criminal charges against the abuser in the city where the abuse occurred and also request a Temporary Protection Order (TPO).
File for a Civil Protection Order (CPO) in the county Domestic Relations Court, or the general division of the county Common Pleas Court if there is no Domestic Relations Court.
Criminal Temporary Protection Order
A TPO is issued only in criminal cases and orders the abuser to:
- stay away from the victim and family members
- stay away from the residence and workplace
- not damage or remove property
- not carry a weapon
- not phone or otherwise contact the victim
Civil Protection Order
In addition to the TPO orders listed above, a CPO may award temporary custody, grant or suspend visitation with the minor children, and also may order the abuser to:
- Give the victim exclusive use of an automobile
- Attend substance abuse, anger management or batterer’s counseling
- Pay support for the victim and the children
- Be removed from the residence
How to File for a Civil Protection Order
Victims of domestic violence can file for a Civil Protection Order (CPO) with the help of an attorney, or without an attorney (also called “pro se”). It is more helpful to have an attorney. Legal Aid attorneys can assist victims who qualify for assistance. Phone the Legal Aid office in your county.
Mediation is a process where the parents meet with a neutral third party called a “mediator” to see if they can resolve their differences and reach an agreement on custody of their child or children. If the parents are able to reach an agreement on custody, that agreement is put in writing for the Judge to issue a court order which adopts that agreement.
You will sign an “Agreement to Mediate.” The mediation session will focus on the future of the child or children. You and the other parent will be able to discuss what arrangements you prefer for the child or children’s residence and parenting time (visitation). The mediator will explain the terms and procedures of mediation and will help you and the other parent reach an agreement on a parenting arrangement for your child or children. The mediator may speak to parties separately or together. The mediator has no power to impose an agreement, but more than two-thirds of parents who go to mediation succeed in agreeing to a parenting plan.