You should not live in fear of being hurt by someone you know.

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 trespassing

A member of the family or household includes:

  • Current or former spouse
  • Parent
  • Child
  • Person related by blood or marriage
  • Persons living together, or who have lived together within the past five years
  • Persons who have children together


How can I protect myself now? Close

  • Get medical help, if you are injured
  • Call the police
  • Go to a safe place
  • Contact a Victim Advocate from the list of agencies below

Ashtabula County

Homesafe Domestic Violence Office

Cuyahoga County

Witness/Victim Service Center

Domestic Violence Center
216-391-HELP or

Geauga County


Lake County

Forbes House

Lorain County

Genesis House

All Other Counties

National Domestic Violence Hotline

If you are staying in the home with the abuser, practice an escape plan with the children to use in case of an emergency. Make sure to have on hand for a quick escape:

  • Cash
  • Credit cards
  • Medications
  • Telephone numbers
  • Extra car and house keys
  • Copies of birth certificate
  • Social Security cards
  • Medical cards

What happens when the police arrive? Close

Tell them what happened and ask for their assistance. Police must do the following if responding to the incident:

  1. Conduct separate interviews with the victim and the abuser
  2. Ask about the history of abuse
  3. Provide the officer’s name, badge and report numbers
  4. Provide the telephone number of a domestic violence shelter, a number to call for information about the case and provide information about any local victim advocate program
  5. Make a written report of the incident even if an arrest is not made

Be sure to ask for the officer’s name, badge and report numbers, and also request that a police report is filed.

An officer should arrest an abuser who causes serious physical harm or uses a weapon during the incident. The police may request that domestic violence or other charges be filed if an arrest is made.

What legal options are available to protect me and my children? Close

Temporary Protection Order (TPO)

Ask the Prosecutor to file criminal charges against the abuser in the city where the abuse occurred and request a TPO at the same time. 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

If the TPO is violated, the victim should:

  • Go to a safe place
  • Call police and show the officer the order
  • Go to the Prosecutor’s Office to file a complaint
  • Contact a victim advocate

If the abuser violates the TPO, bail can be revoked or the abuser can be charged with the additional crime of violating the TPO.

Civil Protection Order (CPO)

File for a CPO in the county Domestic Relations Court or in the general division of the county Common Pleas Court (if there is no Domestic Relations Court). 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

If the CPO is violated, the victim should:

  • Go to a safe place
  • Call police and show the officer the order
  • Go to the Prosecutor’s Office to file a complaint
  • Contact your attorney or a victim advocate

An abuser who is found guilty of violating the order can be sentenced to jail, probation, court supervision, community service or counseling or a combination of any of these.

How do I press criminal charges and obtain a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) against my abuser? Close

Go to the Prosecutor’s Office to press charges against the abuser and take:

  • Copies of any police reports or incident report numbers
  • Any pictures taken of the incident
  • Any information about medical treatment for abuse
  • Names and addresses of anyone who witnessed the abuse

If criminal charges are filed:

  • A Motion for Temporary Protection Order may be issued by the court. It is important to ask the court for a TPO.
  • A court hearing will be held on the next court day after the filing of a motion requesting the TPO.
  • It may be helpful to have a victim advocate at court for support during the proceedings.
  • If the abuser is not present, the abuser may receive notice of the TPO at his or her first court appearance.
  • At this hearing, the judge will decide whether the Temporary Protection Order will remain in effect. Any TPO will end at the conclusion of the criminal case or when a Civil Protection Order is issued based on the same facts.

If convicted of the crime of domestic violence, the abuser may be sentenced to jail or be placed on probation. It is important to ask for a “no contact order” to keep the abuser from contacting you after the case is over.

How do I obtain a Civil Protection Order (CPO) against my abuser? Close

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. You must file for a CPO in the county Domestic Relations Court or in the general division of the county Common Pleas Court (if there is no Domestic Relations Court).

When a request for a CPO is filed:
A hearing will be held the day the CPO petition is filed with the Court.
The abuser will not be present for the first hearing. You will be asked to tell the court about the most recent incidents of domestic violence. The court will then decide whether to grant the CPO.
Once granted, obtain several certified copies of the CPO from the Clerk of Courts. Certified copies of the order are free.
The second hearing will be held within seven to ten court days. The abuser will be notified and may be present for this hearing.

You must be in court at both hearings and you must bring:

  • Copies of any police reports
  • Any records of medical treatment for the abuse
  • Any records of the abuser’s prior convictions for domestic violence, or a crime of violence
  • Anyone who witnessed the abuse

If the abuser does not agree to a CPO or the abuser does not appear at court, testimony will be taken at the hearing, and the court will then decide whether to grant a CPO that may remain in effect for up to five years.

It is important to keep a certified copy of the CPO on you at all times and have it ready to show to the police if the abuser violates the order.

Next Steps

Contact Legal Aid.

What are some tips for representing myself in a family matter? Close

It is always best to have an attorney help you in court, but if you find you must represent yourself, here are some suggestions.  Two courts handle family law issues, Juvenile and Domestic Relations.  Start by reading the court’s website.  Some courts post forms and instructions.    For example, the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, Domestic Relations Division, has a complete packet with instructions and forms on how to file a divorce and your divorce decree.   See,  If you visit the clerk’s office, remember that clerks are not permitted to give legal advice.

If you seek a specific outcome, start by filing a complaint or motion.  The other party must receive a copy of the documents that you file with a court.  This is called “service.”  You can ask the clerk of courts to “serve” the other party by completing a “service instruction” form.  You will need a complete address for the other party.  Failure to provide an accurate address for the other party will postpone your hearing.  The clerk will send you notice of the date, time, and location for your hearing.  Remember to notify the scheduler of any changes to your address or phone number.  Mark your calendar for deadlines and hearings in your case.

The court expects you to be ready for your hearing.  Keep your papers organized with paper clips or folders.  Bring to court whatever proof you have that supports your case.   For example, to prove your income for child support, you should have recent paystubs, w-2s and tax returns.  Include three (3) copies of all documents that you plan to present to the court:  one copy for the judge, another for the other party, and the third copy for yourself.   Also, have copies of any documents that were filed by you and the other side.  You can refer back to these papers as necessary.  Invite witnesses that can help you prove your case.  The court will expect you to present testimony by asking questions during the hearing.   Make sure you know what your witnesses will say when deciding who should testify.

When a case concerns children, courts will not permit your children to come into the court room, so it will be important to plan for child care ahead of time.

When it is time to present your case, stand and follow the directions of the judge or magistrate.  Make sure to dress appropriately.  Explain what you would like the court to do for you and your family.  Most importantly, point out why this action is needed and how it will serve you or the best interest of your children.


This article was written by Legal Aid Managing Attorneys Davida Dodson and Tonya Whitsett and appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!


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