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.