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Domestic Violence in Ohio: Two Kinds Civil & Criminal - The Basics

What is domestic violence?

There are two kinds, one brought as a civil suit and one as a criminal action, which is brought by the prosecutor. Let's look at the civil action first. Civil Domestic Violence: Domestic violence is through an act or conduct one causes a family or household member physical injury or fear of physical injury, placing another person by the threat of force in fear of imminent serious physical harm, a sexually oriented offense, or some harm to a child which would result in child abuse.

“Family or household member" is defined broadly as any of the following who is residing with or has resided with the victim:

  1. A spouse, a person living as a spouse, or a former spouse of the offender;
  2. A parent or a child of the offender, or another person related by consanguinity or affinity to the offender;
  3. A parent or a child of a spouse, person living as a spouse, or former spouse, or another related by consanguinity to a spouse, person living as a spouse, or former spouse of the offender;
  4. The natural parent of any child of whom the respondent is the other natural parent or is the putative other natural parent.

Any parent or adult household member may seek relief, including the victim, by filing a petition with the court. This action is designed to protect the victim or a family member from further violence. Unfortunately, it is often abused in the divorce context by one spouse attempting to gain leverage over the other during a divorce. If you believe your spouse may attempt this kind of use, it is recommended that you seek legal counsel immediately. Such actions distract from the issues of the divorce and unnecessarily add to the expense of both spouses. What procedures are associated with a civil domestic violence action?

The person requesting a civil protection order files the petition with the court, and if request for immediate protection is made, a hearing will be held the same day without informing the perpetrator. The court may issue a temporary order pending a full evidentiary hearing, usually held within ten days, at which both the petitioner and the perpetrator will be able to present evidence upon the allegations to determine whether a civil protection order should be issued. The victim is entitled to a victim advocate. Civil Protection Orders frequently include orders for support and parental rights and responsibilities regarding children. The parties may also enter into a consent agreement and if approved by the court, its terms apply. An order may last up to five years, and may be modified upon motion to the court by either party. Violation of an order may result in criminal prosecution and contempt of court. Domestic violence actions are emotionally draining, time consuming and expensive, and all too often unnecessary within the context of a divorce. Criminal Domestic Violence: Criminal domestic violence is attempting or actually causing physical harm to a family or household member or through the threat of force cause one to believe the offender will cause imminent physical harm. It is just as broad in defining a family or household member as is the civil domestic violence suit. The criminal law applies and the penalties begin with fourth degree misdemeanor or first degree misdemeanor depending upon the actual charge for a first offense and progressively increase upon multiple violations.

Additional resources provided by the author

Ohio Revised Code 3113.31

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