Do I Need A Lawyer For A Protection Or Restraining Order Hearing?

By: Peter R. Certo, Jr. Attorney at Law

This article addresses Ohio domestic related civil protection orders, aka CPO, and not criminal temporary protection orders aka TPO.

Although they may appear very simple to some people, restraining order hearings are actually very dangerous. A person can apply for and obtain a civil protection order (CPO) in domestic relations court just by simply alleging a threat or an assault. They do not need witnesses, they do not need a police report, they do not need to show evidence. And, they are not cross examined. They can be granted a CPO just on their own word, and nothing else. In fact, the named defendant in this proceeding does not even get notice that it has been filed. This is called an "ex parte" hearing and order. Once an "ex parte" order is granted by the court the defendant is served with the order and County Sheriff will forcibly remove the Defendant from the home alleged in the petition. A full hearing is scheduled at a later date but the defendant is already at a substantial disadvantage.

The person filing for the CPO often obtains free assistance of the court and many times a trained victim advocate. If a CPO is issued against you there is no free assistance available. You are generally responsible to obtain and pay for your own legal advice. Many people think that since this is a civil proceeding and no jail time is involved they do not need a lawyer. I have even heard them say, "I did nothing wrong so I don't need a lawyer" Nothing could be further from the truth.

The legal effect of a CPO can be devastating. It can order you to stay away from the other person, their place of employment, and your home for 5 years. It will also likely affect custody and visitation of your children. You cannot even be in the same store as the other person. Even though a CPO hearing is non-criminal in nature, any violation of that order is a serious crime and you will be arrested on the spot. A CPO prevents you from owning or possessing any firearms whether use of one was alleged or not. Your name will go on police records and appear anytime a police officer runs your name - even for a simple traffic ticket. It can cause the loss of your current job and prevent you from obtaining jobs many years into the future. Lastly, it can never be removed from the court records.

If you are ever notified of the request for a CPO against you, your first call should be to a lawyer. Do not wait until after the hearing because it will be too late and you will suffer the consequences for a lifetime.