Going to Court

Civil Stalking & Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Orders


A civil protection order can help keep you safe if you have experienced stalking or sexual violence. Learn more about getting a Civil Stalking or Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order.

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Understanding the Basics

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A protection order is an official document from a judge. When a judge issues a protection order, they are ordering an abuser to stop certain actions which help keep the victim safe. The Court calls the person who the order is against "the respondent."

The protection order can tell the respondent to stop actions like:

  • Hurting you
  • Threatening you
  • Contacting you
  • Coming to your home or workplace

The Court can also order the respondent to wear an electronic monitoring device.

The Court can order protection for up to 5 years. 

You can ask the Court to add other people to the protection order. You must be able to show that the respondent directly harmed or involved the other people you are adding as "protected parties" in the stalking or abuse.

Anyone who is the victim of stalking or a sexually oriented offense can request one of these orders. There does not need to be a specific type of relationship between the victim and the offender. Criminal charges or convictions against the offender are not required to file for the civil protection order.

Civil Stalking Protection Orders

A Civil Stalking Protection Order protects victims of “menacing by stalking.” Menacing by stalking is when a person knowingly engages in a “pattern of conduct” that makes you believe that the stalker will hurt you physically or that causes you “mental distress.” Examples of stalking conduct include, but are not limited to:

  • Following you or repeatedly driving by your home
  • Making harassing phone calls; sending threatening or harassing letters, texts, emails
  • Monitoring your phone use, social media or email
  • Tracking your location with GPS or your cell phone
  • Trespassing or breaking into your home, business or property
  • Threatening you or your family, friends or pets

A “pattern of conduct” means two or more actions or incidents that are closely related in time. “Mental distress” means any condition that would normally require mental health treatment, whether you received it or not.

You can show the Court that you have experienced mental distress by describing changes in your life due to the stalking, including:

  • Changing your daily routine or route you take to drive to work or school 
  • Any physical, mental, or emotional symptoms of distress caused by the stalking (crying spells, difficulty concentrating, difficulty working, sleeplessness or nightmares, or missing work)
  • Changing the locks or putting locks on the windows at home
  • Changing your phone number
  • Changing your name
  • Not leaving the house except when it is absolutely necessary or only when with others
  • Going into a domestic violence or homeless shelter to escape the stalker
  • Moving in with friends, or to another neighborhood, city, county or state
  • Always carrying a gun, mace or other protective devices when leaving the home
  • Limiting your or your children’s activities to lower chances of running into the stalker

Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Orders

A Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order protects victims of “sexually oriented offenses.” Under Ohio law sexually oriented offenses include rape, sexual battery, statutory rape, gross sexual imposition, child enticement and violent acts committed with a sexual motivation. You can find the complete list of sexually oriented offenses in Ohio Revised Code Section 2950.01.

There is no requirement that a criminal case be filed in order to seek a Civil Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order. However, you will have to describe and present evidence to the Court to prove that the sexually oriented offense happened. 

Ohio's rape crisis centers provide free advocacy, counseling and support to survivors of sexual violence. They may also be able to offer free legal services for victims of sexual violence who are seeking a civil protection order. Find your local rape crisis center on this page under "Local Government and Community Resources."

Filing for a civil protection order does not guarantee your safety. Learn about the other types of protection orders in Ohio and the risks of filing for a civil protection order here.

How to get a Civil Stalking or Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order

There is no cost to file for a protection order. You do not need a lawyer to apply for a protection order, but a lawyer can be helpful. Some lawyers can help you for free. If you are a survior of sexual violence, you can speak with an advocate or lawyer through one of Ohio's Rape Crisis Centers. 

To get a Civil Stalking or Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order:

  • Get the forms. You can use our Form Assistant to generate the Civil Stalking or Sexually Oriented Offense Protection Order Forms. The Court may limit your case to the incidents described in the forms. So, be sure to include all events.
  • File the forms. Contact the local Court of Common Pleas where you live. Your court may have other local forms that you have to file with your petition, so ask the Clerk if there are more required forms before you file. You must go to the Clerk's office in person to file.
  • Attend the ex parte hearing (if requested). On the day that you file or the following day, the court will hold an emergency hearing, called an "ex parte" hearing. The respondent does not attend the ex parte hearing. At this hearing, you (and your lawyer, if you have one) meet with the judge. The judge reviews your forms and may ask you some questions. Then, the judge decides if you need an emergency, ex parte protection order that starts immediately. 
  • Complete service. “Service” is when the Court officially tells the respondent about your filing. Ohio rules say that the first method of service in a civil protection order case must be personal service by the sheriff. This means that the sheriff will attempt to serve the papers in-person to the respondent at the address you provide. It's recommended that you also select "certified mail," in addition to personal service. This means that the sheriff will attempt to serve your papers in-person, and at the same time they will be sent to the respondent by certified mail. This helps make sure service is successful--if service is not successful your hearing could be canceled and your case dismissed. 
  • Attend the full hearing. Whether or not you are given an ex parte protection order, the Court holds a full hearing, usually within 10 business days. At the full hearing, you testify and present evidence including any witnesses and documentation to show the judge why you need a protection order. You must show that the respondent’s actions have met the requirements for the civil protection order. For Civil Stalking, that means showing evidence that the offender has committed “menacing by stalking” which caused you “mental distress," or made you believe that the stalker would hurt you physically. For Sexually Oriented Offenses, that means showing evidence that the offender committed a sexually oriented offense. If you want protection for your children or other family or household members, you must show how they have been harmed or involved too. The respondent also has a chance to present evidence.
  • Get a court order. The Court issues the order at the end of the hearing or soon afterward. Keep your protection order with you in case you need to call the police to enforce it. Give copies to people who may need it (like your child’s school). You can also share it with your employer if you feel comfortable disclosing that information.

Be careful with agreements

You may be encouraged to enter into an agreement instead of going through a full hearing. Do not sign an agreement that you do not understand. You do not have to accept an agreement that you are not comfortable with or do not understand. A lawyer can help you understand the consequences of entering into different kinds of agreements.

If the respondent agrees to follow the terms of the CPO, they can sign a waiver on the full hearing form and there will be no full hearing. If this happens there will be no finding from the Court that the respondent committed stalking or a sexually oriented offense. The benefit is that the respondent will agree to the terms of the CPO without going to trial.  

Be careful of agreements for “mutual stay away orders” which could put you at legal risk. These are orders against both parties but based only on the petitioner’s filing. 

You may also be asked to dismiss your protection order and agree to a separate order. This agreement would explain what the respondent is allowed to do or not do. Sometimes, the order will state what you can or cannot do as well. If you dismiss your protection order and sign a separate agreement, you do not have a protection order, which could put you at risk. It will also limit your options for enforcing the terms of the agreement. You should speak with a lawyer before dismissing your protection order and entering into a separate agreement.

How to enforce a protection order

If the respondent breaks the rules of a civil or criminal protection order, it is a “violation of the protection order” and they can be arrested or face other consequences.

If there is a violation of a civil or criminal protection order:

  • You should call the police. The police can enforce protection orders by arresting the respondent.
  • The police or prosecutor can file criminal charges. If convicted, the respondent can face fines, probation or jail time.
  • For civil protection orders, the court that issued the order could also find the respondent in contempt of court. When someone violates a civil protection order, you can ask the court that issued the order to find them in contempt. If found in contempt, the respondent can face fines or jail time. Filing for contempt is complicated, so you should talk to a lawyer or advocate before filing.

Renewing a civil protection order

To extend or renew a protection order, you should file before the original protection order’s expiration date. You can find the order's expiration date on the first page of the protection order.

This project was supported by Grant Nos. 2022-WF-VA1-8855 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Justice.