about Ohio Domestic Violence Network

Click here for the Legal Information for Survivors of Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence & Stalking Brochure in ASL for those that are deaf or hard of hearing.

Child Custody/Child Support/Visitation

It is very IMPORTANT that you have a lawyer in any legal action involving child custody. You can ask for child custody, child support, and visitation rights in front of magistrate or judge in the courthouse. You can get orders for child custody, visitation, and child support by:

  • Civil Protection Order (CPO)
  • Divorce
  • Legal Separation
  • Action in Juvenile Court (13 to 17 years old)

If you and your partner are not married, you go to Juvenile court so they can help protect your children’s rights.

Visitation: There may be supervised visitation if the court thinks your child is not safe during visits. The court may order someone to watch either one of you during supervised visits with your children.

If you want custody or visitation orders changed, you must file a motion with proof of:

  • Any medical reports or photographs of injuries
  • Health issues of your children under other parent's care
  • Any reports from counselors, teachers, etc.

Child Support: If the other parent does not pay court ordered child support, ask your lawyer for help.

Custody/visitation orders can be changed if there are problems with either you or your partner’s actions in following the court orders. You can get more information on child custody and child support enforcement at http://jfs.ohio.gov/ocs/ or http://www.ohiolegalservices.org/public/legal_problem/family-law/child-support/qandact_view.


Civil Protection Orders

As a victim of domestic violence, sexual violence, or stalking, you can ask for protection order to tell the abuser to stay away. You can get different kinds of protection orders depending on:

  • Relationship
    • Married, not married (straight or LGBT)
    • Family, friends, co-workers, neighbors
  • Ages of you and the abuser/stalker
  • Actions of the abuser/stalker
    • Follow you without permission
    • Bother you with VP calls/text/emails
    • Hurt you or threat to hurt you

If you are a teenager (13 to 17), you can get a protection order without your parent(s). There is more information about Protection Orders and links to the forms to complete to seek different Protection Orders at http://www.ohiolegalservices.org/public/domestic-violence/ohio_domestic_violence_resource_center/.


Credit Issues, Foreclosure and Bankruptcy

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a consumer protection agency in the U.S. to watch over and stop debt collectors who may do unfair business with you. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) does not allow debt collectors to:

  • Use abusive, unfair or dishonest practices to collect money ($)
  • Call you at work if you tell them to stop
  • Call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

There is more information about credit issues, bankruptcy and foreclosure at www.nfcc.org or http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtm or http://www.ohiolegalservices.org/public/legal_problem/consumer-rights.



When both people are in agreement about the divorce, you can file for “dissolution of marriage.” This does not usually work if abuse happens. It is NOT good to file for divorce without an attorney, especially if you have children with the abuser or assets (house, car, furniture, retirement) to be split between both people. Sometimes, the abuser will not come to the hearing. It is not your fault if he/she does not come to the hearing. If he/she does not come, court will give an “uncontested divorce” to you. It is very important for you to get your own lawyer. Your lawyer should provide interpreter for meetings. Do not share a lawyer with abuser. Abusers often want to control the divorce situation and will get a lawyer to protect their legal rights. Your lawyer will protect your legal rights.



Ohio does not have protections for survivors in its employment (work) law. You have the right to miss work to go to a criminal trial if you get a subpoena (letter) from the Court. When you get a subpoena, you have to show up to court. You can show the subpoena paper to your supervisor/boss so they know and can give time off from work. Your boss cannot write you up or fire you for following a subpoena to go to court. You can get in trouble with the law if you decide not to go to court if you received a subpoena. To learn more, go to: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2930.18 and http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2151.211 (regarding Juvenile Court).

Employers are also prohibited from asking certain questions of you during interviews and generally cannot ask about arrest records if they have been sealed. For more information on how to respond to employer questions, go to http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2953.55 for employer’s rights to records that are sealed or http://www.legalmomentum.org/assets/pdfs/answeringcrquestions.pdf for questions in job interviews about criminal records.



Records of criminal convictions in Ohio can be private or sealed. It means that your criminal record or abuser’s criminal record can be removed from public record, so not very many people will know about it or can see it. To learn more about which convictions are included and how a criminal record can be sealed, go to: http://www.ohiolegalservices.org/public/legal_problem/reentry/expungement/understanding-and-sealing-criminal-records-in-ohio/OJPC%20-%20OPLC%20Expungement-%20Pardon%20%28March%202011%29.pdf.



You have rights if you rent from a landlord, about things like eviction (kicked out) or conditions of apartment (safe, clean, and can live in it.) You have rights if you have Section 8 or Housing Choice voucher or live in public housing complex. You have rights about renting, when landlord can kick out, and when you can move. For more information, go to http://www.ohiolegalservices.org/public/legal_problem/housing/landlord-tenant-issues for Landlord/Tenant Info; go to http://www.legalmomentum.org/assets/pdfs/housing-1.pdf or CLICK HERE for rights for victims in subsidized housing.



There are specific options for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers (come from another country with or without passport) who are victims of crime. If you are a victim of crime and undocumented (stay in US without passport and green card) you may have options. Your abuser cannot stop you from applying to get papers to stay in the US.

These have different names and are called:

  • Self-petition to stay in US
  • U-Visa or T-Visa

To get these papers, you may need to help police or prosecutor in court case against the person who hurt you.

This legal information brochure is available in 8 different languages. To see this information in other languages and for more details about your options, go to: http://www.womenslaw.org/laws_state_type.php?statelaw_name=Immigration&state_code=US.


Public Benefits

Ohio has a program, TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) or OWF (Ohio Works First) that gives public benefits such as cash assistance, food stamps, day care vouchers, and medical coverage (insurance.) If you need cash benefits or food stamps, you will need go to job training and look for work. Ohio Works First (OWF) will ask father of your children provide money for child support to you. OWF rules must be followed to keep OWF public benefits.

Family Violence Option Waivers: Sometimes it can be hard to follow OWF rules to keep your benefits if someone is hurting or stalking you. OWF workers can help you with hardship program so you do not lose OWF benefits. Ask your local domestic and sexual violence advocate to help. OWF may take other actions when you apply for the waiver which may not be what you want. Talk to your local domestic violence program to find out. For more information, go to: http://www.odjfs.state.oh.us/forms/file.asp?id=1671&type=application/pdf.


Sexual Assault

It is illegal for the hospital to bill you or your insurance company to pay for your rape examination (DNA evidence) kit (see http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2907.28). You cannot be forced to participate in a polygraph (lie detector) test. To learn more, go to: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2907.10. You have legal rights to privacy under Ohio law. To learn more, go to: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2907.11. You have the right to ask for HIV testing of the accused (person who raped you) and get test results. To learn more, go to: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2907.27.


Safe/Secure Computers

  • Go to a private computer at a library.
  • Go to a trusted friend's house.
  • Set up an account that the abuser does not know.
  • Set up a password abuser does not know.

For more information on safe use of computers, email and technology, go to http://www.nnedv.org/internetsafety.html.


Finding an Advocate (Someone to Help)

Going to court for civil or criminal case can be difficult and confusing. You may get free advocate from local domestic violence or rape crisis program to:

  • Provide emotional support and do safety planning with you;
  • Find legal information and resources;
  • Go with you to file for a protection order; lawyer's office; any court hearings.

To find the local domestic violence program, you can call 800-934-9840 (v/tty) or (614) 781-9651 (v/tty), or on this website, CLICK HERE.

National Domestic Violence Hotline:

  • DEAF IM: ADWASHotline
  • Email: ADWAS@ndvh.org
  • Videophone for Deaf callers: (206) 787-3224 or TTY: 800-787-3224

LGBT Survivors: Buckeye Regional Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO)- 866-86BRAVO (866-862-7286) (v) or www.bravo-ohio.org.

To find the local rape crisis program , go to: http://www.oaesv.org/support.html or call 888-886-8388.


Your Legal Rights to an Interpreter

Both Ohio and US law require all courts to provide a certified sign language interpreter for you for legal proceedings at the courthouse. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division gave written guidance to courts about their duty to provide interpreters. To read the full letter, CLICK HERE. An advocate can help you to get an interpreter for court.


How to Find an Attorney

Legal Aid– If you meet certain income and other requirements, you may be eligible to get a Legal Aid attorney. To find the legal aid office and contact information for your county, you can call 866-529-6446.

ODVN Legal Assistance Project– If your case is not accepted for Legal Aid lawyer, you may be able to get a lawyer through Civil Legal Assistance Program at ODVN. Call a local advocate to get more information. If you can't find an advocate, call ODVN at 800-934-9840 or (614)-781-9651 (v/tty).

Local Bar Associations– Some local bar associations have projects which offer attorneys on a pro bono, or free, basis. To find the closest bar association, go to http://www.ohiobar.org/Pages/staticPageViewer.aspx?articleid=72.

Law School Clinics– If you live near a community with a law school, you may be able to get legal help through a law school legal clinic. There are clinics in Cleveland (Employment Issues, Cleveland State University - (216) 687-3947; Milton Kramer Law Clinic Center at Case Western University - (216) 368-2766; Cleveland Homeless Assistance Legal Assistance Program - (216) 432-0543; in Columbus at the Capital University Law Clinic (614) 236-6245, and in Cincinnati at the Protection Order clinic at the University of Cincinnati Law School (513) 241-9400.

Crime Victims Compensation– The CVC program in Ohio—under very specific conditions—can offer reimbursement for legal services for Protection Orders and other legal actions which separate the violent person from the crime victim. For more information, see Picking Up the Pieces, which you can access at http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/PickingUpThePieces.

Filing Pro Se– Pro se means filing a legal action without an attorney. For survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking, it is always better to take legal action with the assistance of an attorney. If you do decide to file your case pro se, a legal advocate at the local domestic violence program may be able to assist you. Some Clerks of Court can offer limited help, too. For more information on court rules and forms, go to http://www.ohiolegalservices.org/public/find_local_court_forms_rulesor http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/JudSystem/trialCourts/.


This project is supported by Grant No.2010-WL-AX-0027 awarded by the Office onViolence Against Women, U.S. Department ofJustice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, andrecommendations expressed in this publication,program, exhibition are those of the author(s)and do not necessarily reflect the views of theDepartment of Justice, Office on Violence AgainstWomen.This brochure is also made possible with financialsupport through the Victims of Crime AssistanceAct grant program coordinated by the OhioAttorney General’s office.This project is supported by Grant No.2010-WL-AX-0027 awarded by the Office onViolence Against Women, U.S. Department ofJustice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, andrecommendations expressed in this publication,program, exhibition are those of the author(s)and do not necessarily reflect the views of theDepartment of Justice, Office on Violence AgainstWomen.This brochure is also made possible with financialsupport through the Victims of Crime AssistanceAct grant program coordinated by the OhioAttorney General’s office.


SAFETY ALERT: Computer use can be monitored and it is impossible to completely clear all website footprints. If you are in danger, please use a safer computer that your abuser can not access directly or remotely, or call ODVN 800-934-9840 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE.