about Ohio Domestic Violence Network

Click here for the Legal Information for Survivors of Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence & Stalking Brochure in English.

Many different issues can impact the lives and safety of survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking. This page is a resource to help find legal information you may need and to help you find an attorney. It is not intended to provide legal advice. Click on the topics below for more information.

Child Custody/Child Support/Visitation

It is very important that you have an attorney in any legal action involving child custody. Orders for child custody, visitation and child support may be obtained through a civil protection order, divorce, legal separation or an action in juvenile court (especially if you and your partner are not married.)

In some cases, the court may order supervised visitation if the court finds that the child is not safe with the other parent. Custody/visitation orders may be changed if problems arise, but this must be done by filing a motionwith the court. It is important to document issues with the children that have arisen since the last order (medical reports of any injuries, health issues occurring during the other parent’s contact with the child, photographs of injuries to your child, observations of neutral third parties including counselors, teachers, etc).

If you receive an order for the other parent to pay child support, they still may not pay. If that happens, you may need to get help enforcing your child support order. 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 stalking, a sexual offense or domestic violence, you can seek a Protection Order which can order the person who hurt or threatened you to stay away. There are different kinds of protection orders depending on your relationship, age of the parties, or the actions of the perpetrator. You do not have to be married to the person and same sex partners can seek Protection Orders. If you are a teen, you can seek 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), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you. For example, debt collectors cannot contact you at work once they are told not to, and cannot contact you before 8 am orafter 9 pm. There is more information about credit issues, bankruptcy and foreclosure at www.nfcc.orgor http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtmor http://www.ohiolegalservices.org/public/legal_problem/consumer-rights.



It is not advisable to file for divorce without an attorney, especially if you have children or any assets to be divided. When the parties are in agreement with the divorce as well as all the terms, dissolution of marriage can be filed. Both parties must attend the hearing. Sometimes, when you file for a divorce, the abuser will not come to the hearing. The court will grant an uncontested divorce. Often, abusers want to control the situation so they are likely to obtain attorneys to protect their legal interests or counter the divorce.



Ohio does not have specific protections for survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking in its employment law. However, you are entitled to miss work to attend a criminal trial if you receive a subpoena from a prosecutor. To learn more, go to: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2930.18and 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/2953.55for 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 certain criminal convictions in Ohio can be sealed, meaning they can be removed from the public record. 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.



If you rent from a landlord, you have certain rights around issues like eviction, conditions of your unit, etc. If you receive assistance for your housing such as Section 8/Housing Choice voucher or if you live in a public housing complex, you have additional rights related to renting, eviction, and moving. For example, there are rules limiting a landlord’s ability to evict survivors because of violence. And if you have a Housing Choice voucher, you have specific rights to transfer to other safe housing. There are no specific rights under Ohio law to get someone off a lease, or to get out of a lease because of domestic or sexual violence, but you can sometimes still accomplish this with the help of an attorney. For more information, go to http://www.ohiolegalservices.org/public/legal_problem/housing/landlord-tenant-issuesfor Landlord/Tenant Info; go to http://www.legalmomentum.org/assets/pdfs/housing-1.pdfor http://www.odvn.org/images/stories/VAWA_Housing_Brochure_FINAL.pdf for rightsfor victims in subsidized housing.



There are specific options for immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers who are victims of crimes in the US. Even if you are undocumented, you may have options as a victim of a crime. You may be able to do what is called a Self-Petition to stay in the country, you may be able to seek a U Visa or a T Visa. In some cases, you may be required to assist a prosecutor in a case against the person who hurt you. You can seek a self-petition, U Visa and T Visa without your abuser’s permission. This legal information brochure is also available in 8 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’s program, called TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), also called OWF (Ohio Works First) is based on need. Cash assistance, food stamps, daycare vouchers and medical coverage are available. If you seek cash benefits and/or food stamps, you will be required to complete certain program requirements, such as job training and employment seeking.

OWF will also seek money from the father of your children. If you are in a relationship with someone who is physically or sexually abusing you or stalking you, you may be able to request an exemption from these program requirements. These waivers are also called Family Violence Option Waivers. There is a three year life-time limit for cash benefits; however, there are hardship exemptions available.

In rare instances, OWF may take other actions when persons apply for the waiver which may be undesirable. Talk to your local domestic violence program to find out how waivers are typically handled. For more information go to http://www.odjfs.state.oh.us/forms/file.asp?id=1671&type=application/pdf.


Sexual Assault

You or your insurance company cannot be required to pay for your rape examination kit (see: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2907.28) and you cannot be forced to participate in a polygraph (see: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2907.10). You have also specific legal rights to privacy under Ohio law (see http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2907.11). You are also entitled to request HIV testing of the accused and get the test results (see: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2907.27).


Safe/Secure Computers

While no computer is totally secure, it’s important that you use a computer that is as safe and secure as possible. A “safer” computer is one that your abuser/perpetrator cannot access and see where you are looking for help, like a computer at the library or at a trusted friend’s house, on an account your abuser does not know about. 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 through any legal process, civil or criminal, can be difficult and complicated. It can be really helpful to get support from an advocate at your local domestic violence or rape crisis program. They can help with emotional support, safety planning, help you find resources, and explain how things work in your community. To find the local domestic violence program, you can call 800-934-9840 or on this website, CLICK HERE . To find the local rape crisis program, go to: http://www.oaesv.org/support.htmlor call 888-886-8388. LGBT Survivors can also contact the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO) at 866-86 BRAVO or go to www.bravo-ohio.org.


Making a Safety Plan

Filing a legal action can bring much needed help but it can also increase your danger for the short-term. The Ohio Domestic Violence Network urges every survivor of domestic violence, sexual violence and/or stalking to develop an individualized safety plan with the help of an advocate.


Your Legal Rights to an Interpreter

If you need a language interpreter to participate in legal proceedings, the Court where your case is heard is required by law to provide a qualified interpreter. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division provided written guidance to courts about their duty to provide interpreters. To read the full letter, CLICK HERE. An advocate can also help you get an interpreter.


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 you are not eligible for Legal Aid, you may still be able to get an attorney through the Civil Legal Assistance Program at the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, which is funded by the Department of Justice. To seek assistance, call your local domestic violence program (see “Finding an Advocate” in the list of links.)

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 on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication, program, exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

The brochure is also made possible with financial support through the Victims of Crime Assistance Act grant program coordinated by the Ohio Attorney 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.