It is important to recognize that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. At the Delaware County Domestic Relations Court, we understand the complex nature of domestic violence issues. For this article I will focus on cases where a person is requesting a civil protection order (CPO) due to domestic violence. The CPO may include prohibiting contact, exclusive use of a residence, visitation and other possible orders. As you will see, we are experiencing a significant increase in domestic violence CPO cases in Delaware County.
So, what happens in a domestic violence CPO case? Well, first of all, a person may file a petition for a civil protection order alleging they have been a victim of domestic violence by another person. The person asking for a CPO is called the petitioner and the other party in a CPO case is called the respondent.
Typically the petitioner files an emergency ex parte CPO, meaning the request can be heard by the court without waiting for a response from the respondent. In Ohio, if an emergency CPO is filed, usually the court must conduct an ex parte hearing the same day.
In most court cases, due process requires both parties be given notice and an opportunity to be present at the court hearing to tell their side of the case. However, CPO cases are considered to be an emergency action and only the petitioner is present for the first hearing.
At the emergency ex parte hearing, the petitioner presents testimony as to why a CPO should be granted. Then, the court will either grant or deny the request for a CPO the same day.
If the court grants the emergency CPO request, the court must conduct a hearing within 7 to 10 days to give the respondent the opportunity to provide their side of the case to the court.
At the Delaware County Domestic Relations Court, we are experiencing a very troubling trend. We are seeing a significant increase in requests for civil protection orders.
While Delaware County is a fast-growing county, this does not explain the significant increase in the number of CPO cases we are hearing. Requests for a CPO have far outpaced the population growth rate in Delaware County.
The year-end total requests for a CPO, from when I became judge in 2017 to last year, increased by 54%. That is a 54% increase in only 5 years.
There is little doubt that the pandemic had an impact on the number of requests for a CPO. However, prior to the pandemic, we were seeing an increase in the filing of new CPO cases. In fact, from 2017 through 2019 we saw a 21% increase in requests for a CPO. Furthermore, on Oct. 3 of this year we had more CPO cases filed than we had in all of 2017.
I am very concerned about this upward trend and am committed to helping make the process for addressing domestic violence better for everyone involved. Recently, I have had the opportunity to provide testimony before the Ohio Senate, Judiciary Committee, and the Ohio House of Representatives, Civil Justice Committee, on behalf of the Ohio Judicial Conference in support of Senate Bill 210. If enacted, Senate Bill 210 will clarify dating violence civil protection orders, providing more protection for victims of dating violence.
It is the position of the Ohio Judicial Conference that these added protections are necessary to ensure victims of dating violence are properly protected.
No person should have to be a victim of domestic violence. It is important to ensure any person that is a victim of domestic violence has a prompt and appropriate remedy in a CPO case.
Randall D. Fuller is judge of the Domestic Relations Division of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. Judge Fuller is a life-long resident of Delaware County.