Step 3: Service of process
After you receive an ex parte order of protection, the abuser must be served with your petition, a copy of the order, and notice of the hearing for the final order.
If the abuser lives in Ohio, the clerk of the court will deliver a copy of the following documents to the local sheriff in the county where the abuser lives:
- your petition for an order of protection;
- the affidavit you filled out describing the abuse;
- a summons/notice to appear with the time and date of the next court date; and
- any other relevant documents.1
The sheriff will then try to “personally serve” the abuser by finding him/her and giving him/her the documents. If you request it, the clerk could send these documents to a process server or any person over 18 who is not a party to the case for service instead of the sheriff. That person can then locate the abuser and give him the documents.
Once the sheriff, deputy, process server, or person over 18 has completed service, s/he must fill out a form notifying the clerk the abuser has been served and give that form to the clerk.
If the abuser does not live in Ohio, the clerk of the court will give you a copy of the order for the abuser so that you can arrange for service. You can give this copy to a sheriff, process server, or any person over 18 who is permitted by the court to serve process. This person must give the copy to the abuser and then fill out a form notifying the clerk the abuser has been served and give that form to the clerk.2 You can find contact information for sheriffs in other states on our Sheriff Departments page.
Regardless of whether the abuser lives in Ohio or not, if the abuser is not served before the next court date, the judge may either “continue” the case to allow for more time to try to serve the abuser or dismiss the case for lack of service. In addition, if the sheriff or other person who attempted to serve the documents is unable to serve the abuser, you can file for “service by publication by posting and mail.” To do so, you would file an affidavit in court that:
- gives the last-known address for the abuser;
- says that you do not know where the abuser lives;
- describes all your efforts to try to find the abuser; and
- states that after “reasonable diligence,” you have been unable to find the abuser so that s/he can be served.3
Once you file this request, the clerk of the court will post notice of the order of protection in the courthouse, and in two public places in the county as determined by the local rules for six weeks in a row. The clerk will also mail the documents to the last available address for the abuser. Once the clerk has posted the documents in these places for a period of six weeks, s/he will enter the information on the docket and service is complete.
You can find more information about service of process in our Preparing for Court – By Yourself section, in the question called What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?
1 Ohio Civ. R. 4.1(B)
2 Ohio Civ. R. 4.3(B)(2)
3 Ohio Civ. R. 65.1(C)(2); 4.4(A)(2)(B), (A)(1)