Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Case Law Development: Standard for Granting Protective Order based on Threats

The Ohio Court of Appeals reversed the grant of a protective order based on repeated communications during a divorce. Husband's communications threatened no actual physical harm.  The trial court found that, while the statements would not cause imminent fear of physical harm for most people, given the "eggshell skull" rule, wife's subjective fear was sufficient.  The court of appeals held that "trial court in this case erred in applying a solely subjective test to the question whether appellee met her burden of proof of a fear of imminent serious physical harm."  Rather the court clarified that the standards for protective order require proof of:

Imminent fear -- fear of harm in the future is insufficient.
Actual fear -- there must be an actual subjective fear of physical harm
Reasonable fear -- this is an objective test, based on a reasonable person test, not an eggshell skull rule.  The court explained...

While a phrase such as "I'll get you" or severe physical and verbal intimidation may be sufficient to implicitly present a threat of force, necessitating an inquiry into whether the petitioner reasonably feared imminent serious physical harm, the "threat" [in this case] was a threat to take legal action, and was not an explicit or implied threat of physical "violence, compulsion or constraint." ... Similarly, a threat that things "could get really, really bad for everybody involved" if the parties go back to court over visitation with their children has been determined not to be a threat of force sufficient to constitute domestic violence.

Fleckner v. Fleckner, 2008 Ohio 4000 (Ohio App. August 7, 2008)

Read the opinion online (last visited August 8, 2008 bgf)

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