Introduction: Domestic abuse is a pervasive issue in our communities, with tragic consequences for victims. At our law firm, we understand the urgency of protecting those who are vulnerable to abuse. In this article, we will delve into the concept of Protection From Abuse (PFA) Orders, also known as restraining orders, and provide comprehensive information on how to obtain one. Our goal is to empower victims and enable them to take control of their lives, ensuring a safer and better future.
What is a PFA Order? A PFA Order, short for "Protection From Abuse," is a civil order issued by a judge to safeguard individuals or their children from abuse by another person. Violating a PFA Order can result in severe legal consequences for the offender. These orders can offer various protections and can include the following:
- Order of No Contact: The abuser is legally required to leave the victim and their children alone and have no further contact with them.
- Restraining Order: The abuser is instructed to stay away from the victim's home, workplace, or their children's school.
- Surrender of Weapons: The abuser may be compelled to turn in any firearms or other weapons in their possession.
- Removal from Home: In certain cases, the abuser can be removed from the victim's residence.
- Child Custody and Visitation: Temporary custody arrangements for the victim's children can be established, along with visitation rights.
- Financial Support: The court may order the abuser to provide financial support and reimburse the victim for any monetary losses resulting from the abuse, such as medical bills, lost wages, legal fees, and moving expenses.
It's important to note that PFA orders can be tailored to suit the specific circumstances of each case, providing additional protections as deemed appropriate by the judge.
Understanding Abuse: PFA Orders are typically issued in situations involving abuse between family or household members. Under Pennsylvania law, abuse encompasses various forms, including:
- Physical Violence: Causing bodily injury or attempting to do so, including acts such as rape, sexual assault, incest, and statutory rape.
- Threats and Intimidation: Placing another person in reasonable fear of immediate serious bodily harm.
- Restricting Freedom: Interfering with another person's freedom of movement.
- Stalking: Engaging in persistent and threatening behavior, which includes following the victim or repeatedly committing acts that cause them to fear bodily injury.
Who Can File for a PFA Order? To obtain a PFA Order, the petitioner must be 18 years or older and seeking protection from someone with whom they share a specific type of relationship. The eligible relationships for filing a PFA Order include:
- Marital or Ex-Marital Relationships: This includes spouses, in-laws, and former spouses.
- Bloodline Relationships: Parents, children, and other relatives.
- Parent of a Child: If the abuser is the biological parent of the victim's child.
- Intimate Relationships: Individuals who have or had an intimate relationship with the perpetrator, regardless of whether it was sexual or non-sexual.
It's important to note that living with the abuser is not a prerequisite for filing a PFA Order.
How to Obtain a PFA Order: Obtaining a PFA Order involves a multi-step process that may be confusing for individuals without legal knowledge. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the process:
Determine the Appropriate Filing Location: File your petition with the Family Court division of the Court of Common Pleas in the county where you reside, work, where the abuse occurred, or where the abuser resides or works. If you wish to have the abuser removed from your home, the petition must be filed in the county where the residence is located.
Obtain and Complete the Forms: Obtain the necessary forms from the court, which may be available online. Carefully follow the instructions and provide detailed information. The court staff can assist you in filling out the forms, but they cannot provide legal advice.
Temporary PFA Order: Once you complete the forms, they will be reviewed by a judge. If the judge determines that you or your children are in immediate danger, they can issue a temporary PFA Order. The order will be served to the abuser by the sheriff, and its provisions will take effect immediately.
The Hearing: Regardless of whether a temporary PFA Order is granted, a hearing will be scheduled within 10 business days. This hearing allows both parties to present their arguments. Failure to appear may result in the expiration of the temporary PFA Order or the dismissal of the petition. If the abuser fails to appear, the court may automatically enter the final PFA Order or schedule a second hearing.
Why Consider Hiring a Lawyer: While you are not obligated to hire legal representation when seeking a PFA Order, there are significant advantages to doing so:
- Strategic Guidance: A lawyer can help you determine the most appropriate county to file your petition.
- Compelling Arguments: Legal counsel can identify key facts that will strengthen your case and sway the judge in your favor.
- Drafting Expertise: They can skillfully draft the proposed Order, ensuring clarity and providing the best possible protection for you and your children.
- Court Representation: A lawyer can represent you at the hearing, presenting your case and allowing you to focus on providing testimony.
- Comprehensive Legal Strategy: If necessary, an attorney can develop an overall legal strategy that may include divorce proceedings or filing criminal charges.
Conclusion: At our law firm, we understand the importance of providing comprehensive information to empower victims of domestic abuse. By obtaining a PFA Order, individuals can take a significant step towards breaking free from abuse and securing a safer future. If you require assistance or wish to discuss your options, please reach out to us at 215-712-1212 or schedule a free consultation via email. We are committed to fighting for your rights and helping you build a better future.